More bleak news: New York City Opera has filed for bankruptcy

More bleak news: New York City Opera has filed for bankruptcy


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2013

The Kickstarter appeal failed to reach one-third of its target and was shut down this morning.

The company has posted the following notice:

It is with much regret that we announce the end of our fundraising campaign on Kickstarter and the cancellation of the 2013-2014 Season. New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal, and the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the Company including initiating the Chapter 11 process.

For seventy years, since Mayor Fiorello La Guardia established it as “The People’s Opera,” New York City Opera has introduced generation after generation of young singers who are stars in the making, brought the public exciting new works and compelling, fresh interpretations of classics, acted as a champion for American composers and performers, and ensured that every New Yorker can experience the live art of opera.

We thank you for your continued support over the years and for making New York City Opera truly “The People’s Opera.”

city opera


  • PK Miller says:

    This is so incredibly sad. I didn’t see any other outcome. 7 million in 3 days? Not unless some benefactor rescued them w/a challenge grant, saying I’ll give you 3.5 mill if you raise the other 3.5 by December 31. Kickstarter campaigns are good for reasonable amounts of money. But that kind of money, I don’t think so, And who wants to support a sinking ship. City Opera has been so horribly mismanaged. Beverly Sills and so many others must be spinning in their graves. The Board must be MIA because, in a not for profit organization, fund raising & fiscal management is, ultimately a BOARD responsibility. Farewell, City Opera, it’s been fun. RIP, City Opera–we hardly knew ye!

  • Steve Palmer says:

    Why can’t the local NY government do anything to stop these? Billions of taxpayers money and they can’t even do a damn thing to save a institutions like this!

    Water Damage Irvine

  • This stinks of mismanagement on a huge scale. A great shame.

    • Maybe. But it stinks even more of America’s ridiculous system of funding the arts by donations from the wealthy. So many arts institutions have collapsed. It can’t all be mismanagement.

      • Bob Burns says:

        Hasn’t opera (really, and classical music generally) always depended on a sliver of wealthy benefactors to keep it afloat? Let’s face it: there aren’t enough people who (a) have the interest in classical arts to subscribe to either opera or the symphony, and (b) as ticket/subscription prices rise, people simply cannot afford a ticket. In much of Europe I understand that the arts get direct governmental subsidies. In the US, the arts get foundation grant money and financial support from the wealthy, who can than take a credit against tax liability. But here, it all begins with how important the arts are to a potential donor.

        What’s truly amazing to me is that it’s considerably more expensive to see a (American) football game or a NASCAR race than it is to go to a symphony concert.

        The arts do not do well in a free market environment. They need benefactors aside from ticket buyers. Always have, really. And, if such was the case with the City Opera, mismanagement of it certainly was no help at all.

        • Public funding makes a difference. Some of you might like to look at this map of Germany’s 83 opera houses. In the Ruhrgebeit of Germany, for example, there are 11 full time, year-round opera houses within a 37 mile radius. See:

          • Sl says:

            For this very reason its so incredible hard for a German to believe that a city like New York, supposedly centre of culture and art, with some 8 million inhabitants, is not able to save this company, regardless of how bad the management is. How can opera in New York seriously survive with only one big company – the Met, which is crowded by tourists and businessmen. Where are all the opera-lovers from New York? Berlin has 3.3 million inhabitants and still 4 opera companies, all very much alive.

          • Gary Carpenter says:

            Defining Berlin’s Friedrichstadtpalast as an opera house is pushing it a bit!

          • JJC says:

            It is a matter of culture, like so much else. As Europeans never tire of reminding us, our culture has become degraded; outcomes like this should therefore not be any surprise. And while there is much truth in the accusation, the answer is certainly not to be found in government support. That too is a cultural phenomenon. Perhaps you need to live here but in the great ‘melting pot’, the visceral hostility to the achievements of western civilization are accelerating and overwhelming us at a frightening speed. Every day this finds new and incredible dimensions. No two people can agree on anything at all. City Opera is merely todays casualty. RIP.

      • MpR says:

        Music has ALWAYS been funded through the wealthy. From Haydn and Prince Esterhazy to Poulenc and de Noailles to today’s board members and orchestras — you need rich friends.

  • Jeffrey Levenson says:

    The Met took on the City’s mission — cheaper seats, American works, more theatrical etc. Not mismanagement just a takeover of sorts.

    • MWnyc says:

      Oh, there was certainly mismanagement, too. The past two (tiny) seasons had balanced budgets, and before that City Opera hadn’t has a balanced budget for a decade.

      And I think Mortier’s program would have been worth trying, but management messed that up badly. And when the Board, having promised Mortier a budget of $60 million, told him he could only actually have $36 million for a season that the entire world would be keeping an eye on – well, I can’t blame him for walking out.

      But City Opera’s finances were shaky for most of the company’s existence, and the company would certainly have folded in the 1980s without Beverly Sills’s superhuman efforts to save it. (The story is that when she took over, her husband, no slouch as a businessman, took a look at the books and said the company’s doomed, just close it down.)

      But you’re right that, under Peter Gelb, the Met moved in on the turf City Opera was created to cover. City Opera had to reinvent itself somehow to survive. But to pull that off, a company needs an all-too-rare combination of factors: a solid cushion of time and operating money, genuinely inspired artists, administrators and staff with good taste and marketing savvy, leadership with both vision and charisma, and competent, responsible governance.

      City Opera just didn’t get all those things at the same time. It would have been a miracle on the order of Beverly Sills if they had, and one Beverly Sills is all most organizations get in a generation or two.

      • A private funding system will never bring together the self-evident factors you suggest are required for an opera company to remain successful. Even under Sills the company was always under threat of collapse, which is no way to run a house.

        Our funding system is why we only have 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. Let’s stop fooling ourselves and talking about every factor but the real problem: our private funding system — a neo-feudalistic system that no other country in the world uses.

        • JJC says:

          OK. But have you taken the time to imagine an operatic regime with Obama or one of his czars at the helm? Have you? And what would that be like? Hmmm? It won’t be my song and probably not yours either. Abjure the easy teet, better that way.

          • EBS says:

            What the heck does President Obama have to do with this? One would assume that government assistance to the arts would be buffered from political leadership, just as it was when the U.S. government DID provide assistance to arts organizations, or as it is in most other civilized nations. But then again, the U.S. is the only civilized nation with no system of universal health coverage. Or wasn’t, until Mr. Obama got that fixed! Please don’t forget that political interference is what killed the meager arts funding the U.S. once had.

  • Pete says:

    We attended a City Opera performances some years ago. I remember some wonderful singing and an orchestra that was much less than good.

    And the brass players ducking out of the pit before the applause had ended. Classless.