City Opera is back. So?

Former New York City Opera board member Roy Niederhoffer has won his court battle to be allowed to revive the enterprise after paying its creditors just under $1 million to buy their consent. City Opera (est. 1943) went belly-up in October 2013 after a prolonged comedy of woeful mismanagement.

Niederhoffer, a hedge-fund manager, aims to reopen with a Tosca at Lincoln Center in January.

You can see the way his mind ticks: first pack ’em in with a proven hit, then rebuild a People’s Opera.

But Tosca? One of the five most performed operas of all time.

Why should people support the return of City Opera when all it’s performing is the same as everyone else?

Where’s the new audience? Where’s the loyalty tug? What’s the USP?

These are serious questions. Mr Niederhoffer is invited to answer them here.

niederhoffer

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  • The reason (the stated one, anyway) for choosing Tosca is that it was the first work that New York City Opera ever staged.

    Yes, it’s a boringly safe choice, but if the revived company were to do as its first production something more daring – say, Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, which would be a fairly safe bet of its type (famous composer with a large New York audience; major, generally admired work of his that hasn’t had a New York revival in quite a long time) – and tank at the box office or misfire artistically, everyone would pile on and say that NYCO Renaissance was doomed, made a foolhardy choice, etc. Donors would back away, and the doomsaying would become self-fulfilling.

    For this particular purpose – getting at least one production onto the stage fast, so that people won’t think the entire project is a pipe dream – Tosca is a very good choice: everyone in the opera world knows the piece (not least, the chosen music director), so a cast and creative team can be assembled quickly; costumes, props and scenery can be rented rather than designed and built; the orchestra knows the score and can be rehearsed quickly; the chorus has only one relatively easy piece to sing and little or no stage movement to learn and rehearse.

    Almost none of that is true of Akhnaten or almost any other piece that would have the “cool” factor that would get the commentariat excited – and that, frankly, the revived City Opera will probably need over the longer term.

    We can only hope that this Tosca does well enough to buy some time and money to prepare more interesting rep later.

    • As a former opera company director in New York, my comment would be that Tosca is perfectly all right, BUT find a great leading pair, truly great, probably undiscovered, probably local or living in or near New York. Make a big deal out of truly worthy new stars. Do the opera as it hasn’t been heard in a long time, and people will be impressed. (Also, no gimmicks please…)

  • Revive the enterprise as New York City Opera, or as New York City Opera Renaissance? What is the difference? What is left of the entity to revive but the name (which seems different now)?

  • Michael Capasso staged a number of new American operas at DiCapo. If he is truly to be artistic director, then the new management might be expected to make use of his experience and put on some worthy American works. The operative word is worthy, and Mr. Capasso may well have the experience and methods to bring these works to the stage at City Opera – all he needs is a chance. So after Tosca (and hopefully a good one) , the company can be positioned to make a difference. I wish them the best.

  • What connection, besides for the name and one former Board member, is there between the old NYCO and the new one? (That is not a rhetorical question.)

    • Same orchestra?
      Same house? Don’t know, will they be at Lincoln Center?
      Many of the same singers?
      As for Tosca, if it sells out, then it’s a success.
      I wonder what kind of schedule they will book after Tosca. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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