Thursday, September 26, 2013

The future of the New York City Opera

The opera Anna Nicole is quite a marvelous creation. Marc Anthony Turnage created a score that's an amalgam of operatic, rock, jazz, blues and pop styles. The libretto, by Richard Thomas, is brilliant.  Very raunchy language, but what would a story about Anna Nicole Smith be without raunchy language?  The piece is constructed in a way that really moves along. I am very impressed.  Apparently there was a lot of editing before the London premiere: entire scenes being eliminated.  I applaud the composer for letting "his baby" be mutated.  Most modern opera composers abhor the slightest trimming of their scores, which are most often created in complete solitude, untested by an audience, or even in a workshop. My role, as Howard K. Stern, is really rich and fun. Turnage composed the part in a very wide range: 2 octaves.  But it's extremely well-written for my voice and enjoyable to sing. I am looking forward to singing it in the Royal Opera Covent Garden revival next year!

As we approach our last 2 performances of Anna Nicole, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I am feeling a little sad.  This could be the New York City Opera's final production.  Ever.  Because of fund-raising shortfalls, they need to raise $7 Million in the next 4 days to guarantee the rest of this season. (and a total of $20 million to guarantee next season.) Their $1 million Kickstarter Campaign has only raised $125,000 so far.  It's not looking good. Of course, I'm also sad because among the canceled productions this season would be Le Nozze di Figaro, in which I am contracted to sing the Count Almaviva, and the The Amazing Mr. Fox, in which our daughter Carin Gilfry Lawrence would sing Mrs. Fox.  A big blow to the Gilfry Dynasty.

I believe that the major problem with the New York City Opera's lack of donor support is its lack of a home.  It currently performs in various venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It has become a downsized, roving company.  The budget has been balanced since George Steel took over - a feat that deserves much praise - but the company still lacks a home.  I think the psychological effect on past and current donors is profound. The lack of a home theater engenders feelings of insecurity. I'm sure potential donors are saying "But where is my money going?"

New York City Opera's General Manager/Artistic Director George Steel introduced me to David H. Koch after the performance last night. David Koch paid for the renovation of the Lincoln Center theater (formerly the State Theater) that now bears his name and was the home of the New York City Opera since 1964.  I am hoping that this portends something good.  He can't have been happy that, after his multi-million dollar renovation, the New York City Opera moved out. I think the future of the company is dependent on moving back into Lincoln Center. Could David Koch be considering a bailout of the company and a move back into "his" theater? I certainly hope so. As much as I dislike the Koch brothers' political activism, (their unprecedented donations to keep President Obama out of office), they are true philanthropists, and we need someone like David Koch to come forward to save the New York City Opera.

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