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A Status Report on City Opera


  1. Small music theater requires entirely new concepts of composition, singing and staging. NYCO wants to create a new form of chamber music theater but is still thinking in operatic terms in everything from the size of halls, to staging, to instrumentation, to the bel canto voice. Incongruities inevitably appear.

    The challenges are daunting. They need to develop not only an entirely new literature, but a host of new vocal and dramaturgical concepts to go with it. Instead, they are taking standard literature, or new pieces still written with mostly 19th century concepts of music theater, and simply trying to update them into small forms. There is still a notable lag between practice and theory.

    But of course the biggest problem is that they have so little money, because our system of funding the arts by private donations doesn’t work very well—not even in mega-rich New York. The USA only has 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year.

    Without funds, the NYCO is in a poor position to face the immense challenges of creating new concepts of music theater. The result is a rinky-dink season, rinky-dink productions, and the rinky-dink mentality to go with it. It’s not really the company’s fault. It’s a result of their poverty, and says something not only about New York City, but also about our country as a whole.

    • Joel Lee says:

      Again, we go on and on about the acoustics at the NY State Theater. Why were there not criticisms when Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Maralin Niska, Johanna Meier, on and on were all singing there? Did anyone complain about the acoustics after the Roberto Devereux, The Mephistopheles or the countless other productions? No, it was only with the current crop of NY Times critics that this became an obsession. And they are still obsessed with it and FIsher Hall. Anyone who sat on the arms of the second or third ring in The NY State Theaterwould testify that these were some of the best seats in all of NYC.

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