New York City Opera will file for bankruptcy

Sad news: The long-running institution was unable to raise enough funds through its emergency appeal and will close.

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Anna Nicole

Anna Nicole Photograph: Pari Dukovic

New York City Opera is shutting its metaphorical doors. Company officials announced today that the 70-year-old institution was not able to raise enough funds to rescue itself from bankruptcy, taking in just $1.5 million out of the $7 million deemed necessary for survival; a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $1 million netted only $300,000. Operations will begin to wind down immediately, making the company's last production Anna Nicole, which closed Saturday night at BAM. We asked Time Out's Classical & Opera music editor, Steve Smith, to share his thoughts on the news; here's what he had to say:


"It's always hard to see a prominent company go under, but in the case of City Opera, we're losing something very precious. The company nurtured some of the world's greatest performers, including Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills and Samuel Ramey, to name just a few. City Opera championed emerging singers, American composers and inventive stage productions passionately, and did it all at a price level affordable to everyday folks, not just the moneyed elite that the Metropolitan Opera was viewed, rightly or wrongly, as courting.


"Truthfully, many of the Met's recent initiatives to become more user-friendly borrowed freely from City Opera's philosophy and methods, which just pushed the smaller company to become more feisty and clever. Sadly, though, the money dried up after a series of staggeringly bad business decisions, and no amount of good will and faith could rescue a beloved institution that will be badly missed—even if something vaguely similar pops up in its place, which might well happen. The New York City Opera was a company, sure…but more than that, it was an attitude, and attitude doesn't come easy."



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Mark Greenfest
Mark Greenfest

Steve is right - the New York City Opera company is irreplacable. The combination of lead singers, roster, chorus, orchestra and other company members - the workshops they used to do - the history and its on-its-toes future - now with its various elements likely to spin off to other projects - will be lost to posterity. I only saw a few minutes of the last production, Anna Nicole, and by all accounts, it was a lot of fun and sexy (even if it may have been over-the-top and overblown). There is no need to fingerpointing in its demise: this was a New York operation, and everyone, George Steel, its director, the orchestra, the board, large donors and the "public" tried to keep it going (and, I can think of a few billionaires, who, if so inclined, can resusitate it, even from a chapter filing), so there's no need for rancor, everyone gave it a school try. (Hiint: please do revive it. Even in a bankruptcy filing, such is possible (I've been counsel in chapter 7 and in chapter 11 cases). Even if the opera were on financial sjhoals for some years, it wasn't a train wreck financially nor an artistic disaster - to the contrary, it brightened the landscape of New York quite a bit for years, and it ain't over yet, even if the business operations were really, truly dead...it can be revived. New York City will be a darker and duller place in its absence or in stripped-down versions.... Go NYCO!

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