Friday, November 6, 2009

Finally! A triumph for City Opera.

Indeed. Last night's NY City Opera Gala, was a triumph. No, not just in the musical sense, although with performers such as: Lauren Flanigan, Joyce DiDonato, Joyce Castle, Samuel Ramey, Measha Brueggergosman and Rufus Wainwright - a musical triumph was all but in the bag.

Last night's major triumph was the gala itself - a record breaker in the fund raising sense. City Opera raised $2 million, marking the most successful gala in City Opera history. Additional funds were raised with a live auction featuring experiences like an African fishing adventure, a five-star trip to Jordan, and a Greek art trip.

The evening honored David Koch, in recognition of his $100 million lead gift to City Opera's joint capital campaign with New York City Ballet to renovate the form State Theater at Lincoln Center.

I've made no bones about the fact that I have not-so-nice feelings toward the David Koch situation. But, money talks. For sure.

That's all I will say about that.

The gala also marked the beginning of City Opera's 2009/2010 season, the first under its new general manager and artistic director, George Steel. I know I don't have to remind you (but, will anyway) that City Opera's survival was in question just a year ago, when the Belgian impresario hired to lead it, Gerard Mortier, left the post before he officially started.

On top of the Mortier fiasco, the company closed down for the year as its theater was renovated, fundraising plummeted with the current financial crisis, and the opera ended up with a $15 million deficit.

Mr. Steel was hired in February to bring the company back to life. Since then, he has raised $14 million and put together a reduced and financially conservative season of just five operas.

Most recently however, Mr. Steel's leadership was questioned and even threatened by an attempted coup by former board members with the former General Director from across the plaza reportedly at the helm.

But last night, most of the drama was left onstage.

Last night was about a successful opening and the kick off of a new era. In addition to the company reaching its subscription goal for the entire season in September, “We set an ambitious goal for the gala, and we are exceeding that goal,” Mr. Steel said. “It's a great testament to the loyalty of our donors and to the excitement about New York City Opera's return to the stage.”

Even though the remodel was majorly funded by a Koch- thankfully the remodel facilitates a return to the stage that is sans the amplification system installed ten years ago!

It certainly seems as though things are looking up at City Opera. Bravi! And, here's to a new beginning!


For photos of the event, please visit the NY Times Slideshow.

For more on NY City Opera's season, visit the City Opera website.

A full review of the performance and the new acoustics can be found at

[Photos - Top: City Opera's opening gala. Middle: David H. Koch, the theater's benefactor, delivered the opening remarks. Bottom: Soprano Measha Brueggergosman sings an intensely expressive account of "My Man's Gone Now" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. All by Richard Termine / New York Times]

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