(From Theatermania, 10/18.)
New York City Opera has died. I grieve for its lost glories, mostly now long gone, but I'm not going to fill this essay with mournful memories. Instead, I think it would be wise to consider what sort of institution New York should create to replace NYCO. So we had better consider what City Opera achieved, why its existence was (and could again be) important to the city, and what went wrong
to cause its shockingly speedy downward spiral, after more than six decades of comparative success.
For make no mistake, a replacement institution will certainly arise. The nonsense currently being spouted about New York City's inability to support two opera companies, is, precisely, nonsense. New York City, bursting with wealth and artistic talent, can support any damn thing it needs; the trick is making it see that a given thing is needed. During the bulk of its 70-year life, City Opera was able to make a convincing case for that need. Inevitably it faced struggles, including financial struggles: No opera company in history has ever lived without them. Opera is expensive, and its success cannot be wholly measured at the box office. Unlike other kinds of theater production, it tends to require large ongoing forces. For those who act in spoken plays and vernacular musicals, a rotating repertory may be merely desirable as artistically nourishing — I personally see it as optimal — but for the singers of opera's long, vocally arduous leading roles, repertory is a physical necessity.