Interview: New York City Opera May Cancel Season

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New York City Opera will be forced to cancel most of its current season and all of next season if it does not raise $20 million by the end of December, company officials said on Sunday.

The company revealed the steep shortfall just before its season opens on Sept. 17 with the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole, a co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music. That highly-anticipated production about Anna Nicole Smith has enough funds to proceed, City Opera said in a statement, but the rest of the season will be scrapped if it cannot raise $7 million by Sept. 30. It needs an additional $13 million by the end of the year if it is to produce a season in 2014-2015.

"We have reached a crossroads," said George Steel, City Opera’s general manager and artistic director in the statement. "Simply put, we need capitalization, both for the rest of this season and for the company to continue forward on solid financial footing.”

The emergency fundraising appeal comes as the company appeared to be returning to some measure of stability. In 2011, City Opera embarked on a painful – and controversial – period of downsizing after a financial crisis. It moved out of its longtime home at Lincoln Center and became a touring outfit. It renegotiated musicians' contracts (cutting salaries by some 80 percent), laid off staff and auctioned off decades' worth of old sets and costumes in order to trim costs. It is currently presenting four shows a year, down from as many as 16 a decade ago.

"City Opera just has not been able to find its footing in the last few years, either financially or artistically,"says WQXR's Naomi Lewin. "It's hard to put your finger on exactly what New York City Opera is in this city landscape these days."

City Opera has launched an online Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million of its $7 million goal for September.


To hear the full interview with WQXR's Naomi Lewin, click on the audio above.