With its budget balanced, New York City Opera to serve up Britten, Adès, Rossini and Offenbach in 2013

April 18, 2012
By Marion Lignana Rosenberg

New York City Opera general manager and artistic director George Steel announced the company's 2013 season Wednesday. Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Two twentieth-century operas by British composers, rarely heard Rossini, and a winsome opéra bouffe by Offenbach will make up New York City Opera’s 2013 season.

All of the operas will be given in new productions with performances divided between the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Gilman Opera House and New York City Center, the theater that was the company’s home in its earliest years.

George Steel, the company’s general manager and artistic director, announced at a press conference Wednesday that New York City Opera will close this season with a balanced budget, its first in twelve years, as a result of the intense economic measures of the last two seasons.

NYCO announced three-year alliances with BAM and New York City Center, which Steel called “the land of our birth.” Steel and Chuck Wall, the company’s chairman of the board, reported that City Opera’s first three 2011–12 productions had sold out all performances, with remaining shows (Telemann’s Orpheus, May 12–20 at the Museo del Barrio) “on track” to sell out.

City Opera’s season will open on February 15, 2013 with Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès, a 1995 setting of a libretto by Philip Hensher. Last heard at BAM in 1998, Powder Her Face is the tale of Margaret Campbell, the so-called “Dirty Duchess” whose 1963 divorce trial scandalized Britain. The opera will be directed by Jay Scheib, an MIT faculty member whose multimedia stagings and live-art performances have been seen at the Spoleto Festival USA, The Kitchen, and BAM. Additional performances are scheduled for February 17, 21, and 23.

New York City Opera celebrates Benjamin Britten’s centennial year with a new staging of The Turn of the Screw by Sam Buntrock, best known for his production of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway and London’s West End. Buntrock sees Britten and librettist Myfanwy Piper’s retelling of Henry James’ classic tale as “a contemporary horror story.” Sets and costumes are by David Farley, with lighting by David Weiner. The production opens on February 24, with further shows on February 26 and 28 and March 2.

Mosé in Egitto, Rossini’s “azione tragico-sacra,” will be directed and designed by Michael Counts, with costumes by Jessica Jahn and projections by Ada Whitney. New York City Opera’s production may be the first full New York staging of its earliest surviving version in some 180 years. Mosé opens with the Biblical plague of darkness and closes with Moses leading the Israelites through the parted Red Sea. Performances at the New York City Center (on April 14, 16, 18, and 20) will take place soon after Passover and Easter holidays.

New York City Opera’s 2012–13 season will close with La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach, which tells the story of two Peruvian street singers, Périchole and Piquillo, and their adventures with the political and social establishment of their time. Christopher Alden, who has directed productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni and Bernstein’s A Quiet Place for New York City Opera, is at the helm. Performances are scheduled for April 21, 23, 25, and 27 at New York City Center.

While acknowledging that the financially troubled company had faced “unique challenges” in recent years, Wall affirmed Wednesday that Steel was “supported fully and completely” by the board and that New York City Opera had “successfully implemented [its] new model.”

Steel stated that the company would aim in coming years to expand its offerings to eight to ten operas a season, but that it would “expand on a sustainable basis, period.” He proclaimed that City Opera’s goal would be to meet audiences’ hunger for new stagings of rarely seen works. Surveys showed, he said, that “the number one reason why people buy opera tickets is to see something they haven’t seen before.”

Casting for all productions is expected to be announced in June or July.

Subscriptions for New York City Opera’s 2013 season start at $100. Call 212-870-5600 or visit nycopera.com.

2 Responses to “With its budget balanced, New York City Opera to serve up Britten, Adès, Rossini and Offenbach in 2013”

  1. Posted Apr 20, 2012 at 10:08 am by Mary

    Though a very diverse season, I find it hard to believe that the key reason people come to the opera is to see new and seldomly staged works. After many years in the Opera business, sales records indicate that the best sales are from well-known operas, not new ones. Sales records also indicate that the highest risk financially are new/unknown productions. For a company that is trying find the path of financial stability, this road chosen seems more like an ally full of potholes instead of taking the exit for the Interstate. It’s hard to believe that the Board is fully behind this season. Most new productions have a cost basis that is much higher than any other kind of production.

  2. Posted Apr 22, 2012 at 11:50 am by John in Santa Fe

    “He proclaimed that City Opera’s goal would be to meet audiences’ hunger for new stagings of rarely seen works”: this is very encouraging, and it will certanly make the company stand out from the crowd. How many more Bohemes does anyone need to see? It’s one of the most interesting seasons in a long time, so let’s hope we’ll see a rarely-staged Verdi in the autumn of 2013 to celebrate the bicentenary!!
    I shall certainly be at the Rossini!