Magazine article Gramophone

Crisis Time for Minnesota's Orchestra and 'The People's Opera' in New York

Magazine article Gramophone

Crisis Time for Minnesota's Orchestra and 'The People's Opera' in New York

Article excerpt

There was rather sombre news for two American classical institutions as September gave way to October. First came the announcement that New York City Opera, founded in 1943 as 'the people's opera', was filing for bankruptcy, as frantic last-minute attempts to raise $7m in donations proved unsuccessful. Two days later the beleaguered Minnesota Orchestra was forced to accept the resignation of its music director Osmo Vanska, following the cancellation of the entire 2012-13 concert season and a scheduled Carnegie Hall residency due to ongoing musician contract disputes. Also handing in his resignation was composer Aaron Jay Kernis, director of the Minnesota Orchestra's Composer Institute.

Financial difficulties have long plagued City Opera, which moved from its Lincoln Center home in 2011 in an effort to cut expenses at the behest of general manager and artistic director George Steel. However, reduced seasons of just four operas each did little to stem the tide, and the 2013-14 schedule was suspended following the final performance on September 28 of the first opera of the season, Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole.

A number of leading artists and journalists have spoken publicly of their dismay at the end of City Opera, including Placido Domingo, who said: 'My early performances with New York City Opera were what really kicked off my international career, and I look back on those days with enormous pride. The company has done incredible work for so many decades, and it has played an essential role in New York's cultural scene for millions of opera lovers. It would be an absolute tragedy for that legacy to come to an end.' At the time of going to press, the outcome of the bankruptcy claim remains uncertain, with whispers of a potential merger in the pipeline.

Uncertainty continues at the Minnesota Orchestra, too, where, in the face of financial challenges, musicians have been locked out by the orchestra's governing body, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, since October 1,2012, after failing to reach a new salary agreement. While Vanska was diplomatic in his resignation, describing it as 'a very sad day' and praising the 'hard work and commitment of this wonderful group of players', Kernis was stronger in his condemnation, citing his 'total bafflement and dismay at what has been done to allow the dismemberment of this superb orchestra at the height of its powers'.

Elsewhere in New York, there was cause for celebration, however, as the Metropolitan Opera welcomed back its music director James Levine to conduct Mozart's Cosi fan tutte on September 24--his first performance on the New York company's stage since he fell and damaged his spine more than two years ago. …

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