Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Life after the Opera

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Life after the Opera

Article excerpt

James Mernin walked amid the rows and rows of props, costumes and set pieces before he found a black lounge chair from the opera "Regina." He sat down and posed like he was starring in a production of Marc Blitzstein's dramatic commentary on capitalism.

"If I could, I would buy everything in here and put it in my dream house," said the Bergen County Academies performing-arts student. Mernin was surrounded by thousands of pieces from the New York City Opera on display at a North Bergen warehouse. All of the items, from productions like "La Boheme," "Carmen" and "Hansel and Gretel," are up for sale in an online auction that ends Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, Mernin was looking for some Scottish- inspired costumes and props for an upcoming performance of "Brigadoon" at his school in Hackensack.

"It's amazing how much stuff there is in here," he said. "It's fun walking around and trying to put all the pieces in the context of the shows they were in."

The opportunity to see the eclectic array of items -- from wigs and swords to wooden coffins and a sarcophagus -- drew the interest of a varied assortment of visitors Saturday. There were representatives of opera companies from out of state, theme-park owners, drama enthusiasts, home decor buyers and even just curious onlookers. Many brought notebooks and photos with them to keep track of the items they wanted to bid on later.

As of Saturday afternoon, the costumes were the most-bid on items, with pieces designed by "Where The Wild Things Are" author and illustrator Maurice Sendak already fetching hundreds of dollars. Jeff Tanenbaum, president of Remarketing Services for Tiger Group LLC, an appraisal, auction and liquidation firm that is running the auction, said he expects some pieces will sell for less than $20, while some will top out in the thousands of dollars.

The New York City Opera, founded in 1943, has been leasing the North Bergen warehouse since 1991. The company is now geared toward newer productions rather than reviving old ones, and no longer wanted the additional costs of storing unneeded sets and props.

D.J. Haugen, director of artistic administration and production for Opera New Jersey in Princeton, was hoping to land some good deals on props for future performances by his small company.

"For us, all of this is worth nothing and everything at the same time," Haugen said. "You absolutely need a bunch of coffins for a performance of 'La Boheme,' but after that, you don't really need it anymore. So it makes sense why they're doing this, and it's great for smaller companies like us to pick up things we might need now. …

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