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New York City Opera suspends 2011-12 season

21 April 2011, New York, US

NCYO Chairman, Charles Wall
NCYO Chairman, Charles Wall(Photo: Tristan Cook)

The new chairman of New York City Opera, Charles Wall, has suspended the company’s forthcoming season due to financial difficulties.

A review of NYCO’s business model is now underway, following the announcement of a projected US$5 million deficit for 2010-11. Wall himself has recently contributed US$2.5 million towards this deficit.

Meanwhile, several of the company’s productions last season were received well by critics, particularly Monodramas – a triple bill of one-act operas by John Zorn, Arnold Schoenberg and Morton Feldman.

The company’s current woes follow a long series of setbacks, including a substantial loss of revenue in 2008-09 during the refurbishment of its regular venue, the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater). This coincided with the resignation of Gerard Mortier, the Belgian director who was appointed as general manager, but pulled out before taking office.

Union contracts are another problem, which obligate NYCO to pay their orchestra and chorus for more dates than they can actually afford to perform, whilst rental costs for use of the David H. Koch Theater are also significant.  Last January, NYCO ceded four weeks of its autumn season to New York City Ballet in return for US$9 million from a capital campaign fund shared by the two companies.

Undeterred by these challenges, Charles Wall has told The Wall Street Journal that "Nothing is off the table” – including the possibility of exploring other, cheaper venues. “For years, arts organizations didn't look at the bottom line," he explained, "but you've got to bring a business outlook to these organizations, or they start dipping into the endowment and doing all sorts of things that they shouldn't be doing."


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