New York City Opera has announced it is to close and file for bankruptcy in its 70th anniversary year after failing to find the $7m (£4.3m) it needed to deliver its planned season for the year ahead.
The decision to cease operating was taken when an emergency appeal for a total of $20m (£12.3m) to continue the 2013/14 season and plan for future years produced just one-tenth of its target by the end of September.
In an email to subscribers shortly after the company had completed performances of the opening production of its current season, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole, artistic director and general manager George Steel said: ‘New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal, and the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the company.’
The company’s ethos of making opera affordable to the city’s residents had earned it the nickname ‘The People’s Opera’.
Founded in 1943 to provide ‘cultural entertainment at popular prices’, New York City Opera had staged 29 world premieres and 62 US and New York premieres by the end of its 2012/13 season. Productions planned for the current year included The Marriage of Figaro, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Bach’s rarely seen Endimione.
Long-running financial problems were not helped by leaving its Lincoln Center base in 2011 and a reduction in the number of annual performances ‒ from a peak of 100 to just 16 last year ‒ although it had recently reported its first two consecutive balanced budgets in a decade.
The company’s fate was sealed at the end of September when a Kickstarter appeal launched earlier in the month raised just $301,019 (£185,607) of a hoped-for $1m (£620,000). On Monday 30 September, New York’s Mayor Michael R Bloomberg ruled out support from the public purse, insisting the company’s ‘business model doesn’t seem to be working’.
In a statement quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Plácido Domingo said: ‘I am only one among many, many singers who have had essential early training and encouragement with this company over the 70 years of its existence. I think it’s terrible that a city as big and as wealthy as New York can’t support a second major opera company ‒ one that is able to take risks with repertoire, engage relatively inexperienced singers, and make other experiments in a way that a huge ensemble like the Met simply can’t do.’