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Friday, October 4, 2013

New York City Opera Takes Its Final Bow

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week, New York City and opera aficionados everywhere bid farewell to a 70-year-old institution that unfortunately fell victim to the economics of the times. The New York City Opera’s curtain fell for the final time last Saturday after a performance of the production Anna Nicole, a modern opera about the late actress and model.

The NYCO has been plagued with budgetary constraints for the last decade, and on Monday announced they failed to raise the $7M necessary to save the current season. The organization began the bankruptcy filing process this week.

The NYCO was established in 1943 as an alternative to the Metropolitan Opera (commonly called ‘The Met’) and was dubbed “the people’s opera” by then-Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. They offered younger singers – particularly Americans – an opportunity that The Met did not, and they offered the public more access to opera with cheaper ticket prices.

In its 70-year tenure, the NYCO is responsible for having helped to launch the careers of many performers that went on to become the operatic equivalent of rockstars. Performers Sherrill Milnes, Shirley Varrett, Samuel Ramey, and, perhaps most notably, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, who would go on to become two of the Three Tenors along with the late Luciano Pavarotti.

Opera is a very niche market for both libraries and the general retail market and true opera fans are few and far between – particularly outside those major cities that have an arts culture that thrives enough to sustain an opera company. What may be surprising for some is that common opera songs can be found, repurposed, in even the most common of places – children’s cartoons, TV commercials, and even as hooks in pop or rap music.

Opera is simply the art of telling a story through song – just like any other genre of music – but I think one of the biggest barriers the genre faces with the general public is that most operas and nearly all the classic operas are written in languages other than English, requiring subtitles. As I said, though, chances are most of the public has heard some of opera’s greatest songs and arias, they just don’t know it.

If you want to introduce your patrons to opera, start with the best. The three albums I would recommend are Best Opera Classics 100, Nessun Dorma: Best of Opera, and if you happen to have it on the shelves already, The Best of The Three Tenors.

For more titles, simply SmartBrowse ‘Opera’ on our website. To read more about the closing of the iconic New York City Opera, click here.

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