C.C. for New York City Opera Directorship

Yes we can!

Yes we can!

Counter Critic for the Directorship of The New York City Opera

“A Key-Change We Need”



I hereby announce my candidacy to assume directorship of The New York City Opera.

In these uncertain times, artistic organizations need stalwart leadership that will provide vision, direction, and most importantly, thought that isn’t lodged in the dark recesses of somebody’s ass.

As the New York City Opera continues to flounder in the murky waters of economic recession and general disregard, without a willing captain at the helm, it is imperative that someone who actually gives a damn about the institution be put in charge of leading the behemoth to safe and prosperous waters. (Yay, maritime metaphors!)

C.C. is that captain.

As Director of the New York City Opera, I propose to institute the following 12-step course of action:

1. Assemble a crack-pot para-advisory board of cultural thinkers

Like Obama, I will surround myself with a menagerie of “the best and the brightest” thinkers in the arts and culture. L. Ro., Andy Horowitz and Earl Dax (oh, and La Cieca) are def. on the short list. Maybe RoseLee, if she gets her act together. I’m open to suggestions, but the important thing is that more than just one ego will be involved in this process. Think of it as one ginormous mega-ego of ideas. [Updated here.]

2. Rout the Board

Boards are notoriously over-committed and under-concerned groups of people who constantly need to be coddled, have their asses kissed, and virtually begged to in order to fulfill the basic commitments they agreed to when they accepted their positions.

All Board members are subject to review, upon which time, if their behavior and past activities as a board member show sufficient benefit to the New York City Opera, then they will be allowed to stay, while also doubling their annual give-or-get commitment. (Yes!)

If a Board member’s performance has been sub-par, resistant, or complainy, they will be summarily dismissed without further adieu.

Institutions don’t need to cow kowtow to lazy, annoying, or creepy board members. There are NICE WEALTHY PEOPLE out there who would donate their money and efforts to worthwhile institutions. They only need to be found. So let’s find ’em!

3. Umm…get some productions going!

Without delay, bring up some old and trusty productions out of the basement. Some opera is better than no opera at this point. Let’s keep the musicians and stage hands employed. Hey, we might even get an audience!

4. Commission no less than four new operas a year

It’s bullshit that Mozart got to compose like a new opera every year practically, and our living composers are relegated to writing maybe ONE per lifetime. To make new opera a viable contender in contemporary culture, it needs to be newer, faster, smaller, and have a constant presence in the world.

Hey, I’ll write them all, if that’s what it takes. That’s how committed I am to making The New York City Opera a better place…

5. Institute a moratorium on Bel Canto operas [UPDATED]

Ugh. This genre is getting way out of control. And besides, The Met is running pretty strong in this demographic. Let’s pick an area that The Met is overlooking (see point 4.), and create supply for the new demand.

The New York City Opera has been pretty good about pushing Barber. I say keep this going, and add one other area, say more experimental works from the 20th century, or perhaps devise a series dedicated to overlooked masterworks from the ages. Although I hesitate to promote anything that looks too deeply into the past, an old obscure opera is still a new opera to many of us. So go for it!

6. Once we’re back up and running, axe any old and crusty, outdated, fugly productions that no one cares about

Get over the fifties, sixties, and the seventies. I don’t care if it was the golden age of American opera! NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW. I can’t say it enough. New productions. New operas. Newness. Freshness. Hotness.

7. Keep sophisticated musical theater work in the plan

The New York City Opera has done a pretty good job of giving attention to works by Sondheim and Bernstein that border on operetta. Again, drop any old production (they’ve already retired Hal Prince’s “Candide”, so we’re like, half-way there!), and invest in new, powerful realizations of these kinds of works. CAVEAT: There will be absolutely no casting of any singer who uses a “Broadway Blat” as their prime manner of vocal production. That sound makes me want to hammer stakes into my ears. Please don’t make me do that.

8. Keep Mark Morris

9. Hello, Marketing?

Take a cue from Gelb and get Pentagram or some other hot-shit design firm to re-brand The New York City Opera. It needs a face life, and from what I hear there are all sorts of new technologies that prevent you from looking like the skin on your face is simply being held in place by a bungie-chord attached from the back of your head to the top of the Chrysler Building. Make it new, make it fresh, make it hot sex.

10. Fuck the New York City Ballet

Umm, aren’t we all tired of this abusive relationship? Either we stand up for ourselves and get Peter Martins to back the fuck down, or we go find another place to bring our awesome opera. It’s that simple. We don’t need them!

Nor do we need to build a new theater. There are plenty of super-sweet theaters in NYC that we could set up our productions.

Or, here’s an idea…

11. Move to BAM!

BAM’s opera program is definitely wanting, and if they could outsource their need for opera to The New York City Opera, and work with, say, a likeminded young entrepreneur of opera who has a similar thirst for fresh, contemporary and relevant ideas, I mean, would that just be the awesomest thing ever! (JVM, I’ll be waiting for your call…)

And finally…

12. Take as many risks as possible on un-famous artists

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired after going to some production with big-name creators and artists and having it totally suck my balls. There is an overabundance of talent in this city. If I have a dime for every able and amazing singer I know who isn’t working, I could just buy the City Opera and not have to go through all this nonsense.

I also know of a gabazillion composers, choreographers, writers, lighting designers, filmmakers, dancers, actors, and generally creative types who could be tapped—and on the cheap—to really make New York City Opera’s productions something to marvel at.

Take the risk. Put these people to work. Utilize one of NYC’s most renewable natural resource: Talent.


Desperate times do not need desperate measures. They need thoughtful, fierce, daring and creative ideas that lead to swift, decisive, and fearless action.

As Director of The New York City Opera, I plan to commit the entirety of my passion and resources to bringing this company, rife with potential, out of fiscal and artistic blight, and into a new ear (or era) of prosperity and general awesomeness that New York City deserves from “The People’s Opera.”

As I really don’t have much else to do with myself before taking over, I’ll be pretty easy to reach. Or, you can always just leave a comment on the blog. It’s cool with me if we do this thing in public.

Can’t wait to start!





  1. You have my support, CC for City Opera directorship! Although if it doesn’t work out maybe you could bring those NICE WEALTHY PEOPLE over to the Mount Tremper Arts board?

  2. Hear, Hear!

  3. You got my vote. But I disagree with the moratorioum on Bel canto mostly because the Met does not know their elbow from their ass on that. I say hire Caballe, Sutherland, Bonynge, Horne and a lot of true bel canto specialists and have them as coaches.

    Every singer who hopes to get their asses on a bel canto opera at NYCO needs to submit to hours on top of hours of training and coaching in bel canto technique, ornamentation, stylistic differences, style etc. Once they have passed a jury of these coaches, then they are ready to sing the roles at the stage. In the meantime it is Barmarina and the like.

  4. Thanks, Lindoro. You’re right. I didn’t mean to imply that The Met was doing a great job in terms of the quality of their Bel Canto productions. But it seems that, right now, audiences are really loving them. So why try to compete?

    And I know I take flack all the time for not liking Bel Canto in general. Alas, it is a cross I must bear…

  5. No bel canto? The Met is hardly doing anything in this rep, has neglected it shamefully since World War I. No Rossini or Handel? Ugh.

    Keep Mark Morris? The man who destroyed that Purcell thing? I don’t think so.

    And you misspelled “kowtow.”

    You definitely don’t have my vote.

  6. Sorry, Hans. No Bel Canto. At least for a season, or until we find a director who figures out how to make it not suck. Although, I have to say, I didn’t totally hate La Fille. Which may be a reason, as I said, to avoid competing with them. I don’t think The Met is letting go of Dessay any time soon, and, gosh golly and darnit, folks love her! (Yes, I was comparing her to Sarah Palin.)

    I’m a fan of MM, so he gets to stay. And I don’t think that will need to be a unilateral decision. He’s much loved in this town. And if you want to offer ideas of other choreographers we should bring into NYCO, I’m def open to suggestions.

    As always, thanks for the spell check. Although, i do think it’s cuter when it’s spelled with “cow.”


  7. Even though I am not on your shortlist, my vote is yours. R


  9. Hmmm… Did you see the Met’s Lucia? I thought that was very well staged and dramatically pertinent production. Dessay is not the greatest Bel Canto diva in the world but I will say that it was the first time I heard coloratura made dramatically relevant.

    I do think that it is a matter of taste. Not all Bel Canto is fantubulous, but it is necessary and important for the health of the singer. You can’t live on a vocal diet of meat alone. The voice needs to maintain the flexibility that these works provide. Well staged and directed they can be moving and funny as they were intended to be.

    That said. I would love to see new music produced more often. Maybe a program for composers in residence would be a good idea? But there must also be some kind of public education that comes with this. People don’t have the ear they once had. Free discussion prior to performance? People alway feel better when they recognize the music. It gives them a sense accomplishment and it’s comforting.

    Good luck. I hope you get it…

  10. Well, Handel isn’t “bel canto” (i.e. primo ottocento)–he’s baroque, and known fodder for the Mark Morrises of this world. Also great for a range of voices, relatively cheap, and neglected by Gelb (promised “enchanted baroque evenings” notwithstanding–and why do I suspect those evenings wiil be stricly French baroque?). Good stuff, in short, for a NYCO core repertory.

    Your other proposals sound promising, especially the suggestion to move to BAM. The opera house there is a far nicer theater than the NY State Theater, and their opera program needs a shot in the arm.

  11. Personally, I have the same reaction to Handel that CC seems to have to Bel Canto. It took me four times, in stages, to make it through the Met’s Giulio Cesare, which was a all-star cast of Handel singers who did not fail to impress. There are only so many da capo arias I can make myself sit though one after another. But, there again, is the matter of personal taste. I recognize that there are plenty of people out there that can’t get enough of the stuff. And plenty of friends who make their living from singing it.

    Platee, the Mark Morris choreographed Mizrahi costumed NYCO extravaganza, is only remembered by me for those two reasons. I remember being struck by how attractive everyone was and how truly mediocre the singing was. I don’t go to the opera to see pretty people in pretty clothes move interestingly, I go to be moved by great singing. I was not moved. Not.

    I would like see City Opera be the launching pad it once was with truly stellar musicians like Beverly Sills and Samuel Ramey coming out of it’s ranks. NYCO has always been more of a younger hipper more experimental cutting edge theater compared to the Met. There is plenty of room for that kind of house here in NYC. You want to move her out of Lincoln Center, meh, Ok. Peter Martins is a self-aggrandizing queen. Eff him. But if you move NYCO to Brooklyn, you’ll be putting the final nail in her coffin. No one, I repeat, no one is going to spend $100 go off to the hinterlands of Brooklyn to see baroque opera. BAM is a great institution but I think it’s main problem is location, location, location. Shot in the arm not withstanding. Please don’t kill a troubled institution like City Opera buy putting her in a closet. Maybe go back to City Center?

    Young composers, new singers, fresh ideas, better location. Go, go, go.

  12. ” No one, I repeat, no one is going to spend $100 go off to the hinterlands of Brooklyn to see baroque opera. ”

    It wasn’t so long ago that people were doing just that to see the various Christie/Arts Florissants productions that were brought to BAM.

  13. Good point, bgn! I was just about to say that.

    Brooklyn, especially the part that BAM is in, is no longer outer borough. And BAM’s Christie operas always sell out. And the BAM Opera House is my favorite venue in all of New York City. Hands down.

    I am starting to reconsider the Bel Canto issue. It probably isn’t a good idea to alienate those fans. But we just need to make sure that the productions aren’t silly.

    I went to Barber of Seville not too long ago at NYCO, and I had to leave at intermission. It was so frivolous, I want to…well, leave.

    Even Lucia at The Met, really left me thinking that as it stands, Lucia di Lamermoor just is not a good work of theater. It’s a showcase for some fine (and often annoying melodies), but good theater, it is not.

  14. Check this out: http://www.iamcityopera.com

  15. Holy fuck balls. We’ll get to this later…

    (thanks, Jeff!)

  16. You have my vote! Time for some new thinkers. Time to reinvent. Love ya Babe.

  17. […] Best Offer NYCO is Likely to Get in Mortier’s Disastrous Wake: “CC+NYCO=A Way Forward.” […]

  18. Yes! Work it out!

  19. Bel Canto not dramatic or theatrical enough? Girl ,please.

    Anna Bolena, Norma, Il Pirata, L’elisir d’Amore, Rigoletto, La Traviata (yes kids, Verdi was bel canto), Nabucco. I could go on. Wagner is only for freaks who are into pain (sitting in a seat for 4 hours + for Wagner is pain). Baroque composers have some brilliant operas, but are can often been more brutally boring that the most boring bel canto opera. The age of Callas is forgotten, and now any baffon or buxom breasted soprano can be get on stage to wail away at repertoire she should never be singing (Guleghina at the MET in Macbeth/Norma anyone?). Not enough people in this nation like opera enough. More importantly, not enough people in this country know what good opera is, and don’t know about repertoire. All that’s known are the basics. Carmen, Boheme, Die Zauberflote, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Turandot. This is perpetuated by casting directors who feel that rare/different works will push buyers away. The older audiences of opera are TIRED of the same boring ass productions. So, make opera new. And new doesn’t necessarily mean a pretentious new work. New means interesting, relevant to pop culture so that people can relate to the theme. Also, music theatre is for entertainment junkies. Entertainment is NOT art. Entertainment is mindless distraction. I abhor music theatre with an intense passion, and still don’t understand how all the horrible 50’s and 60’s costume/whiny/nasal/belting my vocal chords out singers are applauded. The biggest issue is good singing. Leave hot bodies with bad , talentless voices to Britney Spears, Madonna, and whichever other celebrity fits into that mold.

  20. Yeah! You can do it!

  21. Hey Giovanni-

    I agree with you on two things: 1. Verdi being “Bel Canto”, at least in the vocal types he created for his roles; and 2.) Guleghina in MacBeth. Eeeeekkkkk.

    Otherwise, I think there’s a place for entertainment in art. I don’t think quality should be sacrificed for appeal, but I find great art to be entertaining, if maybe in a variety of ways.

    I think New York City Opera can be both artistically rigorous, yet also allow room for things like camp and vamp to have their place. A good City Opera will present a broad swath of the opera experience, from high to low, seria to buffa, Le Nozze to Wozzeck.

  22. Thanks, Hadley!

  23. this sounds heated and full of awesomeness, not your typical opera fare. Can we plz has teh Julie Taymor though? et moi?

  24. Also CC darling, your high C in the shower was nice! You should participate in a production of Boheme. Nude of course.

  25. Merci, Gio!

    I just had to let it rip, you know, like JDF. No warm-up necesary.

    And my grandmother always told me the only good Boheme, was a naked one.


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