Leggo My Bel Canto

normaOn Friday, Anthony Tommasini took a moment, in a hot piece on new technologies in opera, to parenthetically lament the current sate of affairs at The New York City Opera: (Remember the good old City Opera, nearly dormant and badly struggling right now?)

Never fear, T-Bone. CC is here.

Since my announcement, I’ve received some fabulous feedback from readers, both trusty C.C. supporters as well as a few colorful detractors, and have made an important revision to one of the points of the original twelve-step program I proposed.

Step. 5 – RE: Bel Canto

This seems to have been the most controversial point of my proposal. (No one, I repeat, no one came to the defense of The Board…)

As I have said before, I don’t really like Bel Canto operas; we’re talking Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti here.

But, aside from some who have simply argued enjoying the operas, one commenter pointed out that the vocal technique these operas encourage is necessary to keep alive in performance practice. And I have to agree.

There are many ways of singing, many vocal types, and excluding the Bel Canto repertoire would mean no work for many brilliant singers and less diversity in terms of the breadth and depth of the genre that I would love to see New York City Opera embody.

And as much as one could argue that Mozart wrote within a Bel Canto tradition (not Italian, but still with an emphasis on beautiful melody and vocal flexibility – see T-Bone’s piece on Bel Canto), Mozart roles really don’t push the heaftier, dramatic side of the voice that some Bel Canto roles developed on their way to the great Wagnerian blowout. (Everything must go!)

So, we’ll go ahead and bring in the Bel Canto. But these productions must be strictly overseen. Period productions must be meaningful, not fanciful. And the direction must find ways to materialize the theatrical, and minimize the formal. All the stopping and starting and dacapoing has to have some kind of dramatic sense, otherwise the suspension of disbelief crumbles, and suddenly it feels like we’re at some overproduced recital.

I am one hundred per cent open to suggestions here. If readers would like to submit indispensable Bel Canto rep for consideration, or the fiercest singers and directors they’d like to see brought into NYCO, please do so!

In no way do I intend to run this show with an iron fist. I assure the fans, the board of trustees, as well as current City Opera employees, that my leadership will be thoughtfully informed by input from a variety of sources. Call it crowdsourcing, if you must.

The best New York City Opera will undoubtedly be for, and by, the people.




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