Monday, May 07, 2007

Gerard Mortier's New York City Opera: No First Year 'Carmens' or 'La Bohemes' -- But Possibly 'Walt Disney, The Opera'!

"No “Carmens,” no “Bohèmes,” at least for the first year.

Instead, Gerard Mortier, the next general manager of the New York City Opera, said he plans a “very demanding program” focused on 20th-century works for the 2009-10 season, the kind of operas “where you need to convince people” to go.

In an interview in New York last week Mr. Mortier, whose appointment was announced in February, gave the most extensive comments yet on his plans to reshape the “people’s opera,” long known for accessible, lower-cost, American-oriented productions.

Mr. Mortier, while declining to be more specific, said his choices would be along the lines of operas by Janacek and Bartok. But he did say that the season would open with a new staging of Stravinsky’s “Rake’s Progress.” The number of productions will drop to 8 from the current 13, and all will be fresh to the company [matching the number of productions by such U.S. companies as the San Francisco Opera, the Washington National Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, and the Los Angeles Opera]. City Opera will move to presenting one opera at a time, adopting the European “stagione” system, instead of sprinkling different shows throughout the week in the more standard American repertory scheme.

Mr. Mortier said he expected to stage a production at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue, adding that Messiaen’s “St. Francis of Assisi” was high on his wish list for that show. Another production will be at City Center, although plans for these off-campus runs are not yet final. In another foray outside Lincoln Center, Mr. Mortier said he wanted to present a small-scale work at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

“I want to find something to attract the black community,” possibly casting an African-American singer to perform an orchestrated version of Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise,” he said. ...

High on his agenda is cooperating with Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, to make sure they do not duplicate efforts. He said he hopes to meet regularly with Mr. Gelb, which would be unusual for leaders of the two houses. “I want to know what he has in mind,” Mr. Mortier said.

For his part Mr. Gelb said that it would make sense “for us not to be stepping on each other’s toes artistically,” but that they would not coordinate in detail. “There’s no formal Versailles treaty,” he said. “I did not take Mozart and give him Verdi.” ...

Opera, he said, is a place for us to recover “deep emotions” lost in a media-saturated world. Most important, opera staging should cause the audience to reflect on the present. “They have to think that it’s something for them,” he said. “I use opera from the past to tell something about today.”

That point of view was evident in his sketch of his first season. He wanted to open with “The Rake’s Progress,” he said, because he perceives of City Opera’s home as “a Stravinsky theater,” thanks to the powerful dances set to Stravinsky’s music by George Balanchine and presented there by his New York City Ballet. He wants an opera by Bellini — to him redolent of nostalgia for a quintessential kind of opera — for City Center, the City Opera’s first home.

Mr. Mortier said he also plans commissions. New operas should be about subject matter that lends itself to musical exploration, he said: “I would love to make an opera on Walt Disney. He was a figure who made in kids’ films what he thought was the American dream.”"

Daniel J. Wakin "New Boss at Opera, Emphasis on the New" New York Times May 7, 2007

Spiderman may be coming to the post 9/11 New York City Opera.

Photo credit: "Non-scientific Science used in Movies" With thanks.


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