Let me begin this post by saying that I have a deep affinity for the New York City Opera. I loved it the moment I learned of its existence and I've only loved it more as I've gotten to know it and attended operas there. I'm not trying to criticize the decisions of NYCO's staff or complain about things that I have no control over, but I feel the need to air my feelings about how things have changed.
NYCO has been a part of my opera experience since I first got into opera. My first live opera was at the Met, but many of the live operas I attended after that were at NYCO. During the 2009-2010 season, my friend and I attempted to see every opera that NYCO was offering that season. I only missed one, Partenope, and I actually attended L'Etoile twice. Many of my friends saw their first live opera at NYCO that season. I saw my first American opera there (Esther) and my first Puccini (Madama Butterfly). It was easy to get tickets and since we were students, the tickets were extremely inexpensive. I loved having the luxury of seeing incredible productions with fantastic singers for affordable prices. In all fairness, the Met has gotten better since then about having student tickets and rush tickets and the like, but it will never be the same as the NYCO student tickets.
This past season, I was really looking forward to what NYCO had to offer, especially Alden's Cosi fan tutte and the production of Telemann's Orpheus. Even though we were all sad about NYCO leaving Lincoln Center, I was encouraged by the fact that they were still presenting the same sort of productions. I love how NYCO dares to be edgy and unpredictable with its productions and opera choices. (Seeing the upcoming season package, I'm glad to report that they are continuing this trend.) But when I went to order tickets, I was completely unable to afford them on my student budget. I know that this is due to the fact that the venues are smaller and NYCO is suffering financially. I respect that and I know that I should have just been glad that a season even existed, but I was still so disappointed that I couldn't attend these operas that I so much wanted to see. And, of course, the friends and family that I would have brought with me missed out as well.
I was a bit crushed when I got the NYCO bulletin in the mail yesterday. I was excited by the new season, but then something stopped my enthusiasm: the prediction that NYCO would not be returning to Lincoln Center for at least another three years. For me, that means that I'll most likely be unable to attend NYCO for that amount of time. And if they do return to Lincoln Center, I'll no longer be a student and I will have missed all those opportunities to see great opera at one of my favorite companies. I realized that that part of my opera-going experience is over and it's not coming back. It may seem silly, but I have very fond memories of NYCO-going as a student and I wish that didn't have to end so soon.
Of course, many people are much more affected by all this than I am. There are people for whom this is an end of an era-- people who were so much a part of the opera and now can no longer have any ties to it. There is an inevitable history to NYCO and a community that goes with that history. Now all that is over and I can't help but be saddened by it.
The one thing that I really hope will return is NYCO's ability and propensity to hire Young Artists. From the day I saw Julie Boulianne sing Lazuli in L'Etoile, I've wanted to perform as a Young Artist at NYCO. It seemed like such a nurturing yet exposing place to be a Young Artist. Many great artists have sung in that house and many YAs have come through and gone onto great things. I know that mezzo Jennifer Rivera got her start there, singing many leads (including Lazuli) and gaining international recognition for her performances. It's a great opportunity for a YA to be so close to the Met and yet not have the pressure of it. Besides, I love NYCO so much and I can't help but want to be a YA there.
NYCO always seemed like the friendly neighborhood opera where old Vets and YAs could meet and grow together. It was a place where anyone could afford to attend the opera and they could choose to see a traditional production of a well-known opera, experience a fresh and edgy production, or see an opera that no one else was producing. It was a low-pressure and welcoming environment for the artists and the patrons. And, yes, I'm glad that places like BAM and New York City Center have taken NYCO in and I'm glad that NYCO can continue to do the sort of productions that it always has, but it's still not exactly the same. I guess we all hate change and we all hate to be reminded that nothing lasts forever, but I do miss the old NYCO and I really hope that I will see it again one day.
Edit: I have written a follow-up post to this one, which can be found here.