New York City Opera in crisis again, turns to Kickstarter

The chronically troubled New York City Opera is once again facing a perilous financial situation, with the company announcing over the weekend that it needed to raise at least $7 million by the end of the month, with an overall fundraising goal of $20 million by the end of the year.

Without the $7 million by the end of September, the company said it would have to suspend its 2013-14 season following the U.S. premiere of “Anna Nicole,” scheduled to begin Sept. 17. Leaders have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million toward that goal.

“We have reached a crossroads: simply put, we need capitalization, both for the rest of this season and for the company to continue forward on solid financial footing,” said George Steel, general manager and artistic director, in a statement.

The company’s financial squeeze -- the latest in a line for the second largest opera company in New York -- was precipitated by the failure of certain pledges to materialize in recent weeks, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.


If the company fails to meet its $20-million goal by the end of December, it is expected to cancel its entire 2014-15 season.

In 2011, the company barely survived a budget crunch that forced it to move out of its longtime home at Lincoln Center. Since then, the company has resorted to a scaled-back, nomadic existence, limiting its seasons to just a few productions at venues around the city.

A canceled 2013-14 season would mean axing scheduled productions of “Endiomione,” by Johan Christian Bach; “Bluebeard’s Castle,” by Bartok; and “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart.

“Anna Nicole” had its world premiere in 2011 at the Royal Opera House in London. The opera, with a libretto by Richard Thomas, follows Smith’s rise to fame and her marriage at the age of 26 to the then-89-year-old oil magnate J. Howard Marshall.

In the London production, Smith was played by Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek. The New York production, which will take place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, will star Sarah Joy Miller in the title role. BAM is co-producing the opera with New York City Opera.


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