After 70 Years, Beleaguered New York City Opera Shuts Its Doors

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01 Oct 2013

George Steel
George Steel

New York City Opera, which recently sought to raise a total of $20 million in emergency funds, was unable to reach its fundraising goal as of Sept. 30. The organization, dubbed by New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia as "the People's Theatre," will begin bankruptcy proceedings Oct. 1.

Anna Nicole, the Mark-Anthony Turnage-Richard Thomas opera about late tabloid and reality star Anna Nicole Smith, was the final production in the company's 70-year history. The opera played its last performance Sept. 28 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

On Sept. 9 NYCO went public with an appeal to raise  $7 million in urgently needed funds in order to proceed with the remainder of the 2013-14 season. That funding, which would have kept the non-profit in operation, was required by Sept. 30. An additional $17 million was also required by the end of the year in order to produce a planned 2014-15 season.

In addition to privately solicited funding, NYCO launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million by Sept. 30. That unsuccessful campaign ended with only $301,019 pledged in funding.

"New York City Opera did not achieve the goal of its emergency appeal. Today, the board and management will begin the necessary financial and operational steps to wind down the Company including initiating the Chapter 11 process," a representative for the organization told Playbill.com.



The NYCO staff's final day was Sept. 30.

NYCO, under the leadership of general manager and artistic director George Steel, announced in May 2011 that it would vacate its permanent home since 1966 at Lincoln Center in order to streamline operating costs, opting instead to perform in venues across New York City. The move aimed to save the organization $4.5 million, according to a New York Times report.

In recent years the opera used $24 million from its endowment to cover expenses and repay loans. The organization, which Steel described to the Times as "living on the edge and hand-to-mouth for a number of years," has been unable to repay the endowment, which at one time provided $3 million in funding annually. That number dropped to less than $200,000 per year.