After breaking even, NY City Opera stays with reduced season

NEW YORK (AP) - After breaking even in its first full season since emerging from bankruptcy, New York City Opera said Wednesday it will stick with a reduced schedule of four main-stage productions in 2017-18 and does not envision getting much larger.

Citing competition from events throughout the area and technology that makes performances around the world available on the internet, general director Michael Capasso said City Opera has to live with a new reality.

"The company sadly but realistically is never going to be 120 performances of a dozen titles," Capasso said. "Those days I think are really over. I think they may be over for the industry, but they're certainly over for City Opera."

Founded in 1943, City Opera emerged from bankruptcy last year with an abbreviated schedule of 14 performances. The current season includes 32 performances of four shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center plus several chamber operas and concerts at smaller venues. The 2017-18 season features four main-stage operas highlighted by the U.S. premiere on May 31 next year of Charles Wuorinen's "Brokeback Mountain," a work that City Opera commissioned in 2008.

Twenty-six performances are scheduled for next season with a budget of $7.5 million, about the same as this season. Before a financial collapse began a decade ago, City Opera typically presented 12-16 operas per season and a peak of about 130 performances.

Capasso budgets ticket sales at 65 percent of capacity. The current season was buoyed by a sold-out run of Bernstein's "Candide" in which four performances were added to the originally scheduled six.

City Opera hopes within five years to perhaps increase main-stage productions to six. It is eliminating Saturday-night performances, which it found was its weakest-selling day.

"There's a lot of entertainment available to the public. And what's even worse is it's available to them on demand. Whenever they want it, they can just open their computer or their device and watch whatever they want," Capasso said. "The challenge for us is to convince people next week to buy a ticket for something in April 2018."

"Brokeback Mountain" is based on the 1997 short story by Annie Proulx detailing a cowboy romance about two ranch-hand buddies who start a homosexual affair. "Brokeback" became the basis for a 2005 movie that won three Academy Awards, and Gerard Mortier took the commission with him when he left City Opera for Spain's Teatro Real in Madrid, where it premiered in 2014.

The season also includes the world premiere in October of a chamber version of Tobias Picker's "Dolores Claiborne," which debuted at the San Francisco Opera in 2013 and is based on the Stephen King novel.

The season opens with Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)" on Sept. 6 and includes the New York premiere of Jose Martinez's mariachi opera "Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon)" on Jan. 25 and Montemezzi's "L'Amore dei Tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings)" starting April 12. There will be a chamber double bill of Donizetti's "Il Pigmalione" and Rameau's "Pigmalion" next May.