2 August 2011
New York City Opera to Eliminate Music Director Position; George Manahan to Depart Company
New York City Opera intends to eliminate the position of music director from the company, the New York Times reported today, bringing an end to the tenure of George Manahan, who has served as NYCO music director since 1996.
When City Opera announced its attenuated 2012 season — which will consist of sixteen performances of four operas — it was already reeling from years of deficit spending and a 2010-11 season that resulted in a $5 million budgetary shortfall, which forced the company to abandon its Lincoln Center home. Manahan, who conducted three of the five operas that City Opera presented during the 2010-11 season, was absent during the July 12 announcement of the company's next season — its first away from Lincoln Center in more than four decades — and his name was similarly not included among the conductors listed as taking part in NYCO's 2012 season.
George Steel, New York City Opera's general manager and artistic director, told the Times that Manahan had not been contracted to conduct any of the struggling company's performances next season because, "He didn't have the dates free, partly no doubt because we were so late in planning our season," but that Manhan's anticipated absence during next season made clear to Steel that, "given the size of the company now, it doesn't make sense for us to have a music director."
At the time of the company's 2012 season announcement, Steel seemed to indicate the opposite, saying "George Manahan is absolutely still our [music] director. I haven't looked at his contract recently, but I believe that it has at least another year on it, thank goodness."
During the company's 2012 season, Christian Curnyn will conduct performances of Così Fan Tutte and Gary Thor Wedow will lead performances of Telemann's Orpheus; the company has yet to announce conductors for the remaining two operas it plans to present, La Traviata and Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna.
Steel told the Times today that he had hoped to announce a future engagement by Manahan at City Opera prior to formally announcing the elimination of the post, but that word had been prematurely disclosed.
Manahan, 59, was appointed City Opera's music director in 1996 by Paul Kellogg, then in his own first season as the company's artistic and general director. Manahan, who is currently conducting performances of Menotti's The Last Savage at Santa Fe Opera, reportedly had no comment for the Times, though he issued a statement through his manager referring to his fifteen year stint as City Opera's music director as "the most gratifying time of my life," and singling out particular praise for the company's orchestra musicians, saying, "My respect, admiration and love for these incredible musicians is unending […] so naturally I am saddened that the new vision for the company’s future does not include a role for a music director. But I also believe in the importance of City Opera to New York and to the rest of the country in its continuing mission of nurturing new talent and presenting exciting productions to its audiences. I look forward to a new chapter of my relationship with the company as a guest conductor and am excited to return to work with New York City Opera in future seasons."
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