Wednesday, October 2, 2013

From Minnesota to New York

As reported on NPR, this week marks a low point in the classical music world. First, the Minnesota Orchestra's conductor, Osmo Vanska, has resigned after a series of concerts were cancelled. (In May, the maestro said that if the orchestra's Carnegie Hall concerts were cancelled, he would have no other choice but to leave.) According to CEO Michael Henson, attempts were made by all parties to cut spending: the musician's proposal would cut salaries by almost 5%, while cuts in the board's salaries would amount to 18% in reductions. Even with these proposals, the organization would still have a deficit of one million dollars per year, paving way for the need of altered proposals, which did not arise in time. Meanwhile, the musicians of the orchestra are attempting to create their own season and may negotiate directly with Vanska to stage their own Carnegie Hall concert.

Similarly, the New York City Opera has officially declared bankruptcy and has cancelled all future shows. Even after the popularity of Anna Nicole, the funds were not sufficient. George Steele, managing director, claims he raised $14-18 million since 2009, but because of existing deficits (that had been mounting since 2003), it was not enough to keep the organization afloat. Throughout the NPR article, it is apparent that the opera directors have consistently been requesting more money than possible (for example, in 2009, Gerard Mortier requested $60 million and ended up only being guaranteed $14 million). My question is: since 2003, why did the board continue to use directors that demanded more money than the management knew was coming in?

The article also describes the energy of the opera when it first opened its doors in 1943 -"We had a young, fresh group willing to try things, willing to be part of the noble experiment, according to Julius Rudel, director throughout the 60s and 70s. This seems to directly contrast with the energy of the opera now - "A lot of the people who left [during the move from Lincoln Center] and took the buyout are struggling, because they were older. They were, you, know, in their 60s...," according to Bridget Winslow, a chorus member. Could this contradiction have something to do with the opera's demise? Can any organization that lacks fresh ideas and faces stay relevant in today's world?

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