New York City Opera files for bankruptcy

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Opera company shuts down after failing to raise $7 million

New York City Opera is to shut down after its board voted on Thursday to file for bankruptcy.

City Opera had hoped to raise $1 million through a campaign on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com but this proved unsuccessful after it only managed to raise $301,019 from 2,108 backers.

Nicknamed ‘the people’s opera’ by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia after its founding 70 years ago, City Opera’s collapse will leave the 130-year-old Metropolitan Opera as the city’s only major opera company.

Speaking to the CBS news website, Kasper Holten, director of opera at London’s Covent Garden, said it would be ‘absolutely appalling to imagine a city as great as New York not being able to have two major opera companies’.

‘If you look at London, if you look at Berlin, if you look at Moscow, if you look at Vienna, they have two opera houses, and of course New York should have two opera houses’.

After suspending the rest of the current season, City Opera said it needed an additional $13 million to fund its 2014-15 season. The company's last performance was a production of Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera Anna Nicole, which took place this September.

Speaking to NPR Classical, the company's artistic and managing director, George Steel, said: 'I guess when I came in, I did not understand the severity of the situation. But knowing now how serious it was, I would do it again. I would leap in and make music with all my might, and do everything possible for this unbelievable American company.'

New York City Opera has helped launch the careers of many international opera singers, including Renée Fleming and Plácido Domingo.

‘My early performances with New York City Opera were what really kicked off my international career, and I look back on those days with enormous pride’, Domingo said to The Los Angeles Times. ‘It would be an absolute tragedy for that legacy to come to an end’.

Declan Kennedy