The company, called "the people's opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943. The company's stated purpose was to make opera accessible to a wide audience at a reasonable ticket price. It also sought to produce an innovative choice of repertory, and provide a home for American singers and composers. The company was originally housed at the New York City Center theater on West 55th Street. It later became part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 1966 to 2010 during which time it produced autumn and spring seasons of opera in repertory and maintained extensive education and outreach programs, offering arts-in-education programs to 4,000 students in over thirty schools. In 2011, the company left Lincoln Center due to financial difficulties, moving its offices and archives to 75 Broad St. in Lower Manhattan.In the 2011–2012 season NYCO will perform four operas at various venues in New York City, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
During its nearly 70 year history, the NYCO has helped launch the careers of many great opera singers including Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Carol Vaness, José Carreras, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Bejun Mehta, Samuel Ramey, and Gianna Rolandi. Sills later served as the company's director from 1979–1989. More recent acclaimed American singers who have called NYCO home include David Daniels, Mark Delavan, Mary Dunleavy, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, and Carl Tanner.
NYCO similarly champions the work of American composers; approximately one-third of its repertoire has traditionally been American opera. The company's American repertoire has ranged from established works (e.g., Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah and Leonard Bernstein's Candide) to new works (e.g., Thomas Pasatieri's Before Breakfast and Mark Adamo's Little Women). NYCO's commitment to the future of American opera is demonstrated in its annual series, Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab, in which operas-in-progress are showcased, giving composers a chance to hear their work performed by professional singers and orchestra. The company has also occasionally produced musicals and operettas including works by Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert & Sullivan.
Read more about New York City Opera: The Early Years: 1943–1951, Rosenstock and Leinsdorf: 1952–1957, Rudel: 1957–1979, Sills: 1979–1988, Keene: 1989–1995, Kellogg: 1996–2007, 2008 To Present, Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab, World Premieres
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“I have witnessed, and greatly enjoyed, the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide.”
—Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (18351910)
“You feel you could pucker up and blow away the miles between 49 Bard Road [Brixton] and that apartment in New York where I could be tomorrow morning, if the apartment still existed, if Peregrine still existed, if the past werent deeper than the sea, more difficult to cross.”
—Angela Carter (19401992)
“Our children need to be able to see us take a stand for a value and against injustices, be those values and injustices in the family room, the boardroom, the classroom, or on the city streets.”
—Barbara Coloroso (20th century)