Friday, October 11, 2013

New York City Opera Bankruptcy Round-Up

As the Wall Street Journal publishes a sketchy report of a deal to merge the bankrupt New York City Opera with another Big Apple cultural institution, John Godfrey and Jason Schneiderman of Nonprofit Quarterly summarize everything that led up to the company's chapter 11 filing, putting a focus on the fiduciary irresponsibility of the board.

The news (published rumor?) that horrible human being David H. Koch passed on bailing out the NYCO because it produced an opera based on Anna Nicole Smith, whom Koch hates, is hilariously depressing, and a case study in just how sleazy it can be to work in non-profit performing arts. The New York Times recounts NYCO head George Steel's night out with Montgomery Burns:
The opera they saw, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Anna Nicole,” tells the more-or-less true life story of Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy model who married an octogenarian oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall II, and who waged a fierce battle with his heirs over his estate after he died. Mr. Marshall, it turned out, had owned 16 percent of the Koch family’s business, Koch Industries. When Mr. Steel asked Mr. Koch if he could make further gifts to save the company, Mr. Koch demurred, telling Mr. Steel that the Marshall family might be less than pleased, according to a person familiar with their conversation. 
Wow. Awkward.

If you're looking for historical background on the New York City Opera, Fred Cohen's piece in Opera News is the place to go.