The New York City Opera was supposed to spend the next several months preparing for productions of Endimione, Bluebeard’s Castle, and The Marriage of Figaro. Instead, the opera company is preparing to sell off assets, including its thrift shop, and move its records to Columbia University for preservation. Recent reports that a possible merger was on the table were, according to representatives, much exaggerated.
City Opera was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this month after failing to raise $7 million to finish out its season, but a glimmer of hope for the company appeared following a bankruptcy hearing on October 10.
The Wall Street Journal quoted City Opera’s lawyer Kenneth Rosen saying a “potential partner” and “potential merger candidate” had come forward. Bloomberg noted Rosen’s comment that “A few cultural institutions are interested in preserving some aspect of the opera,” adding details would be released “in the not too distant future.”
Reached by phone after the hearing, Kenneth Rosen tried to temper that excitement. Reports calling any potential deal a merger, he says, are “misdescribing what I said to the court.”
City Opera is entertaining all offers, Rosen says, but those conversations include everything from “someone who says I want to buy the following three costumes, to someone who says I want to buy sets, to someone who says I want to buy your intellectual property, to someone who says we want to do a full-scale merger, to someone who says I want to buy everything.
“All I said to the judge was several people have reached out to us and everything is being seriously considered.”
Three or four parties, he adds, “have stepped forward with ideas that are worth serious consideration.”
One of those parties may be Columbia University, where, according to court papers, City Opera is in the process of moving its records “to ensure their preservation and to provide access to the collection for scholarship, research and the public good.”
City Opera spokesperson Risa Heller likewise says that a merger in the traditional sense was unlikely. “Merger is the wrong word. I think that folks are conflating possible sale of the thrift shop with early discussions with several organizations who expressed interest in ways of carrying the company’s mission forward in some way.”
City Opera’s Gramercy thrift shop (which Vogue once called “the highest quality thrift shop in New York”) is being offered for sale as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. In papers filed earlier this month, City Opera’s lawyers proposed selling “City Opera Thrift Shop, including all of its inventory, to another not-for-profit arts organization, which will take over NYC Opera’s lease obligations and retain the employees of City Opera Thrift Shop.”
Exactly which not-for-profit arts organization that might be remains to be seen.
Read the court papers …[