THE NEW YORK CITY OPERA: An American Adventure by Martin L. Sokol

THE NEW YORK CITY OPERA: An American Adventure

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Well over half of this thick volume is devoted to appendices: lists of New York City opera recordings, broadcasts, donors, and the season-by-season, day-by-day performances (with complete cast listings) since 1944. Sokol's history of the opera company, then, is relatively brief. He begins with the 1943 creation of N.Y.'s City Center, devoted to arts-for-the-non-Élite--thanks largely to Mayor La Guardia, Newbold Morris, and Morton Baum. He recounts the first rÉgime, that of Hungarian-born conductor/director Laszlo Halasz, in particular detail: reprinted budgets from the first productions; Halasz's ""progressive, dynamic, and imaginative"" work in the first, short seasons (unusual repertoire, the first black singer in a major US role); and then--with extensive quotation from memos and letters in City Opera files--a painstaking reconstruction of the feuds, complaints, and litigation that led to Halasz's departure after eight years in command. (Though Halasz was undeniably temperamental, says Sokol, he ""was the victim of a campaign to oust him."") The company's post-1952 years are more tersely filled in--from the brief tenures of Joseph Rosenstock and Erich Leinsdorf (who was shabbily treated by the Board), to Julius Rudel's rise-from-the-ranks, to the move to Lincoln Center (with a brief summary of the ""ugly politics and power plays that went into its creation""). And there are only a half-dozen, inadequate pages on the Rudel/Beverly Sills transition: the Company's current problems are played way down, as are the Rudel/Sills/Board tussles. So: more a huge, m-house souvenir book than a slice of operatic history--but fact-filled and friendly enough to please any devoted fan.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan