On Proposition 8
(with surprise guests Benjamin, Peter and Franz)
Drive-In Saturday:
Technicolor Pachyderms is Really Too Much for Me

"What Did You Expect From an Opera? A Happy Ending?"

Tragedy on the Opera by bristley

In our freshly dismal economy, no one in the Arts game is having any fun.  This morning's Los Angeles Times fronted a story on the dire straits of the region's arts institutions.  Among the most notable recent casualties and developments:

  • Orange County's Opera Pacific has canceled the remainder of its 2008-2009 season, and after 22 seasons appears likely to disappear entirely.  As Tim Mangan reported in the OC Register, the company has eliminated virtually its entire staff and has placed its headquarters, "a large warehouse structure [with] almost 20,000 square feet of office, rehearsal, shop and storage space, " up for sale. 

On the Register Arts Blog, Tim suggests San Diego Opera, 70 miles south, as an alternative for opera-starved Orange Countyites.  I would counter with a reminder that Long Beach Opera is even closer and has a really interesting season coming up.  (Assuming, of course, that LBO survives when Opera Pacific has not.)

  • Meanwhile, in Manhattan, the New York Times reports this afternoon that the much anticipated (or in some circles dreaded) arrival of Gerald Mortier from Paris to take command of the perpetually struggling New York City Opera has come a-cropper over NYCO's inability to deliver the funding Mortier had been promised.  In proper Gallic style, Mortier was simultaneously gracious and insulting in announcing his decision to withdraw:
Speaking from his apartment in Ghent, Belgium, Mr. Mortier said he decided to resign when it became clear that the board would not give him the money needed to produce a meaningful slate of opera productions.  He said that from the start he had been promised a budget of $60 million, a number even mentioned in his contract.  But the board was prepared to approve only $36 million, he said, not much more than the basic fixed costs of running the company, leaving him little room for innovative productions. 

'I told them with the best will I can’t do that,' Mr. Mortier said. 'I cannot go to run a company that has less than the smallest company in France.'  Mr. Mortier is in the final year of running the Paris National Opera, which has a budget closer to $300 million. 'You don’t need me for that,' he said.
Lee Greenwood's main claim to fame is writing and singing the hit patriotic hymn "God Bless the U.S.A."  Soon Greenwood's blessing will matter on the American arts scene -- at least the part interested in tapping into federal largess via grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, the Nashville-based country singer is scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 17 as one of the 14 regular members of the National Council on the Arts.  Council members advise the NEA chairman, and their portfolio includes reviewing and making recommendations on applications for grants from the $145-million-a-year federal agency.  Greenwood will serve a six-year term. 

Greenwood will be the only Bush appointee to the Council whose term will last through the first Obama administration.  I suppose the President's choice of Greenwood makes at least as much sense as Governor Schwarzenegger's recent appointment of Bo Derek as a member of the California Horse Racing Board.  (What? Was Cloris Leachman unavailable?  For either position?)

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Photo: "Tragedy on the [Paris] Opera" by Flickr! user bristley, used under Creative Commons license.
Post title courtesy of B. Bunny.

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