George Steel Already Here, General Managing at City Opera

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Samara Golden's Yes No Party (2008/9) Photo: Patrick McMullan

He's here! George Steel's official start date as general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera may be February 1, but he's not wasting any time in Dallas. Steel was scheduled to meet with company artists and staff at 11 a.m. today at the David H. Koch Theater, according to a letter sent yesterday to company members by board chairwoman Susan L. Baker and company president Mark Newhouse.

The letter is predictably laudatory ("George Steel is a respected, accomplished and innovative figure in the American performing arts…") and briefly addresses the company's artistic future, noting Steel's interest in early opera and innovative versions of classic productions. One topic conspicuously absent (and sure to have come up at this morning's meeting), though, is money. The company's finances are under siege, with NYCO having lost 51 percent of its endowment in the last three months, and its operating budget pegged at about $10 million less than last year's, according to Baker's statements to the New York Times. The company has whittled its administrative staff in recent months and its orchestra's contract is set to expire this spring. The kicker? Steel has no significant fundraising experience and only minimal practice (the last three months at the Dallas Opera) running a major opera company.

So did questions from company staff at today's meeting focus on La Boheme or the budget? We'll take a guess!