Bankrupt NY City Opera May Be Revived on Purchase Campus

Bankrupt NY City Opera May Be Revived on Purchase Campus

Three weeks into the bankruptcy of New York City Opera, there’s discussion in opera circles about how to reconstitute it under a different management to provide the country’s most populous city with an alternative to the Metropolitan Opera. “Many people are talking about the need for a second company, with a similar role New York City Opera had,” Gail Kruvand, chairwoman of City Opera’s orchestra committee, said in an interview on Saturday. “We continue to hope that will arise.”In one scenario, the new company would rehearse and perform about 30 miles north of New York City at Purchase College, State University of New York, founded by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The campus has an active music program and hosts a new two-week summer residency for the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S., established by Carnegie Hall. Peter Sellars directed innovative Mozart operas there in the 1980s that attracted New York crowds to such as stagings as “Marriage of Figaro” set in a luxurious duplex.

“Effectively they’d have a home away from home,” Thomas Schwarz, the president of the college, said in an interview. “I’m certainly open to having that conversation. I just don’t know with whom.”

Otherwise Kaput

Absent a miracle or merger, the current iteration of City Opera, founded in 1943, is kaput. George Steel, the artistic director and general manager, and managing director Andrea Nellis remain employed to assist in its winding down, according to a declaration by Steel filed on Oct. 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

The company is expected to pay the two managers about $30,000 for 30 days. The Oct. 3 filing, labeled “projected payments to officers,” is unclear about whether they’re sharing that amount or each receiving $30,000. Lawyers for City Opera did not return calls requesting clarification.

City Opera filed for bankruptcy after an emergency fundraising campaign to raise $7 million in September fell short. In all, it raised $1.5 million, Kenneth Rosen, a lawyer for City Opera, said at an Oct. 10 hearing.

Assets were $6.7 million and debt $3.6 million, court papers last week said. But some funds “are subject to donor restrictions,” said a filing. They have strings attached.

To cut costs, Steel in 2011 decided to remove the opera from Lincoln Center. The opera shared what is now the David H. Koch Theater and occupied subterranean offices.

The new offices in lower Manhattan, where some 30 staff members gathered toward the end, cost $37,887.88 a month. It is officially vacant this Thursday.

Refund Question

City Opera sought permission to immediately refund about $300,000 in tickets for canceled performances and pay as much as $12,475 in severance to each of the employees it fired just before bankruptcy.

Nicole Stefanelli, another lawyer representing the opera, said maintaining its reputation is a priority.

“Honoring customer obligations is something that the opera has always done in the past,” she said at the Oct. 10 hearing.

This is not a view shared by unions once associated with City Opera that are now creditors. The idea of “any reputational harm” that failing to speed refunds “could have on future business operations is simply too remote or speculative,” they said in a joint objection.

In 2011, the last year for which compensation was disclosed, Steel earned $340,000 in pay and benefits and Nellis made $69,000. She arrived that September, according to court papers. The next bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

The case is New York City Opera Inc., 13-bk-13240, U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater, Greg Evans on TV.

To contact the reporter on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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