An inscription to $100 million gift-giver, David H. Koch, on the inside cover of the evening's program, first and foremost, to fête the philanthropist responsible for the extensive (and much needed) renovation to the home theater of the New York City Opera (and NYC Ballet) -- Koch accepted the theater's namesake, but under the implicit terms that the right should expire after 50 years time, joking that he would hope someone else would take-on the surmised, estimated renovations in 2060.And so George Steel's first season for NYCO launch last night to a well-coiffed & heeled crowd in a program of mix & match musical theater and operetta, American Voices, shared among past, present, and sometimes tenuously-linked NYCO singers (with the noticeable exception of ~star power~ Measha Brueggergosman and Rufus Wainwright).
Steel spoke to the audience about the renovation benchmarks. In addition to the dissolution of the amplification-acoustic system and the removal of carpeted swaths, the theater now has a better layout with new seats (quite comfortable, evocative of the Salzburger Festspiele's Haus für Mozart's seats with aisles wide enough to accommodate the passage of the widest row-colleagues); new bathrooms (bright enough to reapply faded Dior Addict); a new metal stage curtain (one of the gear-boy stagehands loudly whooped from backstage at the mention); new artist dressing rooms; new lighting; and the coolest yet -- a larger orchestra pit that sinks and raises from pit to stage level, according to repertoire and whims of the conductor. Giddiness in the air, the new theater was gleaming and inviting.
Singing mostly in English (with a smattering of French), singers took the stage in recital format with sparkling dresses and smart suits. All in good spirit, with light hearts (with the exception of the scary Southern Gothic Revival Scene from Susannah sung by a booming Samuel Ramey). Measha Brueggergosman, in bare feet and a Magpie dress (which OC thought was a Vivienne Westwood -- that is, if Vivienne Westwood had explored a Scottish fetish while vacationing, pantyless, in the Wild West), was full-on fierce, belting-out a swooning Gershwin "My Man's Gone Now". Jersey boy Marc Kundisch gave a witty Rodgers and Hammerstein "Billy's Soliloquy", while the crowd warmly-received Mezzo Joyce Castle's "I am Easily Assimilated" from Bernstein's Candide. In the only mic'd-up performance of the night (a hearty good riddance to NYCO's amplification system), Rufus Wainwright sang "That's Entertainment" replete with a cane (although top hat missing -- Rufino wouldn't' *dare* mess-up his hair even in the name of low-brow art). Spotted with selections from Barber, Golijov, and Bolcom, the New York City Ballet tickled the stage in an excerpt from Adams' Hallelujah Junction. Ending the night on a cool note, Joyce DiDonato sang Bernstein's "Take Care of This House".In a night that New Yorkers weren't sure would ever happen, NYCO gracefully absorbed the blows from the past two years of mounting debt and managerial shake-downs, proving to the city (and more importantly themselves) that NYCO could remain as buoyant as ever.