SundayArts is Now NYC-ARTS
Mixing and matching

One of the most exciting things about the arts is experimentation—and that includes the occasional brave failure. I realize this is America, where some consider failure to be akin to some kind of moral deficiency, but bear with me for a second and please read on! You see, experimentation means boldly going where blah blah blah. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t, but what’s interesting about the arts—and, come to think of it, about life—is seeing someone try to make sense of the unknown. Not to mention that something imperfect can leave more of a mark than a glossy, fully-rounded production. It’s the problem that may stay with you, waiting to be solved. As an audience member, experimentation can mean going out of your comfort zone and seeing something you may not have thought you’d enjoy; it can mean juxtaposing wildly divergent shows or experiences on the same day.

For someone running an arts institution or a company, experimentation can involve bringing together people who may not, on the surface, have that much in common, or bringing together artists whose followings don’t tend to mix.

This week, for instance, our show talks about choreographer Stephen Petronio, whose new dances are set to music by the likes of downtown avant-crooner Antony and flamboyant pop singer Rufus Wainwright. You’d think the constituencies for these artists don’t necessarily mingle, but Petronio is right to think dance fans could very well respond to the aesthetic universes created by Antony and Wainwright—and vice versa.

Coincidentally (or not), Wainwright is one of the new voices the Met has approached to write operas. The Met’s Peter Gelb has also reached out to Broadway directors like Jack O’Brien for Puccini’s Il Trittico and Bartlett Sher for Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. And earlier this year, you could have seen Tatiana Noginova’s costumes and George Tsypin’s sets both in Prokofiev’s War and Peace at the Met and in Disney’s Little Mermaid on Broadway in the same week. It was really fun to compare how they handled these vastly different universes.

Some of the announcements (like provocateur film director Michael Haneke directing Mozart at City Opera in a few years) are bound to frighten some people. But at least there is palpable excitment on the New York opera scene. It does not feel completely disconnected from the culture at large anymore.

Some would prefer to see opera, dance and theater frozen in pretty, separate pieces of amber, but I for one love seeing them engage with each other—and with our times.

  • Joan Swain

    I’d like to refute the comment made in today’s (3/23/08) program by the new director of the NY City Opera. He said that Peter Gelb’s approach of making opera available in theaters (via Live from the Met in HD) is the wrong approach to bringing people to the opera houses.

    I have attended both seasons of the Met in HD and have been thrilled with the opportunity to enjoy more operas than my pocketbook would ever allow. Moreover, by becoming familiar with operas that would not be my first choice for my few ventures to the Met or the City Opera (from NJ), I am increasing my knowledge of opera and the singers, and, as a result, feel more motivated to attend the live theater in NYC.

    By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the “Madama Butterfly” that was presented on Channel 13 last week. I had attended the Met production that premiered a year ago, and I was very favorably impressed by the NY City Opera.

    To me, it’s impossible to have too much opera available. When I attend the Met HD performances, the lines are very long, and many of us opera lovers have developed friendships and enjoy meeting each other again. In fact, yesterday, at the magnificent “Tristan und Isolde” performance, a new friend gave me date/time information about performances at movie theaters by La Scala and the San Francisco Opera. The NYC Opera should not ignore the potentcy of the cinema.

    Jelsey, Lebanon

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.