Dear Messrs. Kaiser and Tommasini:
I know that both of you are aware of my campaign to become the director of the New York City Opera. Mr. Kaiser, I have spoken with your assistant and sent you two emails, both of which have received no reply from you. Mr. Tommasini, you replied in an email to my campaign manager, confirming that you had seen my fifteen page (single spaced) proposal for a New York City Opera recovery.
So, I guess I’m kind of wondering, like, why I haven’t been appointed yet? And why I haven’t received a media endorsement from The Times?
I’m pretty sure my proposal totally rocks. It may need some fine tuning; currently there is no mention about how to handle renegotiating union contracts, but I have someone advising me on this now. And I know that all my ideas probably, realistically (but who am I to take up the torch of realism?) cannot all be enacted immediately. I’ve also received a lot of amazing feedback from the nearly nine hundred people who have read the proposal, and have allowed these responses to shape my outlook moving forward. So while my proposal may be imperfect, it is organic, adaptable, and defining itself with each passing day: With each day that New York City Opera is left without a director.
My campaign has also picked up endorsements from L. Ro and Andy Horowitz, two prominent figures in New York’s performance culture; L. Ro as a critic and advocate; Andy as a producer and adorable teddy bear. Not to mention the thumbs-up of approval from a bunch of Counter Critic friends and readers, and a small but spunky community of peeps on Facebook. So why has the establishment of classical music reportage not recognized our grassroots groundswell?
My feeling as that neither you, Mr. Kaiser, nor you, Mr. Tommasini, is bothering to take us seriously.
If that’s the case, I mean, Wow, that hurts, you know? I’ve/we’ve put all this hard work and effort into devising a plan to save a major cultural institution, and neither of you, as leaders in the classical arts, can really care to weigh in on our ideas?
It kind of reminds me of when I gave my mom a copy of The Gospel of Thomas, and she wasn’t interested in reading it. (For those who don’t know, TGoT is a Coptic gospel, and is supposed to have been written by Jesus’s brother, Thomas.) So when my mother, who’s a big fan of the J.C., didn’t want to read it, I was like, “Umm…this book is supposed to be the closest any literature that exists has come to the direct and actual words of Jesus Christ, the guy you believe to be your Lord and Savior, and you have no interest at all in even checking out what it might have to say?”
So, yeah, I guess I’m comparing myself to the Messiah, or, at least, to his brother Tom.
But my point is, that in a time that is as obviously desperate as it is for NYCO, wouldn’t you think that the man in charge of turning the company around, and a man who is one of the most important voices in classical music in this city, would at least consider the ideas of a guy who has basically invented an entire movement and platform out of thin air, with nothing but a little new media, some primo ideas, and a lot of chutzpah?
I would like to direct you both to a passage in Mr. Tommasini’s article that was published in The New York Times on Friday, January 2–the day that my campaign held our press conference, for which, Fox 5 News was the only press that cared enough to show up–that I found to speak oddly, and directly, to my campaign, and to the people that would support it:
“Mortier’s vision for a season of must-see events was a good one and could have been exciting,” Mr. Kaiser said. But it was not attached to a business model that made sense, he added. “Any creative person can come up with a programming framework. But most board members and, to be honest, most critics do not know how to fit a vision into an affordable structure.”
For that, he said, “you need expert arts business leadership.”
Right…So, like, any old “creative person” can come up with a programming framework that will, say, revitalize a dwindling and increasingly marginal arts organization and keep it viable in the deeply diverse and harshly competitive environment of New York City performing arts?
Any creative person can devise a programming structure that will create a personality and character for this opera company that will attract audiences both old and new, build public confidence, and make New York City Opera a productive institution worthy of pulling in major grants and private gifts?
So, I mean, why search for a director at all? Just get a solid CFO, or CEO, and let the artistic course of the company go on its sad and lonesome way.
Listen, I agree that NYCO needs strong leaders in business right now. I totally agree. But let me remind you that the people who have run this company’s face into the gravel were all assumed to be expert leaders in arts business. Right? So why not take a chance on a newcomer? An idealist. Someone who’s less concerned with stepping up the next rung of a long and arduous ladder of career arts admin., but who’s chief concern is helping New York City Opera be vibrant, contemporary, broadly inclusive, and affordable.
Furthermore, the quoted passage implies that the main thing wrong with NYCO is its financial/business leadership. But please keep in mind that, while The Met is staking new claim in areas in which NYCO had once been able to set itself apart, and given the fact that a new programmatic identity proposed by Gerard Mortier is now out the door, leaving a big ole question mark over just what exactly the NYCO brand is about, the artistic direction of this company will be quintessential to the kind and the magnitude of success the New York City Opera will or will not have in the future.
For you, Mr. Kaiser, to suggest otherwise, seems surprisingly naive.
And for you, Mr. Tommasini, to use your reportage to enable Mr. Kaiser’s lack of interest in finding a smart artistic leader, and to diminish the importance of intelligent and shrewd choices of programming, seems irresponsible and even counteractive to your final recommendation for the New York City Opera: “…now more than ever, it should be bold.”
Wait. Who the hell took my soap box?
Oh well, I think that was enough seriousness for one afternoon.
So, basically, Michael, Tony: I’m disappointed in the two of you. If there were a “Principal” of New York City arts and culture, I’d send you both to her office.
I hope you do not take my irreverence as a reason not to hear my ideas, which are serious, even if my tone isn’t always.
I care. You care. We all care.
Let’s the three of us get together for a brunch, or a lunch, or a brewsky. However it is expert arts business leaders and the media elite get together to plot the fate of the world.
I promise you that while I may come off as a smug little punk, I’m quite approachable; maybe even a little cute (so sayeth the Parterreans).
I know that, between the three of us, we can save this sad sack of an opera company.
Oh yes we can!
Kissing you both,