Paul Kellogg: A New York City Opera Debut by Philip Anson
/ November 1, 1997
important American operatic debut this autumn is not a singer's but
that of Paul Kellogg, the new general and artistic director of the
New York City Opera. Kellogg was appointed to the post in January
1996, so the 1997-1998 season will be the first to bear his
imprimatur. Kellogg's decade of spectacular success leading the
Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York, should prove an ideal
preparation for the sensitive job of restoring confidence in the
ailing City Opera. I spoke to Mr. Kellogg last August at
Glimmerglass about the upcoming New York City Opera season.
LSM: This autumn you will be taking four of
Glimmerglass's best productions (Paul Bunyan, l'Italiana in
Algeri, Don Pasquale, Iphigénie en Tauride) to the New York City Opera. Is
this transfer of productions going to be an annual policy?
PK: In principle, yes. I think it is
beneficial to both companies. Glimmerglass gets much-needed income
and the City Opera gets well-prepared, quality productions. Due to
time constraints, budget problems and space restrictions, this year
the City Opera is building only one new production, Macbeth.
Rehearsing in the State Theater is
very expensive, and we have to share it with the New York City
Ballet, which cuts down our stage time. The City Opera depends on
ticket sales for approximately 50 % of its $27 million budget, which
means we are obliged to present about 114 performances in a 21-week
season. That leaves even less time to develop new productions. At
Glimmerglass we have more time to develop new productions, and it is
more economically feasible.
Glimmerglass productions are sold, not rented?
PK: Yes, the City Opera ends up owning
the productions. This is inevitable because Glimmerglass doesn't
have the space to store old productions and doesn't foresee doing
many revivals, whereas revivals are a regular part of every City
LSM: Are you not
concerned that many New York City Opera patrons will have already
seen the former Glimmerglass productions upstate during the
PK: Not really because they are two
different audiences. The City Opera audience is 230,000 and the
Glimmerglass audience is 32,000, most of whom don't live in New York
City. Glimmerglass was also concerned that sending their productions
to the City Opera would stop New Yorkers from coming upstate. I
don't think that will happen because people come to Glimmerglass for
the total experience of the small opera house, rural setting, great
acoustics, and the chance to see four operas in a weekend.
Alice Busch Opera Theater is a small 900-seat hall designed for your
opera company while the 2700-seat State Theater was designed for
ballet. How are Glimmerglass's productions going to fit in the State
PK: People are amazed that the footprint of
the two stages is so similar. The City Opera stage is a good deal
higher but only six feet wider than the Glimmerglass stage, and the
height doesn't hurt anything. When we transferred Glimmerglass's
1993 Turn of the Screw to the City Opera
it worked wonderfully.
the State Theater is not ideal. Some of the best Glimmerglass
singers have exquisite but small voices. Will you be able to use
them in New York?
PK: We have made acoustical improvements
at the State Theater. New side panels have created greater presence
in the hall and give the voices greater burnish. When it comes to
casting, we'll have to consider each voice individually. We can't
use every Glimmerglass singer, but we can use many. We are planning
to take Isabelle Kabatu to New York as Cio-Cio San. David Daniels
would be fine. Of course Christine Goerke as Iphigénie is no
LSM: This is your
first year at City Opera and already you have a subscription series
called Director's Choice, largely Glimmerglass productions. Will the
Director's Choice option be a permanent feature of City Opera
PK: I hope so. The Director's Choice is
basically the season's new productions and we've been amazed at the
response. Our eight new productions are selling out fastest and
Xerxes is our biggest seller by far.
LSM: If City Opera
starts making money, when can we expect to see an improvement in
PK: I hope that within three years we'll
be able to reduce the number of performances, increase rehearsal
time for each production and pay better to compensate for the loss
of performance income. More new productions could be done in house
LSM: How do you
handle the workload of directing both Glimmerglass and the New York
PK: I couldn't do it without delegating
responsibility. Esther Nelson is the new general director here at
Glimmerglass. She does a very good job managing the financial
aspect. There is someone at City Opera who effectively does the same
thing for me there. John Conklin works in both places as the
director of production and we've got good artistic administrators
implementing decisions in both places.
LSM: Do Glimmerglass
and City Opera have any plans for cycles based on composers or
PK: Not really, though we will continue to
stage Gluck and Handel. We all have favourite composers we want to
do more of - Britten, for instance. Glimmerglass will do Peter
Grimes in 1999. Richard Strauss is wonderful but hard to do at
Glimmerglass because he often requires a large orchestra. We did
Intermezzo, we could do Daphne, but the Schweigsame
Frau orchestra is too large. Capriccio would be wonderful
for Glimmerglass but the Met has a big new Capriccio, which means the City Opera can't
do it, which means Glimmerglass can't do it.
LSM: What about
Wagner? The Flying Dutchman could be wonderful at Glimmerglass.
PK: Dutchman could be done. The
orchestra would have to be modified but it is not impossible. Early
Wagner would be a curiosity though some of it is of dubious musical
and theatrical interest.
Glimmerglass's relationship with the City Opera preclude other
companies from renting Glimmerglass productions?
PK: Not entirely but it would have to be
worked out. If anyone wanted to rent a set, we would try to work it
out so that Glimmerglass might benefit from the income. It's just a
matter of dates. Sets would be available after a couple of weeks of
LSM: No danger that New York will lure you
away from Glimmerglass?
PK: Oh no, I love
it here. I'll be staying as long a they'll have me.