The New York City Opera was a musical family. There was a core of singers who were there season after season. This was economical, because only new productions and revivals after many years could be fully dress rehearsed. The core singers knew the staging, new the theater, were seasoned and could pull off a show even when only rehearsed in rehearsal rooms. Productions were not multi-million dollar affairs. Some consisted of basic flats, a few scrims and creative lighting. And they worked. The audience felt what was going on, came with enthusiasm, expressed their approval. Sometimes there were one-size-fits-all costumes, waists and lengths adjusted according to whoever was doing the part. It was wonderful, real opera.
Over the years important singers arrived, singers who went on to international careers. Some stayed loyal to New York City Opera, because it allowed them to do unique roles. Everyone had to cope with the same conditions,- little glamour, perhaps no rehearsal on stage, no prompter's box.
Domingo arrived in the fall of 1965, Don José in Carmen. For sure he didn't get a full dress rehearsal, because he wasn't the first in that role that season. Only when DON RODRIGO and TRAVIATA came in as new productions would he have had a full dress rehearsal. It takes a prepared professional to be able to do an opera stage-cold. All the singers had to cope with this and they did.
I will touch upon many singers. This is not about favorites. These are observations, memories. I stood in the wings, watched, documented, performance after performance. These memories are very precious. There was a camaraderie, a desire to bring exciting opera to the audience, an ability to laugh, enjoy the art form. Of course, there were some hard times. Not everyone in an artistic community can always have wishes fulfilled. There is more talent than available assignments. As a total memory, New York City Opera respected opera, did their best on a limited budget, introduced major talent and was, for me, a wonderful learning experience.
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