When New York City Opera filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the curtain fell on of one of the country’s foremost arts organizations, with a storied 70-year history, its own orchestra, a permanent home at Lincoln Center, and a reputation for emerging talent and unusual repertoire. In the new Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 304 pp.), author Heidi Waleson charts the rise and fall of City Opera—and examines what that means for the performing arts today. The book draws on extensive research and reporting about “The People’s Opera,” from its first season in 1944 to the years under directors Julius Rudel, Beverly Sills, Christopher Keene, Paul Kellogg, and George Steel. Waleson provides details about what led to the company’s financial and managerial crises and the role of its contentious board of directors, with commentary from insiders. Waleson also follows City Opera through its reemergence in 2016 as a smaller, itinerant company. Throughout the book are incisive discussions of the wider cultural and economic changes that affected this opera company—particularly relevant for orchestras and other performing arts organizations. Waleson is the Wall Street Journal’s opera critic and a longtime contributor to Symphony.
Briefly noted: David Schiff’s Carter, a critical overview of composer Elliott Carter’s life and work, has been published by Oxford University Press. Jack Sullivan—a regular contributor to Symphony and author of books including Hitchcock’s Music and New World Symphonies—has published New Orleans Remix (University Press of Mississippi, 193 pp.), chronicling the music scene in New Orleans.