The powerful presence of The Opera Orchestra Of New York has been enriching the musical and cultural vitality of New York City since 1972. Opera Orchestra gives new life to rarely-heard operas, providing the public with an opportunity to hear these operatic rarities in major concert performances at Carnegie Hall.
Known for a casting approach focused solely on the fit between the voice and the role, Opera Orchestra’s concerts feature singers carefully matched to the repertory. These range from artists of international stature (such as Aprile Millo, Renée Fleming, Marcello Giordani, Dolora Zajick, Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballé) to superlative young singers just launching their careers.
Opera Orchestra takes an active role in identifying young operatic talent and fostering its training. Year after year, the stars whom Maestro Queler has discovered and brought up through the ranks come back to collaborate in new ventures.
The mission of The Opera Orchestra of New York is to present high-quality performances of seldom-heard operatic masterpieces in a concert setting featuring internationally acclaimed stars and exceptional young singers; to offer a professional training program to talented emerging artists; and to develop an appreciation of opera among diverse audiences, while cultivating a new generation of supporters.
Since its inception, Opera Orchestra has taken risks in programming. Among its numerous American premieres are:
• Puccini’s Edgar with Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Scotto
• Boito’s Nerone with James Morris and Pablo Elvira
• Smetana’s Libuse with Gabriela Benacková and Paul Plishka
It also performed the New York premiere of Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans, featuring Dolora Zajick and Jorma Hynninen, which was also the American premiere of the Russian language version.
The ensemble has also presented works long neglected in New York, such as:
• Wagner’s Rienzi
• Verdi’s I lombardi
• Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles
• Catalani’s La Wally
Other operas that The Opera Orchestra Of New York has brought to New York include Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, Les Huguenots, and Robert le Diable; Verdi’s Nabucco, I masnadieri, Aroldo, and La battaglia di Legnano; Berlioz’s Lélio and Benvenuto Cellini; and Smetana’s Dalibor.
These pioneering efforts have led national opera companies such as the Metropolitan, Chicago Lyric and Houston Grand Opera to add to their permanent repertoires works that received their first major modern hearing by The Opera Orchestra Of New York., including I lombardi, Donizetti’s La Favorita, Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, Dvořák’s Rusalka and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina.
Cultivating New Voices
Since 1978 Opera Orchestra’s Young Artists Program has identified, trained and showcased young singers, assisting their professional development and advancing their careers as performing artists. It is the only program in the New York metropolitan area that provides young singers with an opportunity to rehearse and perform with full orchestra and chorus.
The program has nurtured the talents of Renée Fleming, Aprile Millo, Vivica Genaux, Deborah Voigt, Latonia Moore, Stephen Costello, Michael Fabiano and Eglise Gutierrez. Other singers who have worked with Opera Orchestra very early in their careers include José Carreras, Barbara Hendricks, Dwayne Croft, Samuel Ramey and James Morris. Singers who made their American or New York debuts with Opera Orchestra include Gabriela Benacková, Stephanie Blythe, Olga Borodina, Ghena Dimitrova, Jane Eaglen, Carlo Guelfi, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Vesselina Kasarova, Paul Plishka, Rosalind Plowright and Krassimira Stoyanova and Dolora Zajick.
Only a small number of singers are invited to audition for the Young Artists Program each year. Participants sing small roles in Carnegie Hall and understudy the principal roles. Since understudies may be called upon to perform a major role in Carnegie Hall if another singer is indisposed, participants must have a fair amount of professional performing experience, usually with regional opera companies.
The Opera Orchestra Of New York was honored with citations from President Bill Clinton, New York’s then Governor George Pataki, and Rudy Giuliani on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. In May 2006, the Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America awarded The Opera Orchestra Of New York a Special Citation for 35 years of performing lesser-known 19th and early 20th century operas.