Mr. Mortier repeated a point he had made in 2011: It was a miscalculation on both sides, his and the board’s, to assume that fund-raising would spike once he arrived, since he was little known to New York arts patrons and had spent his career running state-subsidized European institutions. It seems inexplicable that the board of a major New York opera company and one of the most experienced arts administrators in Europe did not understand how the finances worked in their different domains.Is that the understatement of the year or what? And is it really inexplicable?? As it happens, it's apparent that the NYCO board had no idea of how to run the company, which you can tell just by reading a few articles about the company's demise: the board couldn't do the math to figure out that the year with no performances would be a financial disaster, they ran through the endowment as though it didn't matter, and, well, bankruptcy, you know?
Not only that, NYCO had the example of what happened in San Francisco when Pamela Rosenberg, an experienced arts administrator in Europe, came west from Germany, but evidently the board didn't read the papers any more than they did the addition. Rosenberg hated fundraising, she spent money like there was no tomorrow, working conditions resulted in a number of serious injuries on stage, she alienated the union workers, and she headed back to Europe before her contract was up. There were any number of artistic highs during her tenure, but she failed at ensuring the financial health of the company. That got left to David Gockley, who has done a sterling job of solidifying SFO's finances.
Meanwhile, Mortier claims credit for the acoustic renovation: does he deserve this? I really don't know, but I wish Tommasini had addressed this point in the article. Who persuaded the vile David Koch to pony up for the renovation? Mortier also says planning was well under way for his first NYCO season, and also that a great deal had been negotiated for new offices. Can any of this be verified?
I'm also suspicious about blaming the board except for Susan Baker, who was of course the big Mortier advocate, and reputed to have more than her share of responsibility for the disaster.
I'm sorry to read of Mortier's illness, and I wish him well, but it's a little hard to tell what's real and what's smoke-blowing in this interview.