When George Steel left the Dallas Opera after a few short months as the company’s general director, there were some hard feelings. Steel was a catch. He had pedigree, ambition, and looks. He spoke about experimentation, risks, and shaking up the Dallas Opera’s sometimes stuffy culture. And then, just like that, he was gone, off to supposedly greener pastures as the head a more prestigious company, the New York City Opera, whose storied history as the city’s “People’s Opera” included the launch of not a few superstar singers, but whose fate in recent years has been defined by financial difficulties.
The Dallas Opera eventually hired Keith Cerny, whose austerity measures have helped steer the Winspear resident company into calmer waters. Not so the NYCO under Steel. After years controversy and cuts, which saw the opera leave its Lincoln Center home and Steel face mounting pressure for Steel to resign, the 70-year-old company may have seen the curtain drop for the final time this past weekend. The last production was Anna Nicole, a tragic piece about the troubled life of Anna Nicole Smith.