BOSTON. This city, which at one point could claim to be the Hub of the Universe and not provoke laughter, boasts a world-class symphony orchestra, art museum and ballet company, but can’t seem to get off the schneid when it comes to type of highbrow culture: opera.
“I don’t know what it is,” says Sam Resnoni, an auctioneer who formerly specialized in selling off restaurant fixtures. “Opera just don’t do well here.”
And so Resnoni switched a few years ago to become the first–and still the only–full-time liquidator of opera props, costumes and sets in the country. “It was gettin’ so everybody and his brother was into restaurant fixtures,” he says with a tone of relief in his voice. “The competition was so fierce I had to move to Worcester and do railroad car diners to survive.”
All that changed in 1990 when Boston’s last major-league opera company gave up the ghost. “You know they say the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings?” Resnomi says as he adjusts a publicity photo of Sarah Caldwell on his wall. “Well, she sung.”
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After Resnomi made what he calls “a pretty penny” buying and re-selling elephants and spears from Verdi’s Aida and Viking helmets from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, he never looked back. “Every couple a years some young”–he hesitates as he chooses le mot juste–“a-feeshee-a-nado will take a run at Boston, and no sooner has Mimi died of her coughing fit in La Boheme than I’m back in business selling her muff–which ain’t what you think it is.”
Culture mavens have often speculated as to why Boston is the graveyard of opera companies, with no one theory prevailing to date. “The field is so crowded!” says Aimee van der Pol, an attache to the mayor who came up with the slogan “Culture so thick, you can hit it with a stick!” to promote the local arts scene. “Maybe if the women would lose some weight.”