After reading so many stories about the gloom and doom of Buffalo's financial future, I am pleased to announce the creation of something positive, lucrative and global in nature, conceived and hatched right in the incubator of what is supposedly the killing fields of business climates.
Nickel City Opera debuted in June 2009 during a down economy at the resurgent Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda with Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" to rave reviews. In 2010, the NCO presented Verdi's "Rigoletto," which this very paper proclaimed to be "magnificent." In the process we paid all of our bills, employed local merchants, brought artists in from out of town and proved that Buffalo could support a local opera company.
My business partner, Eileen Breen, who is also now executive director of the NCO, and I gritted our way through sleepless nights and zombie weeks and months to make these past two seasons a success. We logged countless miles, shook endless hands, wore out cell phones and passed out brochures until we collapsed to make sure that everything went as planned.
So you can understand why I would be tired of hearing about how difficult it is for business to survive in this town. I am sick of hearing about how everything is set up for failure here, about old money, bad history, bad luck, lost Super Bowls and "no goal."
I was born in Lackawanna and raised in Cheektowaga by poor but proud Polish American parents. My dad was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and my mother stayed home to cook and clean. I graduated from Canisius High School and the University at Buffalo. My international opera career includes premieres at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and the majority of Canadian opera companies as well as a presence in Europe and the Middle East.
Buffalo is a great city with deep historical roots and a wonderful cultural history. But a bad attitude and a lack of vision are preventing this city from overcoming its perceived shortfalls.
Nickel City Opera is proof that you will succeed with hard work and persistence. But those two things seem to be in short supply. It is hard work to invest in a project when the pot of gold may be two or three years down the road. Why else have some of the politicians in this town kicked the can down the road to new development and creative investment?
Sometimes you have to keep your foot on the pedal for more than a year or two to see the light of day. Sometimes people won't believe in what you're doing. Sometimes you have to burn the midnight oil. It seems like our culture expounds the promise of the American Dream, but it doesn't explain that in order to get it, you have to take a chance, work hard and keep at it.
Eileen and I dared to take a chance, work hard and put a set of quality productions on the stage. For that we have been rewarded by critical recognition and accolades. With hard work and dedication, our business will grow and Nickel City Opera will become a thriving, participating member of the local business community.
I am going to continue to work hard to make a new multimillion-dollar non-profit business that stages quality productions and gives back to the Buffalo community. I hope that all of the young people who have been reared in this community will go out there and put their nose to the grindstone to build what they want to build, create vibrant new businesses and communities and show the old guard that, out of the mud, the flowers of tomorrow can rise.
Valerian Ruminski, of Cheektowaga, is co-founder of Nickel City Opera.