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A Sale Sets the Stage
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A Sale Sets the Stage

NORTH BERGEN, N.J.—In a dimly lit warehouse, the fantastical creatures of Maurice Sendak sit in suspended animation. A dodo-like bird hangs upside down from a costume rack. A giant chef's head grins down from a shelf. A fuzzy monster sits in two pieces, his bulbous body, adorned with a cape, hanging not far from his three-horned head.

These costumes and sets designed by Mr. Sendak for Prokofiev's comic opera "Love for Three Oranges" are pieces of New York City Opera's past, and next month they will go up for auction, along with 90% of the company's sets, props and costumes—all the gowns, swords, chandeliers and castle walls that opera is made of.

The sale is the latest in a series of fundamental changes the opera company has undergone in the past two years to climb out from under its financial burdens and remake itself as a smaller, leaner organization. While opera companies usually hold on to the scenery and costumes of productions they intend to revive, City Opera officials say the cost of storage is so high that it will be cheaper to rebuild productions from scratch.

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