An opera company’s mission is to become an integral part of the cultural fabric of community it serves. The organization needs to have a relevant cultural footprint. What we already do, but what we need to do more of, is provide offerings beyond thrilling main stage productions. We need offerings and outreach that inspire, include and ignite.
A few weeks ago Opera Philadelphia had an event called “Hip H’Opera” (it is amazing-google it) in the afternoon follow by a main stage performance of Don Giovanni at the Academy of Music that evening. Two offerings that serve two different target audiences. Kentucky Opera’s recent school tour reached 12,000 elementary school children assuring that “opera” appears in the year’s curriculum. Pensacola Opera has a 2 week camp for children where they learn about singing, composition, and production elements. It provides them an in depth experience of the art form. Kentucky Opera’s “Composer’s Workshop” is not only a vehicle of inspiration and discovery for the composers and librettists, but it offers the community an opportunity to witness how operas are constructed. These are just a few examples.
Over the past few years the opera industry has been rocked by the closing of New York City Opera, Opera Pacific, Opera Boston, and Opera Cleveland among others. These opera companies were gems in the cultural crown of each city it served. There is not one singular reason as to why these organizations closed as each company has its own dynamics and characteristics. But the opera companies that are thriving do have something in common. They are all uniquely connected to their community in a myriad of ways and are breaking down the misconceptions and stereotypes that surrounding opera.
The goal to be relevant starts with the individual. I try to reach out and change minds all the time. Last Sunday, I played opera trivia (there are actual playing cards) with friends who are young patrons of the arts. Where did we play? At an outdoor restaurant in Philadelphia, on a Pier that jutted out into the Delaware River, in the warm May sun, with a growler of craft beer and great music coming from the DJ. A small example but one that resulted in fostering a continued affection for opera.
As stewards of this great art form we have an awesome duty to inspire through our art, invite new patrons to join our ranks and then ignite their passions. Because I believe, once you get them in the door they are hooked!
May 13, 2014