The conversation about the arts is as much about the audience as it is about the art. If you’re marketing the question can be one of identification (who’s coming to see/hear) as much as how to find, connect with and retain that audience.
While it’s been said before, this is a time of transition, a new world being born from the old. We have new works co-existing with the old, and new ways of presenting & packaging those creations.
New platforms are coming into play for all of the arts, and opera isn’t being left behind, whether we’re speaking of opera in your movie theatre or your telephone. While the music you hear from your tiny device may not offer the faithful audio reproduction that a high-end system can in your home, that’s not relevant when you’re jogging, cycling or driving.
And the communications can be very political. The Metropolitan Opera saw a scandal erupt online earlier this year when their General Director Peter Gelb seemed to be censoring Opera News, the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s own publication. I believe Gelb’s approach was short-sighted, in failing to see the value in the vibrant –if sometimes dissenting–discourse around his own company & their productions. In similar fashion, The Bayreuth Festival –an opera house that has seen more than its share of controversy –was again in the spotlight for many of the wrong reasons, with the departure of Yevgeny Nikitin from their production of Der Fliegende Holländer over tattoos that may or may not have included a swastika. Like the tattoo itself, the story was a jumbled mess, and a case study in how not to handle a situation.
Speaking of conversations, new media and controversy, I was happy to participate in The Big COC Podcast Episode 1 with Wayne Gooding of Opera Canada, John Gilks of operaramblings and hosted by the COC’s Gianmarco Segato. Episode one includes round table discussions about the controversy at Bayreuth, thoughts on marketing classical music in Toronto and the question of operetta in an opera house, especially considering the upcoming production of Die Fledermaus by the COC.