Thursday, July 31, 2014

Opera vs. The Opera Business

With well documented crises happening with some opera companies both here and abroad, some in the press and on social media have sounded the death knell for opera - yet again.

A few things......

Opera has been around since 1600, and there has never been a more fertile period of new opera (particularly North American) being written.

Many American companies and others (particularly Covent Garden) are reporting robust sales and interest in opera.

There are no shortage of young singers who are fiercely committed to this art form (and despite what is announced every thirty years or so, the age of great singers is not dead)

And lastly, (and this is my biggest pet peeve) - our audiences skew older that is true (though we are seeing record numbers of young people coming).  BUT, this has always been the case.  When I first got started in this business in the eighties, everyone was bemoaning the graying audience.  To listen to people talk, you would think we're complaining about the same group of people that were older in the eighties.  While longevity has improved, it hasn't improved that much!!  Opera still remains, because of the cost, something, that people often come to later.

As long as I'm on this point, why do we have such contempt for older audiences today?  At least here at the Florentine, they are sometimes the most open minded and the most adventurous folks we have!!  In addition, they are the people most able to contribute beyond the price of a ticket - and in a world that is, at best, a 30% earned income business, that is not insignificant.

In any case, back to the title of this post.  Yes, there are financial challenges confronting our business, and yes, retaining and building audiences is a challenge.  However, the art form itself, has never been more alive, and is certainly not showing its age at 400.

I think all the discussions that we have will be more productive if we stay focused on addressing the business models that support a very robust art form.

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