Monday, August 4, 2014

Opera in the 21st centrury - is it worth the trouble?

I have touched on this before, particularly as it affects those of you who are the age where you are auditioning for school, young artist programs, or principal singer positions.

Over the past several years, some companies have folded, others have had crises, and at the moment, this country's largest performing arts institution, the Met, is having very public labor negotiations.  Because we live in the age of social media, these negotiations are being dissected to an extent that past negotiations were not.

The "residue" of all of this is a nationwide (and beyond) existential discussion,  Is our art form fiscally viable?

There are a lot of answers to this question, but the easiest is: No - at least not in any traditional for profit business model.

Think for a moment - we're in a business that at any given time is somewhere between a 25 to 35% earned income enterprise.  Put simply, if you buy a ticket for $10, that opera company has to come up with another $20 through contributed sources to keep going......Meanwhile, all of the people that work for said opera company want to make a decent living, and get paychecks that keep up with the cost of living.

When you hear the term "new business model" bandied about, what is being described is the attempt to shrink the gap between expenses and income.  But, no matter how well that challenge is met, the opera company is going to have to raise funds to remain viable.  Those funds can come from roughly the following types of sources:

a. individuals
b. government
c. foundations
d. corporations

Today, more and more of the burden for contributions is coming from individuals, as other types of support dwindle.  As a result, showing the value of our art form (and indeed, all of the arts) has never been more important.

So, is all of this a reason to be despondent, or to say that our art form is dead or dying?  Or for you as a singer to say, this isn't worth pursuing as a career?

I say a resounding No!!!  But.......we have to play an active, engaged, and enthusiastic part in our own salvation.

Thoughts about how we do that will be the subject of upcoming posts.

No comments:

Post a Comment