Sunday, April 29, 2007

Opera's New Media Buzz

Two articles from print and blogosphere in the last few days highlight opera's stretching of new tendrils into new and fascinating territories. Jan Breslauer wrote in the L.A. Times about the L.A. Opera's ventures into musical theatre and increasing radio coverage, the Met's expanding repertory and directorial pool, and San Antonio Opera's foray into zarzuela. In the Wolf Trap Opera blog, Kim Witman writes about the new media workshops at the 2007 Opera America conference in Miami.

Ms. Witman's caveat about the use and misuse of new media should be read by all organizations looking to expand their demographics and offerings:

If our hip cyber-efforts don’t bear any real relationship to the product, we won’t keep a single new recruit past the first performance. Even if we get the attention of a new patron, and s/he buys a ticket, if the experience doesn’t live up to the promise of the ├╝ber-sexy marketing, we’ve won the battle but lost the war. This by no means makes any of the many kinds of satisfying opera experiences inferior. Just incongruous with some of the hype that's beginning to be generated. Sell opera for what it is, and neither apologize for nor mislead folks about what it isn't.

In other words, don't dumb the product down just because you're using technology to get the attention of a new audience. Young people are smart--they'll respond to opera's sex, violence, powerful stories, and great singing just as audiences have in previous generations. The recording industry's ongoing woes would seem to suggest that music in general is going through a rough patch. With too much attention paid to the media, money, and marketing end and not enough going towards really good music, there are bound to be a lot of alienated young listeners out there. Sell the genuine product and audiences will respond. With any luck, they'll come in droves, which they seem to be doing in many opera markets across North America.

But jumping on the "look at us, we're embracing technology" bandwagon without enough real artistic integrity to back it up can result in just as much loss of market share that popular genres have suffered recently.

No comments:

Post a Comment