I serve as the conductor for Emerald City Opera, a six-year-old summer opera festival in the community of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We bring singers and musicians from the rosters of major opera houses and orchestras to mount a production in this wonderful community each August. There is great buy-in and ongoing enthusiasm in Steamboat for what had been until six years ago an art form that was completely absent there. What success we have we attribute to our offering (so far) of great, repertoire operas, and to good theatrical exploitation of the intimacy in the small auditorium that serves as our venue.
Opera in a community like Steamboat Springs is the opposite of fancy or elitist. If you want to find the true elite, take a look at who sits in the luxury boxes at major league baseball or the NFL, or in the best seats at a big-name rock concert. There is where you will find your elite.
I do have some suggestions, but it may be worth putting my opinion into context first.
Ok, I can still remember my formative years hearing the Texaco Star Theater present opera on the radio... me mum enjoyed it, though she could never say why. I, however, have perpetually ranked it at the absolute bottom of my musical interests... with a notable exception.
I was a freelance cameraman brought in to help record the Olympia, Washington presentation of ?Carmen? several years back. The night of the dress rehearsal, we were in laying cable before they started, but when they actually began, we watched the performance (ostensibly as another part of pre-production, so we would know what was happening when the director called for our camera to be ready on a given shot).
I found it rather odd that a play set in Spain was in French, but I realized that I actually already knew the tunes to almost every major song. It was actually rather fun just sitting there in work clothes listening and watching, even though I had little clue what they were actually saying. The colors and the action and the main production numbers overrode the fact that my last French was in ninth grade (and I didn?t remember enough of that to understand more than a few words). The production nights were not nearly as much fun, but then again, I?m a professional when I?m working and my focus was on the production.
Therein is the core of my suggestion:
Continue to allow the folks who are big into the fanciness or the ?purity? of the art form to have their nights, but allow for a relaxed atmosphere dress rehearsal style showing where folks can come for next to nothing (say a donation to the old opera singers home or some such), wearing what they are comfortable in. Don?t call it a matinee, say up front that it is a discounted presentation of the dress rehearsal. If you add to it by having someone at the front of the audience explain what is happening, so much the better... if its dress rehearsal night, no one should be getting their garments in a knot over the addition or any adjustments going on.
The idea is to get people in the door to discover that they might just enjoy opera. Didn?t Mozart do operas for the common folk too? Just like Shakespear would have expected relatively normal working (read ?lower?) class folks to come and participate, some of opera?s roots seem to be from similar lines... perhaps it?s time to let it return to those roots.
Would I ever intentionally go to one of those upper crust and pretenders nights at the opera? Has hell frozen over? Would I welcome being a working part of another production team taping/filming one? Sure. Would I consider going to something like Phantom if it cost less than a movie and I didn?t have to dress in the most uncomfortable clothes I own? Maybe...
I studied opera at Indiana University and later earned my Masters in Vocal Performance at Manhattan School of Music. While many of us chose different paths in music post-graduation - everything from teaching to performing in musical theatre - I would like to spotlight a dear friend of mine who took what I think was and is a brilliant approach to bringing opera to the masses. Anne Ricci, in collaboration with her "co-divas" Carla Fisk and Jessica Rauch created Opera On Tap. (www.operaontap.org) The idea behind the organization is to bring quality opera to those who may or may not be on the fence about opera. Opera On Tap performs arias and art songs in bars in Brooklyn and New York City. While the atmosphere is casual (think divey dive bar), the talent is superb. These are the dedicated young singers out there that are just looking for an opportunity to perform and let off some steam.
What I most love about Opera On Tap is that, while it is far less "intimidating" to those interested but unfamiliar with opera, it retains the quality. Opera is not about skinny, pretty divas who can't sing. It's about the voice and who can carry the role.
My apologies: www.operaontap.com
No one cares about Opera.
With all of the problems going down this week how about having a show that people would be interested in?
I love opera. The singing is the best there is, the music is usually of very high quality, and the shows themselves are better than most movies. The combination is irresistible. I am thrilled to be able to go to Eugene (I live in Corvallis) and see HD simulcasts of New York Metropolitan Opera. The first season only 3 were offered, in 2007-08 there were 8, and Met Opera has said they will offer 11 live simulcasts in the new season. It is hoped that those who appreciate these will also make the effort to go to Portland to see truly live performances.
I have a few ideas as to how to attract more people to opera. 1) Take it on the road. Portland is not convenient for Corvallis residents. 2) Music teachers could play it for their classes, in small doses. Englebert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" is in English and would be very appealing even to grade school students. The opera "Carmen" by Georges Bizet would thrill high school students with its hot love affair between the two principles. However, only the very best productions should be shown or played, and only in small doses. I am well aware that amateur opera singers whose voices are difficult to listen to do more damage than help in attracting fans. 3) OPB could play small excerpts from operas, and I mean the vocal parts, and again, only from the best voices, to acquaint listeners with the beauty and variety that opera offers. 4) Both music teachers and OPB could also play popular music sung by opera singers. The Three Tenors have become enormously popular and they sang some non-operatic songs. I have popular music recordings by such stellar artists as Kiri Te Kanawa, Kathleen Battle, Jessie Norman, Placido Domingo, and Rene Fleming that transcend the singing usually heard in popular songs, and that surely would appeal to others. And 5) More local theatres should air live simulcasts offered by the Met and other U.S. opera houses, creating larger audiences and more revenue for the opera houses.
Thank you for this opportunity to add my comments to your show. Molly H.
I have gradually become in love with one opera, Carmen. I started listening to the music a while ago, then had the chance to see it in Portland last year as my birthday present to myself. It was amazing and it truly made the music I listen to at home so much more meaningful. Now my 5-year-old and I pretend to be Carmen and sign our own lyrics to the her "Quand Je Vous Aimerai?" I have since checked out other from the library, Madame Butterfly and Aida, but I feel that before I can enjoy them as much, I need to know more about the stories. It's my own personal education process. Live opera is such a joy, even for a poor student and single mom like myself. I do wish there were more opportunities in the community to learn about opera and make it more accessible to average people -- financially and otherwise. Great topic!
you can Wiki any opera for the plot. The library has libretti for loan or give me a call and Ill read to you from my Standard Operaglass entries. They are such dynamic stories.
I feel very lucky that my parents actually took me to see opera and musicals while I was growing up, and didn't just leave me at home. I will never forget watching Liza Minnelli in "The Act". The absolute power that emanated from the stage when she was performing was breathtaking. My love affair with opera, and its meaning to me, has changed over the years as I have changed. When I was younger and my feelings and personality were less developed, opera did not touch me as deeply as it does today. However, it still sparked something in me as a young boy, it had an intrinsic beauty that I could not ignore. Now, the only way I can describe opera, is that it is something that touches me soul deep. Take Aida for example. In act 4 when Aida's love Radames is sentenced to be buried alive, he enters the tomb and surprised finds Aida has hidden herself in the vault and she says "My heart forewarned me of your condemnation. In this tomb that was opened for you I entered secretly. Here, away from human sight, in your arms I wish to die." Together they accept their terrible fate and bid farewell to the earth and its sorrows. Imagine while this is happening, the artists voices hitting their crescendos. The whole thing made me feel like reaching into my heart, and pulling it out of my chest, holding it there . . . beating . . . in my hands, while tears were streaming down my face as pure emotion, from the stage, washed over me like waves from the ocean. It was an incredible, moving, experience. That is what opera means to me now. How are we going to get kids to watch? Your guess is as good as mine. With all of the intense audio/visual stimulation in the various forms of modern electronic media getting kids to read books, let alone go to the opera, has become a real challenge and I do not profess to understand where the answer lies.
Many in today's opera audiences want to connect culturally and to be enthralled by daring staging, and, slowly, today's productions are becoming more appealing, going beyond the traditional repertory. In the mid90s I discovered a gem of a new opera?Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catan. This inventive, delightful opera, based on Garcia-Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera, was coproduced by the wonderful Seattle Opera and Los Angeles Opera. It was extraordinary in several ways, among them that it was the first opera produced in this country that was written and composed by a Latin American. In addition, the set, a riverboat going up the Amazon, was creative and charming, with dancers playing fish and waves that lapped at the boat, and wonderful special effects that had stars swimming in night skies, like little comets. The music was fine, but almost secondary to the presentation, that produced many tears in the audience . . . not from sadness at the libretto, but at the beauty that opera can give . . .
Audiences must reward such efforts . . . opera, at its best, reminds us of the role of the arts in society . . . to challenge, to uplift, and to inspire . . . really, to make a better world.
Eileen in Tigard
As my grandmother once told me, "No one ENJOYS opera. People who attend the opera do so because they believe it boosts their social status."
When the operas we listen to were contemporary pieces, theaters of the day would not have performed pieces that were hundreds of years old. They performed ONLY contemporary pieces. Why is it today that it is rare to here a MODERN/CONTEMPORARY piece for our day and instead only hear those that were written hundreds of years ago?
I would argue that the modern stage musical is contemporary opera and pieces like La Traviata need to be performed on rare occasions instead of frequently to reflect our modern age.
I grew up on opera. I'm now 58. My mother was 'deaf' - had 8% hearing in one ear, none in the other. But opera rang throughout our home - and my father did 'his duty' by attending performances with her once a year!
I lived with my mother for the last 2 years of her life - and my appreciation grew because pavarotti filled the house at night from her bedroom - and various Met dvd's played throughout the day as she sat on the porch, rocked, needlepointed and was transported. "Opera New" arrived every month - and she couldn't wait!
I watched the Pavarotti special Sunday night - and was sweetly transported to wonderful memories of my mother. When he died last year, we received so many emails from friends/relatives who noted his passing because of my mother.
I cannot imagine a world without opera - i know the stories are 'silly' by today's standards - but fortunately, the music is the point.
I heartedly support younger generations being exposed - I know that my nieces/nephews (now in their late teens/early 20s) will always think of their grandmother when they hear opera.
Just wanted to let you know that despite an intense love of music I can not handle opera AT ALL. Sounds like wild animals fighting or mating, can't tell which.
Only thing good about it is that a little knowledge about it will help you answer some Jeopardy questions.
Good luck with todays show. I'll listen again tomorrow.
My younger brother began singing with the Opera Theater of Oregon when he was in high school and this was my first introduction to opera. They've tried to make the works accessible to everyone, which has been amazing. My favorite experience was when they did an English version of "Elixir of Love" at the Someday Lounge...Opera and beer are an amazing combination!
The student activities club at my college offered discounted tickets and I was hooked. Otherwise I might never have experienced opera. I think it is important to give young people an opportunity to be exposed to the opera experience.
This is the other major problem with opera. Tickets are extremely expensive. It is priced to a point that the average person cannot attend except for the handful of "charity matinees" that they produce throughout the season.
Are any performances affordable? Even the cutting edge is expensive.
i totally understand the "opera is way too expensive" view point - I share it to some extent. However, what I think people are either forgetting or just don't realize is that operas are extremely expensive to produce.
Stage musicals and live bands do not get state and federal dollars to put on their shows, yet opera and orchestra get public funding -- and they are still way over priced. Maybe this is a sign that the art form is not as "popular" and "vibrant" as many would like to believe. Make it compete on an even scale with other forms of music and other stage acts. If it can't survive, then let it die.
Perhaps, we can do the same with the national parks and the local parks.
Actually, The Portland Opera offers rush tickets for $10 or $15 dollars for students and seniors and about $20-$30 for rush general admission...very affordable for a live performance...in fact the Oregon Shakespeare Festival offers the same kind of deal, as do many performance halls on Broadway.
Now the Met is also doing the cinecasts and those are $20 for a ticket. Still reasonable for a performance considering a regular movie is $10! I don't pay more than $40 for any theatrical performance I see; and I see a lot! This year alone I have attended 2 operas, 5 concerts, and 4 plays and I'm 24. I think if you want to see it, you know what to do to get it.
I am the director of the Columbia Theatre in Longview and an avid consumer of arts programming (especially dance). However, in programming for my audience I have to constantly remind myself that I am an "insider" -- meaning I have far more exposure to live performing arts than many ticket buyers. I am not pedestrian in my choice of programming and will bring in artists that ask my audience to try something a little different.
In 2005 I discovered the East Village Opera Company (where Opera meets Rock)Classic arias by Puccini, Verdi, Purcell and other composers performed with a dose of Led Zepplin and Metallica-inspired orchestrations (10 performers including a string quartet). Their objective is to bring opera into the 21st Century. EVOC has performed at the NYC Opera Gala for two years running.
Three Washington presenters got together to bring EVOC to the Pacific Northwest: Bremerton, Yakima and Longview. Without a doubt it risks alienating opera "purists" and flying right over the heads of contemporary audiences. But our mission is to find that nexus between generations and encourage a different audience to participate. I chose to do this at some financial risk but I believe the exposure is critical. Our performance is Tuesday 9/30 and we have been working very hard to introduce people to this unique experience.
I will have at least 102 students from area high schools attending -- on their own-- on a school night--because they were "turned on" by a group that speaks to them.
For all my exposure and training, it took me 13 years of listening to Texaco Radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays before I attended my first live performance. Hopefully, it will not take these students 13 years for the transition to active participant as an audience member.
Visit www.tdn.com (today) for indepth interview/article that explains this groups refreshing approach to Opera.
Gian Paul Morelli
Columbia Theatre, Longview, WA
360.423.1011 Ext. 15
I studied in Vienna, Austria last year as my year abroad and was more than a little surprised to see that their standing room tickets were between 2 and 3 euros. It allowed me to go to the opera (and the ballet) whenever I had time. That being said the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) gets significantly more funding that most if not all opera companies in the states. This, combined with classical music being much more ingrained in their culture, made the opera significantly more accessible to people living in Vienna. It also wasn't at all unusual to see elementary school aged children being taken to the opera by their parents/grandparents.
There were also at least a few, very well publicized, "children's operas" (last season it was The Magic Flute and an abridged version of The Ring). I think this attempt to introduce children to opera at a young and then allow people who don't necessarily have the money to pay for opera tickets (think college students) to still be able to access the art form grooms people to achieve a real love for opera and thus keep these opera houses alive (and allow for funding to continue making opera accessible to wide audience).
One of the other, better, ways I've seen opera be more accessible to all audiences is the addition of subtitles in a number of languages. I've only ever seen it in the form of little screens in front of each seat (or standing room spot) and they generally have subtitles in English, German, and whatever language the opera is being sung in. I've seen it at both The Met and the Wiener Staatsoper http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/about/visit/met_titles.aspx . This allows for people to know what's going in with out having to sing the opera in English (or whatever language is most common in the place it is being preformed).
Does opera have silly stories -- hmmm -- betrayed love, political oppression, class struggle? Not completely silly. How can opera get a new audience? Audiences buy what they desire. Desire is a result of lack. Marketing can create a sense of lack. What is it that opera provides that people lack? Especially young people?
Yes, I've been to the MET and occasionally regional opera (last year's Portland Cinderella was fun). I like the beauty, passion and spectacle that are great opera. But I've also slept through Wagner. So opera, like any other art, has good examples and bad examples and one's pleasure in it is a matter of taste. Stories, tunes, movement, excitement, violence, and a potent message all make opera tasty to me. I think that having really beautiful or handsome singers (oh, Anna N.!) and using new technologies will make opera more and more interesting to a wider audience.
The modern interepetation of opera is facinating to me.
The best example is R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" - a Hiphopra.
All the chapters are available on youtube - enjoy!
So, the director of the San Francisco opera company on right now is a Brit. I think this provides further evidence that most AMERICANS are not fans of opera. It is an art performed for a foreign audience in a foreign language. It doesn't evolve. It is stuck in the 17th Century. Maybe if they hired Americans to manage their opera houses then they could speak to an American audience.
The director of the San Francisco opera is David Gockley, an american. You are listening to the assistant general director
Americans are not fans of a lot of things---like human rights and the environment. It doesn't mean people can't try. Even if you hate Opera, find a more plausible line of attack.
Again, another Brit... even more proof that this is NOT an art form for Americans.
Out of the four guests, two are americans and two are brits. How does that make a majority of brits, in your mind?
This IS America. For half the guests to have to be Brits to report on the story, then it is NOT an American art form, now is it? Or, maybe just the show's production staff aren't industrious enough to find Americans to interview? I dunno.
Okay, I can't read one more of your posts. You are astonishingly uneducated about the opera world. One Brit on the radio and it is evidence that most Americans are not fans of opera?? You speak in such broad generalizations that I can only assume you simply don't know very much about it.
Question for on air discussion: Does the Portland Opera have subtitles for their foreign language operas? I have been to the opera once before in another city with subtitles, and it helps the audience maintain engagement in the story. Is this something that the Portland Opera also has?
The Portland Opera has subtitles for all their operas, including the ones in English.
I love that opera is becoming more accessible. As a single mom with two part time jobs and enrolled half-time at the University, I can not afford financially or in terms of time to got to Portland to see opera, but thanks to the Live at the Met at our local theater, I have now seen two operas in one year, and loved them!
Opera seems like baseball - huge stretches of boredom with a few bright and brilliant moments of excitement and beauty. Recorded opera and live opera are two entirely different experiences - the visuals carry you through the ho-hum stretches and heighten the appreciation of the arias. What about offering discount tickets to people who already attend live theater or live music - present your stub from another event and get a discount on the opera.
I think a distinction is whether you perceive opera as music, or as theater. Probably the majority of opera fans only know it as music they have listened to but not seen live. They don't care as much about the words, the staging or the costumes. Instead they know it as a rich type of music.
I haven't been to a staged opera for more than 10 years -- since relocating to Portland from Northern California. I love opera and just about any theatre performance. It all comes down to the cost of seats and free time. I bought my first house a bit over 2 years ago and find that going to a show that costs more than $10 is virtually impossible thanks to the need to keep current on bills and house payments, already a huge struggle.
My first opera experience was grand opera in a San Francisco staging of Mussorgky's Kovanschina, followed by another of Don Giovanni. Kovanschina hooked me hugely! I also enjoyed smaller staged operas at Mendocino Music Festival performances in the 1980s.
So, just being able to get into local opera performances at fair prices with less competition for seats would really be great.
I like the idea of DVDs that teach about opera.
I wish that children could be taught the basics about how to sing at the earliest ages. Teach them to do music themselves instead of buying music that someone else did.
My experience was in about sixth grade, a chorus tryout, and the teacher stopped the singing and told me that I would be in the skit. I learned instantly that I was not a singer and lost any interest at all in even trying. But since then I have learned that it is possible to learn how to sing properly, even if not with the best voice.
Human voices are amazing to me!
I am 50 years old and fell in love with opera when my parents took me to see Traviata when I was 10 years old. I fell in love with the the atmosphere and the spectacle. As a young adult, I had the chance to be a supernumerary and unpaid (perhaps unwanted) member of the chorus for Taviata wih Beverly Sills....and... I was ready to jump in and take over a role if any character had a heart attack on stage and could not continue.
I took my teenage grandchildren to see the Met HD broadcast of La Boheme last year. Now they are hooked. I know it is a memory they will carry with them for their whole lives. Opera is a way to unite the generations.
Our host had an obvious pro-opera bias. I notice that he didn't discuss any of the negative or questioning comments posted online or take calls. It was entirely an all pro-opera conversation. That sort of violates the whole premise of think out loud. Today, it was think out loud only if you agree with the host.
I think opera is pretty much like everything else artistic---you can love it or you can hate it, with both being perfectly acceptable views. It is a construct of the human. For some it has value, for some it doesn't.
It should not be sold as something it isn't, don't turn it into religion. At the same time don't hate it, on grounds other then the artistic or aesthetic. If either side does more then the above, they end up looking like zealots.
I think that the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcasts have had an enormous impact. I've been going, I've been encouraging friends to go with me; now, going into the third season, my friends call me to let me know what they're planning on seeing.
Don't be confused by my language. I write to annoy, amuse and elucidate. I don't condemn American culture for being what it is. I'm not judging it either even though my words will signify otherwise. Hopefully everybody pursues their bliss in whatever form it finds.
American education has been dumbed down and designed to create worker bees who are easy to victimize. As a result Americans have a diminished capacity to think and appreciate life (and art) critically and deeply. We tend to ?think? with our naughty tingly parts.
Technology has replaced deeper understanding. Instant gratification makes washing dishes by hand an unbearable torture in which one finds liberation only in death. (An oblique nod to McLuhan's "The Media is Massage".)
Grew up listening to art-inspired parents rave about opera. I thought they'd taken a bender as they listened to Italian caterwauling for two hours, but they really dug it. How did my parents know so much and I knew so little? Some things about parents are inexplicable.
Mom said, "Learn the opera's story and the emotion in the music will make sense." Whatever, mom. Then I studied music for 12 years, took some literature courses in college, and I began to appreciate my mom's wisdom. My appreciation for sophistication and complexity began to blossom.
So if opera is to be appreciated you've got to introduce it into the schools and media during kindergarten provided you can get adults to buy off. Get rid of creationism and teach opera. Further, it would help if Americans learned three or four languages to build a basis upon which to appreciate opera.
Opera is about life and death. There are useful moral and ethical tidbits on offer. Opera can be educational to the open minded (elitist, liberal, over-educated snobs.)
Opera is loaded with tragedy, social satire, irony, dark humor and sex. If you're jealous and kill your lover because you suspect them of cheating, but they are actually faithful, tragedy ensues. So don't kill your lover unless you catch them cheating!
In American culture Rock rulez; not sophisticated Jazz or Blues upon which Rock is based. (I've often heard Americans relate Jazz to Opera in terms of noise to escape from with the fight or flight mechanism.)
Everything Americans tend to enjoy is condensed into a hammer blow. Our entertainment tends to be easily "grass-pable" like the weed smoke in Pineapple Express. Our society cherishes being dumb and unsophisticated like pigs smeared with lipstick rutting in the slop of our moral decay.
In general, We Americans don't care about anybody else's culture (many of which are the basis of our own.) We throw out that which is five minutes old by habit. In general, we're a bunch of dumb ashes who rely on simple, easily digestible, monosyllabic messages fed to us by Big Brother.
Snarky and snobbish disdain and contempt with American culture's general lack of sophistication aside, I recognize that Americans love that which is edgy, new and charged with attitude. But Attitude is ersatz. Substance and Subtlety are the building blocks of the Universe.
My friend took me to Ariadne auf Naxos in Seattle a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. I didn't realize how starved I was for something containing "culture" that wasn't yogurt. Also enjoyed the subtitles. I could follow the story and that helped tremendously.
But I'm sad that even though I'm partially German, I've never lifted a finger to learn the language. My American laziness belches soot on my patina of perfection.
portland is so lucky to have opera theater oregon. this talented, creative group is making opera accessible and tons of fun for all ages. tickets are VERY reasonable, the venue is relaxed and cozy and the performances are first-rate. everyone should check out this wonderful organization.
Really frustrated I missed hearing this show, and wish, also, I had made it in on this conversation sooner!
I'm the artistic director of Opera Theater Oregon, whose mission is to help hook up new audiences with opera. We perform in a bar (Someday Lounge), keep our tix at about what it costs to see a live band ($15), and rework the material to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
Our Opera Cinema series pairs up silent films with live opera performance and live sound f/x (example DeMille's 1915 'Carmen' paired up with the Bizet opera); last year we cut and rescripted Donizetti's 'L'Elisir d'Amore' to take place in a mall in the '80s, run about 75 minutes and include an ice skating scene and a karaoke version of 'Up Where We Belong' sung by two drunken party guests.
Though we often mess with format pretty shamefully, we do our best, on the budget we have, to deliver the musical goods untarnished, and we've gotten a really good response from our audiences (last 8 of 10 shows sold out with standing room only).
There is a growing barroom classical music scene in Portland, with groups like ours, the Cello Project, Classical Revolution PDX and the Wordless project bringing in growing crowds. It bothers me a little to have been left out of a discussion on how to reach younger audiences with opera, when that's what we've been doing, very successfully, for the past couple of years.
It's my hope that our work will support the bigger houses, and bring in new audiences for the amazing work they are doing. I don't want big opera to come down to our level (other than maybe some judicious editing - there is a lot of chaff, especially in the bel canto operas). I do feel very strongly, though, that opera needs an entry level, and it has to be a comfortable, engaging and at least somewhat familiar one for newcomers.
Opera Theater Oregon
Just spotted nice comments about us from a couple of folks, and, in my great excitement, accidentally red-flagged esphd1. Can that be undone? Thanks!!
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