Getting a Younger Audience into Opera

According to Marcel Berlins of The Guardian the National Theatre is trying to gain a younger audience by offering £5 tickets to those under 19 years old. He goes on to report the Royal Opera House is doing much the same. It is only toward the end of the article where he describes an advertisment for Don Giovanni with cut-rate tickes that resulted in a soldout house within hours. The headline in the paper was "Sex, death, booze, bribery, revenge, ghosts. . . Who said opera is boring?"

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Somehow, promoters think the price of tickets to opera is prohibitive and thus the reason the youth don't attend. T in the Park tickets are well into the hundreds of pounds, so why isn't that cost prohibitive? This festival is always a sellout, as is the Glastonbury. The young aren't attending opera because it doesn't attack them. Regardless of what the headlines read, for most of the younger generation opera is boring. The sex in Don Giovanni doesn't compare to the sex from Sex in the City. The booze is nothing compared to what is consumed at any number of campsites at the above mentioned festivals. If the concert sold out, chances are it was probably the same old customers purchasing the cut-rate tickets.

So, what can be done? Well, opera could take a different tone. I went to see the opera performance of "The Enchanted Wanderer" last night, and while I very much enjoyed the music, the singing was fairly standard operatic in style. Perhaps, if I could understand Russian, I might have been able to understand what they were singing, but I doubt it. That's not the point of much of the opera performed today; the voice is to be beautiful, lyrical, musical in every way and no real concern for being understandable. I've written several articles about language and opera and how opera moving forward needs to look at using language (and many other aspects) to reach a modern audience.

The youth of today are used to a media world, one filled with sound bites, fast moving action and dialog that is accessible and energetic. IF, we can get the younger generation into the theatres for modern productions that appeal to their interests - and yet productions that have quality music, then they will be inclined to consider other performances of the "classics".

My wife and I are writing an opera, "It Must Be Fate" with a focus on not just the words and music, but the entire package as it could be conceived in a modern marketing world. The point here is the modern audience doesn't just go to the theatre. They want a more interactive, multi-level engagement. "The Dark Knight" is just a film, but it isn't. It's a website, a video game, a soundtrack and even a role playing game. A modern audience demands more from its entertainment. Opera needs to step up to the task.

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