Three things modern opera companies need to consider

I don't know if anyone is listening to my posts, or if just great minds think alike...

But there is a shift in the opera world, one I've been talking about occasionally on the blog.

Rufus Wainwright won't be composing for the Metropolitan Opera in New York because it takes too long (and they want it in English rather than French). Daniel J. Watkin of the New York Times reports the Met insisted the opera be in English and wouldn't be available for performance until at least 2014. Wainwright responds, “They work on that sort of scale; I wanted to get it out as soon as possible, because I’m an impatient pop star.” The opera is now slated to premiere at Manchester International Festival in England next July.

I find this new interested on three levels.

1. Opera needs to be more responsive
It can do this by getting new works out to the forefront faster than the typical 4-6 year schedule. Obviously Manchester International Festival gets this. They premiered "Monkey: Journey to the West" last year and it's getting rave reviews around the world now (and they've just released a CD of the music). That's fast response.

2. Opera needs to look toward popular forms of music to gain broader audience appeal
Both "Monkey: Journey to the West" and Wainwrights new work "Prima Donna" will feature a healthy blend of pop music. It helps that both were written by pop artists, but it doesn't delude the point that popular music will have more audience appeal.

3. Focus on the market
This might sound like the previous point, but this one is where the Met has a better understanding of market appeal than Rufus Wainwright. If the opera were to premiere in the US, and to initially look at getting a broad US listening market, the libretto would need to be in English. "Monkey" did this and it's getting a huge response. It would be nice if the boarder American market would appreciate music in a foreign language, but the truth is it doesn't. So, if what you want is large audience appeal, you need to think about who your audience really is. The Met is doing this.

The opera we're working on has all three of these points firmly in hand (although we don't have a premiere date, we are thinking about keeping the material timely - cutting edge). Our focus is to know the audience, write music and lyrics (with a subject matter) that appeals to the modern audience and they way they process entertainment. It may seem odd to be thinking about how an audience processes entertainment when creating a new work of art - but, (IMHO) the point it, by understanding the way the audience thinks we have a better chance of creating something that not only appeals, but connects. And that is what I feel art is really all about - connecting with people.


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