Au revoir, Carmen

Well, that happened. Personal bests from our singers, an unbelievably beautiful summer night, and 6,000 souls in the audience. Hundreds of people onstage and off pulled our little company through its biggest project of the year, and it was a night to remember.

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View from the stage at curtain time

We got a lot of press (good, bad, rarely indifferent…) for the technological elements we incorporated into the audience experience. During Carmen, we allowed lawn patrons to choose to receive supertitle translations on their personal devices (phones, tablets, Google Glass), and we captured stage-perspective (and backstage) videos and photos then downloaded them to the internet. (If you’re interested, check out the footage here.)

Opera is a venerable art form, and tinkering with it is not for the faint of heart. Truthfully, if I were reading about all of this without having experienced it firsthand, I would probably be skeptical, too. But once the noise dies down, two true things remain. First, my team and I have a deep abiding love for this art form, and we went to extraordinary lengths to see that none of these ancillary activities in any way jeopardized or trivialized the opera itself. For after all, it’s the singing and the story that are the Main Thing. Second, these extra little innovations drew attention to opera (no mean feat in this crowded information age) and attracted some new audience members. We could do worse.

I’ve been blessed with a bad memory. It delivers me from the temptation to look backward, to wax nostalgic, to yearn for the way things were. It forces me to live in the present and keep an ear to the future, and it demands always stretching toward what might be. We identify our company as “The Future of Opera,” for we exist to further the careers of the fabulously talented young singers on our roster. But this new generation of singers needs a new generation of patrons: people who are just as inquisitive, inspired, and dedicated. It’s incumbent on us to continually reinvent the culture around our art form so that the doors remain open. Once they get inside, some of them will stay for the singing. And that’s all that matters in the end.

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