Conference Day 2 – The Medium in Which You Grow

View at left from my hotel room balcony. It’s a good thing, too, because it’s pretty much the only part of Miami I’m seeing aside from hotel conference rooms…

Keynote

Thin-Slicing

Marc Scorca (Opera America CEO) reminded us that we in the opera business are prone to “thin-slicing” (how many times have you assessed the merits of a voice in 10 seconds?). We, however, don’t want empower our audiences – specifically those elusive new opera-goers – to thin-slice us out of their lives. Hearkens back to yesterday’s discussions about taking care of new attendees.

Absorb and Transform

My colleague and I agreed that we love hearing composers speak about their music. Typically, because words are not their media, composers are reticent to spend a lot of time talking about their work. But exactly because they’re not accustomed to wordsmithing, their conversation is refreshingly free of the posturing and “spin” that dog most experienced lecturers.

Guest speaker Osvaldo Golijov charmed us with his comments and excerpts from his recent work. (Although, I will admit that the Ainadamar percussion developed from gunshot audio samples was tough to listen to.) One of his scripted comments that stuck with me: “Opera absorbs and transforms human experience into song.” It’s by no means a universally-held belief, but Golijov maintains that all genres and idioms deserve to be incorporated into this thing we call opera, to the extent that they allow this transformation.

Food for Thought

Dana Gioia, head of the NEA, spoke eloquently. I can’t begin to summarize, so I’ll resort to a few thought-provoking fragments:

  • The 21st century is increasingly electronic and private. The performing arts are communal.
  • Our problem is not about money, it’s about the fact that our culture doesn’t honor the arts .
  • We have failed to create good entry points.
  • It’s not about supply, it’s about demand.
  • It’s not about the ticket price, it’s about desire.

Wordplay

And finally, actor Eric Booth gave us cogent “etymology breaks” –

Culture: the medium in which you grow (remember biology class? I can’t stop thinking about this…)

Connoisseur: one who is adept at coming to know: a Master Learner

And More

The balance of the day included a session on the advantages and challenges of running an opera company in a city that is home to multiple companies, a discussion on conductor training in the U.S., and an absolutely stunning dress rehearsal preview of Anna Karenina. More tomorrow.

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