Day 5: Lessons from the Uninitiated

Last summer we ran a small pilot project called Opera Newbies, during which we invited several dozen brand new opera-goers to our 2014 performances. They participated in several rounds of surveys before and after their first opera performances, and WTO Volunteer Sandra Saydah recently helped us collate and interpret the data.

Sandra visited our offices today to present her findings. There weren’t a lot of surprises; mostly just some confirmed suspicions. Baroque opera is just plain weird to new opera patrons. The Newbies feared that their fellow opera-goers would be odd and that they’d feel out of touch, but they found that the audience was full of “normal people” just like them. They preferred sitting in the orchestra section but confessed that they were unlikely to spend that much money on tickets in the future. They were irritated about not being allowed to take phone pics of the stage. They thought it would be boring but were surprisingly intrigued.

We’re still digesting this, identifying the relevant take-aways. One of the things we feel we could do better is provide short, interesting opportunities for new opera attendees to orient themselves. As much as I try to gear my preshow talks to the uninitiated, I also know that among the attendees are opera fans who want deeper context. As a result, these new folks got somewhat lost during the talks. As much as I wish we could offer two different kinds of preshow opportunities (an entry-level Opera 101 and a grand-level seminar:)), that’s not possible.

In the busyness that was this week, I have been putting off making my Figaro podcast. But now I’m determined to record it within the next few days and dedicate it to any new opera-goers who are considering Mozart at The Barns in June. Stay tuned.



Stephanie van Reigersberg

Anything that helps cultivate new opera lovers is for the good! Great initiative, Kim. I don’t know if it is possible, but could people be told that they can take pictures of the curtain calls but not before–since everyone does it anyway…


Good question. It’s something we should discuss with our front of house staff, for the topic is certainly fluid. Most recently, I was at LA Opera and tried to take a photo of the curtain call and was tackled by an usher. Ugh.


As an experienced operagoer, I’m happy to have you do Opera 101 talks for your pre-show discussion, especially if the opera is familiar to me. The more opera lovers, the better!

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