I read an interesting approach to the annual “Let’s predict the death of Opera” reviews we get about this time each year. This is a good piece of journalism by Weston Williams from The Christian Science Monitor. You can read it here.
However, when you read visual sound-bytes contained therein from Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager such as, “The struggle for opera has to do with the transition from an aging audience to a new one” (you think?) or, my absolute favourite, “This is a public art form … and as long as we have the public, the art form will survive and thrive,” (hmm?) says Gelb, you need to wonder whether there is any critical risk assessment going on inside that man’s head?
Notwithstanding, both he and Douglas Clayton, general director of Chicago Opera Theater (COT) concur that “… what is essential for any opera company, whether it’s small, medium, or large, is to find cultural relevance … and connections in the community to inspire audiences to want to participate.”
So the very simple question arises: why doesn’t the Met do exactly that?
Conversely, the Royal Opera House in the UK some months back took a remarkable and far-sighted decision to make a ‘Head of Audience Labs’ position.
Why is this so important? Because the role was designed to enable ROH to develop immersive storytelling and new expressions of the operatic artform, specifically conceived to connect with new and different audiences made possible through the new technologies available and those beginning to emerge. Sound familiar?
Ultimately, rather than the current over-focus on audience diversity and collaboration that seems to have hijacked the debate around the future of Opera over the last 12 months or so; neither of which are the mission critical problems Opera faces, perhaps these same organisations could begin to focus on how they will adapt to distribute mobile media consumption and multi-platform media creation that will engage us all for the next 5 years and beyond.
It’s a funny thing but all the windows at Lincoln Centre where the Met resides are closed all the time with the shades drawn. Perhaps no-one looks out?