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Opera's New Day

Pete Springer/OPB

What should the opera do to appeal to a new, young audience?

When I say “The Opera” what image comes to your mind? I’ll come clean. For me it has often been one of wealthy snobbery. I imagine Julia Roberts as the prostitute, Vivian Ward, in Pretty Woman. You remember that scene when Richard Gere (as Edward Lewis) takes her to the opera? They sit in box seats, wear beautiful clothes and expensive jewelery, peer through theater binoculars, and cry as Violetta dies in La Traviata. Well, she cries.

While the classic opera performances in luxurious theaters are still very much a reality today (The Portland Opera actually opens their season with La Traviata in this Friday), it might be time for me to equate opera a little bit more with the cheeky, fun, and modern Moulin Rouge.

Opera companies — including the Portland Opera — are working hard to to reach out to the masses, to attract younger audiences, and to appeal to a modern population. The Royal Opera in London simulcasts their operas on big screens in parts of Britain where opera usually does not reach. In October they’re also going to make a complete opera, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, available online, for free.

Closer to home, the San Francisco Opera does “cinecasts” in theaters and even baseball fields on huge HD screens. As many as 23,000 have gone to a stadium to watch a performance, far from the velvet seats of the Opera House. (I’m not sure if they can get Cracker Jacks during the arias.)

What is your experience with the opera? Why does it — or does it not — appeal to you? What do you think opera companies should do to attrack younger, and more diverse, audiences? What would it take for you to go to the opera?


Photo credit: Dark Matter / Flickr / Creative Commons

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