At OperaUpClose we were delighted to hear Graham Vick's recent challenge to opera companies to reach new audiences with the productions on the stage, rather than relying on outreach departments to do so. He made this challenge in his keynote speech in May at the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, a full transcript of which can be read here.
Our experience producing new versions of classic ‘big beast’ operas in venues, which haven’t been able to programme opera in the past, backs up what Graham says – audiences do not need to be ‘educated’ in opera in order to be moved by it. However, to give a new audience the chance to enjoy opera, venues need to be able to risk programming it, and opera companies need to be able to offer tickets at genuinely affordable prices.
We would also highlight the importance of giving a platform to new operas, including new works for young people. We were delighted that the winner of our biannual opera writing competition, Flourish, last year was an opera for young people called Ulla's Odyssey. It's currently touring and reaching new audiences of children and their parents, but our concern is that without public funding for new productions, opera companies will cater to one (small, wealthy and homogenous) audience with their work on stage, and only reach another more diverse audience through outreach projects.
However effective and inspiring the work of outreach departments, unless opera companies can make their ‘main stage’ work accessible to everyone we will be hard-pushed to justify our public subsidy.
Signed by the OperaUpClose board of trustees