Last month, EducationLink summarized activities at Opera Conference 2009. The theme, Making Opera Matter, was especially relevant for education staff at opera companies, as much of the focus was on expanding educational initiatives to engage communities.
Los Angeles Opera is a company that has taken their educational approach beyond the walls of a classroom. Their community performances of Noye’s Fludde, Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera, are prime examples of not only providing audiences with a positive experience, but showcasing the potential of education’s role in the community. Los Angeles Opera’s director of education and community programs, Stacy Brightman, said that following the performances, “People were confused and were asking whether this was an L.A. Opera project or an education program, and that is exactly what we wanted.”
The Britten performances, which took place in both 2007 and 2009, involved educational initiatives with the rest of the company, across all departments. This affirmation of company-wide devotion to the concept of community was evident to Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon, who conducted the performances. Further, the production was specifically created for church performances, a venue often considered to be ideal for community events. Members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra worked with students from two high schools, and singers were culled from churches, schools and other programs throughout Los Angeles.
The project fostered a real sense of partnership between Los Angeles Opera and other organizations, and the standing-room-only audience proved that their work was relevant. Tickets to the performances were available online, at no cost, and were snapped up almost immediately. Free events may often lack a sense of value; however, over 5,000 individuals attended these performances.
Projects like Los Angeles Opera’s Noye’s Fludde are not feasible for every organization, and different communities have different needs. OPERA America is interested in learning how those in the field are reaching their communities and encourages you to contact Education@operaamerica.org with information.