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Press Released: 30 Apr 2013

OPERA America Awards $300,000 in Grants to Thirteen Opera Companies

Building Opera Audiences Grants Encourage Experimental, Innovative and Creative Audience-Building Activities

OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce that it has awarded $300,000 in grants to 13 opera companies through the first year of its Building Opera Audiences grant program, generously funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. This new grant program seeks to support the efforts of North American opera companies to build informed, enthusiastic audiences for opera through innovative marketing projects. A record-setting 67 applications totaling nearly $2 million in requests were submitted to OPERA America, demonstrating how vital audience development programs are to opera organizations today.

The 13 organizations receiving Building Opera Audiences grants are: American Opera Projects (Brooklyn, NY), Arizona Opera (Phoenix and Tucson, AZ), Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI), Los Angeles Opera, Madison Opera, Opera on the James (Lynchburg, VA), Opera Memphis, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, San Francisco Opera, Sarasota Opera, Seattle Opera, Syracuse Opera and Vancouver Opera.

“As cultural and entertainment options continue to grow, opera companies face increased competition for audiences,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “The Building Opera Audiences grant program provides funding to support innovative projects that have the potential to engage new and retain current audiences, helping to provide viable models for companies of all sizes across the country.

The first round of the Building Opera Audiences project shows a diverse range of initiatives that seek to increase first-time attendance and improve retention rates among current audiences. These projects harness technology and social media, increase two-way conversations with audiences about perceived barriers, and offer special events and performances in theaters and other community venues. They are designed to reach young professionals and families, as well as general audiences, and employ solid research, incentives and collaborations.

Each funded project will be documented and evaluated throughout its lifespan. The results will be shared with the opera field, so that other organizations can learn from and replicate projects in their communities.

Recipients of Building Opera Audiences grants were selected by a panel of industry leaders, including Jim Atkinson of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, Colleen Flanigan of Roosevelt University Auditorium Theatre, Claire Hopkinson of the Toronto Arts Council, Laura Johnson of New York City Ballet and Jenifer Thomas, formerly of The Pricing Institute.

OPERA America’s Building Opera Audiences grant program is made possible through the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

2013 Building Opera Audiences Grant Recipients

American Opera Projects (Brooklyn, NY)
Have A Voice

American Opera Projects (AOP) will create a mobile application called Have A Voice to engage and expand opera audiences. By utilizing technology to foster feedback and discourse, the new platform will attract a technologically savvy audience to the art form, while providing useful feedback to creative artists. This cross-platform app will allow audiences to share their feedback with a network of performing arts organizations while simultaneously sharing content on partner website and popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. An achievement system will encourage users to remain active in the system in order to attain electronic or physical rewards, such as badges, discounts and tickets.

Arizona Opera (Phoenix and Tucson, AZ)
¡Viva Opera!

In partnership with Univision Arizona, Arizona Opera’s ¡Viva Opera! project will build upon the opera company’s foundation of outreach and education in the Hispanic community that has included in-school programming and Spanish-language marketing. Arizona Opera seeks to lead the state’s cultural and artistic institutions in cultivating a welcoming, inclusive and broad-based relationship with Arizona’s Spanish-speaking Hispanic community. Specific activities funded by the grant include: short Spanish-language TV and radio spots for the Phoenix and Tucson markets, events for young Hispanic professionals and Hispanic-owned businesses, free family events for Hispanic audiences and tourism incentives for northern Mexico communities.

Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI)
Bohème Society

Florentine Opera Company will launch a new Young Professionals Group, the Bohème Society, to identify, engage, foster and involve the next generation of opera aficionados in the life of the opera company. Using information gained through focus group sessions with young community leaders, and in consultation with the Bohème Society Advisory Board, Florentine Opera will create a series of value-added experiences and events for young audiences, such as scene showcases, film screenings combined with performances, backstage tours and receptions. Florentine Opera will also design a mobile app providing information about the opera company, its productions and artists; social media content; Bohème Society event news and audio pieces. To maximize visibility for this project, Florentine Opera will work with a range of strategic media partners to run a media campaign that will include digital marketing, radio spots, print, guerrilla marketing and more.

Los Angeles Opera (Los Angeles, CA)
Newcomer Project

In an effort to introduce new audiences to opera, Los Angeles Opera’s Newcomer Project is designed to demystify opera and bring it back to its roots as a popular and ubiquitous art form that is an integral part of the Los Angeles community. Creating a safe and approachable environment for people to experiment with a new art form, the project shepherds newcomers through every step of the opera experience, from discounted ticket pages and preparatory resources to informational programs and social events. The major effort is to cultivate a community of culturally-curious newcomers who together can share in the process of a new experience, learn collectively and, most importantly, have a fun and engaging encounter with opera.

Madison Opera (Madison, WI)
Opera in the Park Survey

This summer, Madison Opera will open its new home, the Madison Opera Center, which includes a rehearsal hall that can be used for expanded community programming. In order to understand how to best use this asset, Madison Opera will work with the University of Wisconsin Survey Center to conduct an extensive survey of the audience at the 12th annual Opera in the Park in July. Over 14,000 people attend Opera in the Park, but as it is a free and unticketed event, it is difficult to capture information about who is attending. The Survey Center will use its staff to gather data to determine what activities will engage those audiences in the life of the Opera Center and increase attendance at all opera performances and events, encouraging this large summer audience to become year-round attendees.

Opera on the James (Lynchburg, VA)

With its GET REAL project, Opera on the James seeks to create an innovative model for changing attitudes of urban youth concerning opera and its value as a uniquely powerful form of musical story telling. A short mixed-genre opera, GET REAL will meld updated portions of the plots from operas that are part of its mainstage season in new orchestrations with hip hop rhythms, percussion and brass, hip hop dance and spoken word. Videography will create fresh, urban visuals that are vibrant and easily portable. GET REAL will feature two duet scenes, each with an emerging opera professional and a regional actor/dancer.

Opera Memphis (Memphis, TN)
30 Days of Opera

In September, Opera Memphis will present 30 Days of Opera — a month-long program aimed at breaking down the perceived barriers that prevent many people from experiencing the power of opera. Over the course of 30 consecutive days, the company will offer over 50 free performances at more than 40 different locations, all across the Memphis region. These events will introduce opera into the daily routines of local residents — at farmers markets, restaurants, schools and street corners. In the process, they will create a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the opera house. In this second year of the program, Opera Memphis will expand its roster of singers, which will significantly increase the number of free performances it can deliver.

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
My First Time

Through their new My First Time initiative, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh plans to break down opera stereotypes to make the opera experience feel more approachable and relevant. My First Time will target young professionals and opera newcomers in an attempt to attract and engage those who might not initially consider themselves opera fans. This new campaign will experiment with creative engagement solutions including blog and vlog entries created by opera newcomers, using social media tools to let users capture and share short looping videos on Twitter, generous discounts and welcome bags with fun treats for new ticket buyers, red carpet-style photo ops as first timers arrive at performances, video booths during performance intermissions to capture feedback and post-performance focus groups.  

San Francisco Opera (San Francisco, CA)
Community Opera House

San Francisco Opera will present its second Community Open House event this fall, designed to reach and engage those who are new to the organization, especially families with children and people ages 21-40. Virtually every square inch of the historic War Memorial Opera House will be transformed into event space. Free to all, the day-long event will feature included technical and musical demonstrations, a self-guided tour, an Opera in an Hour movie, workshops with young resident artists, arts and crafts and an opportunity to meet the general director. Following the conclusion of the Community Open House, San Francisco Opera will continue to engage attendees with its full range of year-round activities through tailored packages, special ticket offers, newsletters, workshops and more.

Sarasota Opera (Sarasota, FL)
Summer Screening Series

Sarasota Opera, with a performance season occurring in the fall and winter, will expand its offerings to include a Summer Screening Series of European opera productions broadcast to the Sarasota Opera House. Tickets for the broadcast series will be bundled into subscription packages that will include Sarasota Opera’s live performances, providing an incentive to existing subscribers who live in Sarasota year-round. Sarasota Opera will enrich the broadcast experience by providing pre- and post-performance activities, such as performances by local artists, Q&A with artistic staff, behind-the-scenes opportunities and casual receptions with artists and staff. By launching this broadcast, Sarasota Opera is able to expand its programming into the summer season while also encouraging attendance to its mainstage season by bundling the tickets into a subscription package.

Seattle Opera (Seattle, WA)
Preferred Subscriber Program and Select Your Own Seat

Through two initiatives, the Preferred Subscriber Program and Select Your Own Seat web module, Seattle Opera will enhance patron experiences, inspire earlier purchase and encourage more frequent attendance. The Preferred Subscriber Program will enhance the patron experience at McCaw Hall with a dedicated concierge service that allows subscribers to exchange or purchase additional tickets, pre-order intermission food and drinks, pick up program books and pose for commemorative photos. Subscribers will also be invited to a new Subscriber Appreciation Day at Seattle Opera’s rehearsal studios and costume shop to learn about each production’s preparations. Improvements to the Select Your Own Seat module include the ability to purchase tickets on mobile devices and incentivize add-on purchases within the same transaction, which will increase Seattle Opera’s ticket sales from online users.

Syracuse Opera (Syracuse, NY)
IDEAS Collaborative

Syracuse Opera will broaden its audience by participating in the IDEAS Collaborative, a new community-wide database comprising of ticket buyers from 43 arts, cultural and heritage organizations. With geographic and demographic analysis conducted by a specialized consultant, Syracuse Opera will identify a list of 4,500 households new to the organization who have the highest likelihood of purchasing opera tickets. Four direct mail pieces featuring Buy One Get One Free offers will be sent to these targeted households to encourage them to purchase tickets to Syracuse Opera productions.

Vancouver Opera (Vancouver, BC)
Transporting Opera Audiences

Vancouver Opera’s Transporting Opera Audiences project will engage prospective patrons in outlying municipalities that are home to diverse cultural enclaves which currently encounter attendance barriers, including distance, price and unfamiliarity with opera. Vancouver Opera will engage these communities in two phases: first, by producing affordable sampler concerts that will introduce opera to audiences in their communities; and second, by partnering with British Columbia’s transit authorities to transport these audiences downtown to a mainstage performance. Designated “Opera Trains” will take passengers to the opera house, entertaining them along the way with programming about the performance they are about to experience. Participants will travel for free and will receive a discount on their mainstage ticket that is equivalent to the cost of their initial concert ticket.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.