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Press Released: 29 Apr 2014

OPERA America Awards $300,000 in Grants to Seven 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 it has awarded $300,000 in grants to seven opera companies through the second year of its Building Opera Audiences grant program, generously funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. This grant program seeks to support the efforts of North American opera companies to build informed, enthusiastic audiences for opera through innovative marketing projects. Fifty-three applications totaling over $2 million in requests were submitted, demonstrating the intense level of audience development activity across North America.

The seven organizations receiving 2014 Building Opera Audiences grants are: Arizona Opera (Phoenix and Tucson, AZ), Central City Opera (Denver, CO), Cincinnati Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Philadelphia and Palm Beach 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 experiment with innovative projects that help engage new and retain current audiences, ensuring that opera and opera companies flourish in the future.”

The second cycle of Building Opera Audiences grants feature a diverse array of initiatives that seek to increase first-time attendance and improve retention rates among current audiences. The range of these projects includes forging relationships with cultural communities, overcoming perceived barriers to attendance, incorporating the art form into the popular culture, methodically studying consumer engagement and employing technology to engage audiences.

Each funded project will be documented and evaluated throughout its lifespan. The results will be shared with the opera field, so 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 Deeksha Gaur (Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.), Lindsey Hansen (Director of Marketing, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in St. Paul, MN), Drew McManus (arts consultant, based in Chicago, IL), Thomas Michel (Director of Development, Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, NY) and Robert Sweibel (Director of Marketing and Communications, Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, CA).

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

2014 Building Opera Audiences Grant Recipients

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

During the 2013-2014 season, with help from OPERA America's Building Opera Audiences grant and a partnership with Univision, Arizona Opera (AZO) forged new and lasting relationships statewide with initiatives that focus on welcoming communities that are often underserved by the arts. AZO has enjoyed meaningful successes in these initiatives, including Spanish-language concert programming, targeted marketing for program initiatives, Univision spots for AZO productions and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of La bohème that Univision has submitted for EMMY consideration. In its second year, Arizona Opera seeks to cement ¡Viva la Opera! as an integral and lasting part of its yearly programming, making it a sustaining component of AZO’s company identity.

Central City Opera (Denver, CO)
Boomer Bus

Central City Opera (CCO) will be building on its analysis of a three-year innovation project by implementing the Boomer Bus. This new program is designed to attract individuals ages 50-65 to attend live opera performances in Central City. Participants will board a bus in Denver and be treated to a live history presentation of Central City and CCO, a catered lunch in the gardens, a behind the scenes experience, a Short Works program and a full live opera performance. The entertaining bus ride returning to Denver will include an opportunity for a Q&A session with a member of CCO's education and community engagement team. In order to track repeat attendance, participants will be offered a promotional code for discounted tickets to another 2014-2015 CCO production.

Cincinnati Opera (Cincinnati, OH)
The Opera Express

For too many people, going to the opera is perceived as time-consuming, expensive and geographically inaccessible. Cincinnati Opera will offer a direct and efficient answer to these barriers: a high-quality opera experience that is brief, affordable and goes where the audience is. The Opera Express will be a mobile opera theater housed inside a converted semi-trailer. In groups of 16 to 20, guests will enter a stylish, comfortable performance space. The door will close, the lights will dim and the opera will begin. Performances ranging from 10 to 15 minutes will feature professional singers, lighting, costumes and scenery. Launching in the spring of 2015, The Opera Express will deliver theatrical opera experiences to new audiences throughout the Cincinnati metropolitan region, and the potential for expansion is significant.

Los Angeles Opera (Los Angeles, CA)
Re-Branding Opera for the 21st Century

LA Opera seeks to pilot a program to more heavily insert opera into popular media culture through an entertainment-based content marketing campaign, also known as product placement. This campaign will seek to integrate positive opera related stories and references into film, television and advertisements, exposing wider audiences to the art form and breaking down commonly held stereotypes about opera. LA Opera will partner with a content marketing agency to create pitches and promote opera to industry professionals as a valuable and viable storyline option. The ultimate goal of this pilot program is to develop long term strategies that increase familiarity and enthusiasm for the art form as a whole, thereby benefitting the entire opera industry and its many companies.

Lyric Opera Of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Caminos a la ópera

Lyric Unlimited, a division of Lyric Opera of Chicago, will implement Caminos a la ópera (Pathways to Opera), designed to build and sustain Latino audiences. Having established a dynamic relationship with this large and growing demographic, Lyric will increase its involvement in Chicago’s Latino communities by offering relevant programming both in the opera house and in neighborhood venues. Caminos a la ópera will encompass collaboratively designed community engagement programs and the creation and presentation of new artistic works including a new mariachi opera, El pasado nunca se termina. These efforts will include the fostering of new and established community partnerships, involvement with local schools and increased targeted marketing efforts.

Opera Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
Consumer Engagement Research Project

Opera Philadelphia seeks to redefine the way it relates to the public by understanding the motivation, values and consumer experience of current and potential audiences, in order to simultaneously meet new consumer needs and propel its artistic mission. Over a two-year period, the Opera will engage consultants with deep expertise in consumer insight from outside the arts and culture field to conduct a two-phased consumer segmentation research study. The research consultants will employ surveys, focus groups and experience mapping to evaluate how audiences perceive the Opera’s brand across a spectrum of entertainment options – not just within the arts sector. The project results will help to inform marketing and product strategies that address consumer motivations and create a pioneering model for audience-building in the field.

Palm Beach Opera (West Palm Beach, FL)
Opera @ the Waterfront App

Funds provided by OPERA America’s Getty Audience Building Program will support the development of Opera @ the Waterfront App, a custom app to be implemented at Palm Beach Opera’s free, outdoor Opera @ the Waterfront (O@tW) concert on December 13, 2014. O@tW strives to broaden Palm Beach Opera’s audience through a free community concert for individuals to experience live opera with a full orchestra and chorus at the Meyer Amphitheatre in downtown West Palm Beach, FL. The innovative custom app further engages participants in the curated arts experience by providing a two-way dialogue between O@tW audience members and Palm Beach Opera staff through real-time updates, such as fun facts and aria translations, as well as the ability to survey and receive audience member feedback throughout the concert.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

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