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Article Published: 20 Apr 2022

Why Opera Is More Important Than Ever

The OPERA America staff are excited to see more than 500 members in person for the first time in three years at Opera Conference 2022. It promises to be a deeply moving reunion with cherished colleagues and new friends we’ve met on Zoom. Those unable to join us in Minneapolis can learn from the meeting during the online conference on June 27 and 28, in webinars in the months that follow, and in the pages of this magazine. All our members have contributed to our understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead, and everyone will benefit from our discussions in Minnesota.

Planning the conference’s plenary and concurrent sessions underscored the profound changes that have taken place since we last convened in 2019. Presentations and discussions in Minneapolis will sound familiar and different at the same time. Yes, speakers will discuss co-production, but this year with an emphasis on creating and sharing digital content. Experts will examine production issues and will include VR and AR among the topics. Even as we celebrate the accumulation of new skills, we will discuss the acute need to recruit and retain technicians and artisans to replace those who have retired or left our field for other endeavors.

Fundraising will always be a subject of concern, but it will be considered this year in relation to company goals for equity and community connection. Likewise, marketing strategies will be discussed in the context of increasing access by removing barriers created by high ticket prices, especially for first-time attenders. As older audiences evidence continued reluctance to return to live performances, how will companies build relationships with newcomers discovered through the pandemic in public performances that were short, casual, unexpected, and inexpensive or free?

The need to increase diversity across the field has been discussed at many conferences. This year, however, the urgency to achieve progress is underscored by the killing of George Floyd (only a few miles from the conference hotel) and the national fight it engendered for racial justice. Investment in civic practice is more important than ever if opera companies want to achieve healing in cities grappling with this and COVID-19.

Art is inescapably political. Art that provides relief from the issues of the day may comfort, but also reinforces the status quo. Art that illuminates our humanity can help uncover connections among people who may be separated by political differences. Art that examines issues that animate the world around us can amplify our commitment to gender parity and social equity. Art that elevates human achievement can strengthen our dedication to fighting oppression at home and around the world. The 2022 annual conference will show that opera is more important than ever.

Our experience planning Opera Conference 2022 is like our members’ return to production. It follows repeated improvisation: the rescheduling of our National Trustee Forum and postponement of the OPERA America Salutes festivities from March until October. Many of our staff are new since the last conference, and those of us who are veterans are working hard to remember the planning details that have lain dormant for three years! Like many performers, though, muscle memory takes over, and we are progressing toward our own “opening night” with deep satisfaction to be of service to the staff, trustees, and artists who bring opera to life and life to our communities.

The last opera conference held in the Twin Cities was in 1998! As you will read in this issue, Minneapolis is a “home” to new American opera and the career development of important artists. We are deeply grateful to the staff and board members of Minnesota Opera who are making an extra effort to welcome us even as they work to return to a normal production schedule after the profound disruption of the last two years.

We look forward to being in touch with you in person and virtually over the months ahead.

This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Opera America Magazine.