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Article Published: 02 Jul 2020

Voices from the Field: Ned Canty

Ned Canty
Ned Canty (photo: Elizabeth Berglund)

General Director, Opera Memphis

When the pandemic hit, Canty put into motion a digital version of his company’s signature 30 Days of Opera initiative.

I don’t mind change. In fact, I thrive under that kind of circumstance. The way your body overreacts to invading bacteria, my brain has been doing the same thing. Within three days of cancellation, I started thinking, “We need to do something now.” The experience of offering singing for people under lockdown has been medicinal for me and my staff. I feel it’s our pastoral responsibility, and that has been a comfort.

We should look at the way the television networks saw the digital revolution coming and didn’t react. We’ve had to react as if we’re an entirely new opera company, rather than one that exists to create analog, in-the-theater experiences. As an industry, people think that we need top hats and monocles and million-dollar sets. But it’s an opportunity to say, “Wait, it’s lovely to have those things, but opera can also be singing a capella on a street corner.”

The next couple of years are going to suck, but they’ll suck in interesting ways. They will strengthen the industry and give us new things to work on.

This article was published in the Summer 2020 issue of Opera America Magazine.