Sunday, August 14, 2011

Young people at the opera

A subject that came up in Santa Fe, and indeed comes up all over the opera world, is the problem of getting young people to the opera.

Most efforts focus on the ticket prices. Young people don't usually have a lot of money.

Some houses do student rush instead of senior rush. Rush means last minute unfilled seats are offered for very low prices. Frankly, I don't see the concept of senior rush--aren't there already enough gray heads in the audience?

Many do special family performances and performances for audiences that are all young people. The producers always select which operas they think are suitable for young people, such as Magic Flute or Elixir of Love. I always remember my 12 year old son coming home very excited after a performance of Elektra. Do our imaginations always correctly identify the tastes of the young?

Some of the difficulty has to do with the opera itself. On his 40th anniversary at the Met James Levine bragged that he works very hard to maintain the operatic experience of the past. Perhaps in the long run this is a mistake.

The places where I have seen the most young people--besides Santa Fe--have been at the performances of new operas. Satyagraha at the Met drew a whole new audience. The same was true for Bonesetter's Daughter in San Francisco.

Older opera fans want to see their favorites again, and they want them to be the same as before. New younger fans do not yet have favorites and have no preconceived ideas of how they should be presented.

I think as long as opera insists on being exclusively an homage to the past, it will draw its audience primarily from the past.

1 comment:

stray said...

When I was a kid and pestering my season-ticketed parents to take me to the opera, they said "Maybe we'll take you to Hansel & Gretel" -- which prospect to me then was the Height of Uncool. Two years later I went (without them) to my first live opera performance, and it was Tristan. Go figure.

If I were a kid today, raised on a whole range musical styles that are not particularly melody-dependent, why would I find The Magic Flute in the least interesting?