In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Reflections on the Opera America conference

May 17, 2013 11:02:00 AM
By BLO Staff

Every year, opera companies from throughout North America get together
for a conference and discuss strategies in development, new marketing ideas,
technical production discoveries, programming ventures, etc. This year's host
city was beautiful Vancouver, Canada.
I assisted a few sessions, here is a behind-the-scenes look at some of them:
Media Forum:
Where is Opera headed now that we have media as a means of
communication? We explored twitter and facebook as a marketing tool, some companies
are creating short videos of behind-the-scenes (anything from following the day
in the life of a singer, to how a set is built, to an homage to their unsung
heroes), how blogging is a great way to connect directly with your audience,
recording a world premiere, livestreaming a performance online, radio and
television broadcasts, having your audience tweet live during a final dress
performance etc.  In this day and age of
communication, the thirst for audiences to get more information on the process
has broadened and it’s very exciting to see how we can interact more with our
This session was very interesting because we are always seeking to
have more haze or fog onstage. Haze is wonderful for lighting effects; it helps
create beautiful dramatic shafts of light. What is tricky in opera, as opposed to theatre, we have to worry about our singers' voices, the
orchestra, visibility of monitors- how can we not hinder their performance, etc? The consensus is mostly to use water based machines--unfortunately
not all of them give us that great of an effect as glycol based machines.
As the Seasons Turn: Non-traditional Opera on
the Mainstage:
This is always a
hot topic at the conference. Some companies are having difficulty getting their
audience excited about new music or new productions. Some companies do shows in
parking lots, swimming pools, outdoors tents. However,
if you put out a quality product, then the audience has a better chance to
follow you and take artistic risks with you. I have to say, I was very proud to
be sitting in the conference room as a member of BLO. We have been adventurous, concept wise, while being respectful musically and I think the pay off has been successful. Our Annex series (producing one opera each Season in a non-theatrical
venue) is a wonderful opportunity to see a show within a different
architectural context and many companies are hoping to have something similar
in a few years.
I also visited the Queen Elizabeth theatre which underwent some major
renovations over the past few years to sound proof it and make it more
comfortable for the audience. I attended the keynote address, numerous mingling
activities, and the Robert
L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase (they have interesting projects from the next
generation opera makers). I heard about The Magic  Flute Vancouver Opera produced with a new book and it made me look forward even more to our upcoming production. Our creative team has come up with a brilliant context and it will give our audience a new take on the story.
My favorite, year
after year, remains the NEW WORKS
Over the evening you get to hear all kinds of new works either in
development phase or recently performed. I find it fascinating because it’s a
great way to get a pulse as to where opera in America is. I am incredibly
excited by some of the new materials  I got
to hear.
Julia Noulin-Merat
BLO Associate Producer 

Topics: behind the scenes, magic flute, new works, OPERA America, Opera Annex

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