Today we welcome Rosie Purdie
The issue of opera and its appeal to a wide and diverse audience is one that opera makers are painfully aware of. It’s no secret that nowadays the majority of audiences who go to the opera are in the 60-plus age bracket and, although valiant attempts are being made to entice a younger crowd, there isn’t yet a great variety of audience member.
The situation is significantly worsened in the current global pandemic. Whilst robbing the arts of live audiences and putting countless livelihoods at risk, Covid-19 also places the average opera-goer in the ‘at risk’ group, raising worrying questions about what will happen when opera does return to the stage. Who will be there to see it?
Igniting a revolution.
The youth of the industry appear to be game for widespread change. During lockdown, there was an increased engagement with online audiences from many companies and, following the Black Lives Matter movement, calls for increased diversity across employment and casting. Opera needs refreshing and this extended hiatus from the regular cultural scene may be just the opportunity for those at the top to start thinking differently, or alternatively for those in the middle to band together and ignite a revolution.
Education and outreach projects from leading opera companies may be the answer.
An important avenue for change starts with the perception of what opera actually is and where this starts. Do primary school students have an idea? Once they reach secondary school have they absorbed the common opera stereo types of overweight viking women with wobbly voices? Children are the audiences of tomorrow, or not as the case may be. Many of them may receive incorrect or antiquated ideas about what this art form actually is. So how can they be better informed and by whom? Education and outreach projects from leading opera companies may be the answer.
Engagement and accessibility is crucial to the survival of opera.
Organisations that reach out to those further away, beyond their comfort zones are laying the ground work the future generations of attendees. There are programmes that take performances and workshops into schools, dedicated school’s performances, and initiatives that give opportunities for children to make their stage debuts in a children’s, community, or professional production.
In addition to providing exposure to music and opera, these exploits can offer exceptional benefits for children’s well being, confidence and self-esteem. Opera companies such as English Touring Opera, Garsington Opera and Opera Holland Park have exemplary education departments. It is something extremely positive and exciting to see the scope of work that they are able to deliver, even digitally with the current restrictions.
To answer the question, ‘How can the image of Opera be positively affected within the UK primary and secondary education regime?’, I believe we will have to play the waiting game. The work is being done, the priority is being made, to create an inclusive and accessible world of opera. It’s being introduced to the young in order to expand their world, but will these efforts expand ticket sales in years to come? Only time will tell.