OPERA America Awards $300,000 in Grants to 13 Opera Companies

OPERA America Awards $300,000 in Grants to 13 Opera Companies

OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce that it has awarded $300,000 in grants to 13 opera companies through the first year of its Building Opera Audiences grant program, generously funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. This new grant program seeks to support the efforts of North American opera companies to build informed, enthusiastic audiences for opera through innovative marketing projects. A record-setting 67 applications totaling nearly $2 million in requests were submitted to OPERA America, demonstrating how vital audience development programs are to opera organizations today.

The 13 organizations receiving Building Opera Audiences grants are: American Opera Projects (Brooklyn, NY), Arizona Opera (Phoenix, AZ), Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI), Los Angeles Opera, Madison Opera, Opera on the James (Lynchburg, VA), Opera Memphis, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, San Francisco Opera, Sarasota Opera, Seattle Opera, Syracuse Opera and Vancouver Opera.

"As cultural and entertainment options continue to grow, opera companies face increased competition for audiences," stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. "The Building Opera Audiences grant program provides funding to support innovative projects that have the potential to engage new and retain current audiences, helping to provide viable models for companies of all sizes across the country.

The first round of the Building Opera Audiences project shows a diverse range of initiatives that seek to increase first-time attendance and improve retention rates among current audiences. These projects harness technology and social media, increase two-way conversations with audiences about perceived barriers, and offer special events and performances in theaters and other community venues. They are designed to reach young professionals and families, as well as general audiences, and employ solid research, incentives and collaborations.

Each funded project will be documented and evaluated throughout its lifespan. The results will be shared with the opera field, so that other organizations can learn from and replicate projects in their communities.

Recipients of Building Opera Audiences grants were selected by a panel of industry leaders, including Jim Atkinson of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation,Colleen Flanigan of Roosevelt University Auditorium Theatre, Claire Hopkinson of the Toronto Arts Council, Laura Johnson of New York City Ballet andJenifer Thomas, formerly of The Pricing Institute.

OPERA America's Building Opera Audiences grant program is made possible through the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

Building Opera Audiences: Descriptions of Funded Projects:

American Opera Projects (Brooklyn, NY): $12,600

American Opera Projects (AOP) will create a mobile application called Have A Voice to engage and expand opera audiences. By utilizing technology to foster feedback and discourse, the new platform will attract a technologically savvy audience to the art form, while providing useful feedback to creative artists. This cross-platform app will allow audiences to share their feedback with a network of performing arts organizations while simultaneously sharing content on partner website and popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. An achievement system will encourage users to remain active in the system in order to attain electronic or physical rewards, such as badges, discounts and tickets.

Arizona Opera (Phoenix, AZ): $30,000

In partnership with Univision Arizona, Arizona Opera's ¡Viva Opera! project will build upon the opera company's foundation of outreach and education in the Hispanic community that has included in-school programming and Spanish-language marketing. Arizona Opera seeks to lead the state's cultural and artistic institutions in cultivating a welcoming, inclusive and broad-based relationship with Arizona's Spanish-speaking Hispanic community. Specific activities funded by the grant include: short Spanish-language TV and radio spots for the Phoenix and Tucson markets, events for young Hispanic professionals and Hispanic-owned businesses, free family events for Hispanic audiences and tourism incentives for northern Mexico communities.

Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI): $30,000

Florentine Opera Company will launch a new Young Professionals Group, the Bohème Society, to identify, engage, foster and involve the next generation of opera aficionados in the life of the opera company. Using information gained through focus group sessions with young community leaders, and in consultation with the Bohème Society Advisory Board, Florentine Opera will create a series of value-added experiences and events for young audiences, such as scene showcases, film screenings combined with performances, backstage tours and receptions. Florentine Opera will also design a mobile app providing information about the opera company, its productions and artists; social media content; Bohème Society event news and audio pieces. To maximize visibility for this project, Florentine Opera will work with a range of strategic media partners to run a media campaign that will include digital marketing, radio spots, print, guerrilla marketing and more.

Los Angeles Opera: $30,000

In an effort to introduce new audiences to opera, Los Angeles Opera's Newcomer Project is designed to demystify opera and bring it back to its roots as a popular and ubiquitous art form that is an integral part of the Los Angeles community. Creating a safe and approachable environment for people to experiment with a new art form, the project shepherds newcomers through every step of the opera experience, from discounted ticket pages and preparatory resources to informational programs and social events. The major effort is to cultivate a community of culturally-curious newcomers who together can share in the process of a new experience, learn collectively and, most importantly, have a fun and engaging encounter with opera.

Madison Opera: $25,000

This summer, Madison Opera will open its new home, the Madison Opera Center, which includes a rehearsal hall that can be used for expanded community programming. In order to understand how to best use this asset, Madison Opera will work with the University of Wisconsin Survey Center to conduct an extensive survey of the audience at the 12th annual Opera in the Park in July. Over 14,000 people attend Opera in the Park, but as it is a free and unticketed event, it is difficult to capture information about who is attending. The Survey Center will use its staff to gather data to determine what activities will engage those audiences in the life of the Opera Center and increase attendance at all opera performances and events, encouraging this large summer audience to become year-round attendees.

Opera on the James (Lynchburg, VA): $7,500

With its GET REAL project, Opera on the James seeks to create an innovative model for changing attitudes of urban youth concerning opera and its value as a uniquely powerful form of musical story telling. A short mixed-genre opera, GET REAL will meld updated portions of the plots from operas that are part of its mainstage season in new orchestrations with hip hop rhythms, percussion and brass, hip hop dance and spoken word. Videography will create fresh, urban visuals that are vibrant and easily portable. GET REAL will feature two duet scenes, each with an emerging opera professional and a regional actor/dancer.