Tuesday, November 9, 2010
News of VO's Lillian Alling, social media and education initiatives reached UK shores last month.
Assistant Editor Clare Wiley of Gig Magazine got to speak with General Director James W. Wright on the happenings at Vancouver Opera.
In October, the Vancouver Opera (VO) premiered Lillian Alling, a newly commissioned work by composer John Estacio and librettist John Murrell. During the upcoming season, the company will perform Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor,Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, and Verdi’s La Traviata.
"We want to do a post-World War II opera every year,"explains general director James W. Wright. "It’s a risk but it’s important to do more contemporary work."
This contemporary approach is consistent with how the opera markets itself, having invested time and effort in social media over the last couple of years."We were one of the first companies to employ a fulltime social media manager," says Wright. As well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter, the company provides blogs and podcasts for each production.The ‘Opera Live’ section of its website hosts videos of rehearsals, interviews and audience reaction. The site even includes manga comic strips representing each show. Wright reveals that the opera will soon be launching an online tool to allow people to see a view of the stage from the seat they’re planning to buy. He emphasises the importance of targeting spectators through new technology. "Our Facebook fans come at a reduced price and have a reception," he notes. "We want to show them that opera is still meaningful to their contemporary lives. We get people in the door and they tend to stick."
Wright observes, however, that while social media is valuable in terms of forging relationships and spreading the word, it will take time to judge its effectiveness in terms of sales. "We want to continue pushing the social media envelope as much as we can," he says."It’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t work but if you stuck your head in the door you would be pleased to see it’s by no means all grey hair."
Working with an annual budget of CA$9.5m (€6.7m), another driving force of the VO is its educational work,providing five separate schemes for students across British Columbia. One of these is Music! Words! Opera!, a programme that provides free training for teachers to produce an opera with their students who come up with a story and music, as well as design the set. According to Wright, this particular project is very popular, reaching children in around 23 schools. Wright says the VO would like to develop projects for high schools, where the schemes attract fewer pupils. "We work in certain high schools but we don’t reach the numbers we’d like to," he says.