Sarah Coburn as Rosina in The Barber of Seville.
After all, opera is a lot more accessible these days than it used to be not too long ago, mostly because technology makes so many historic and current performances available. Opera fans being somewhat on the fanatical side, partisans of one singer, composer, conductor or house will upload whatever they can find on YouTube, and the site has turned into a rich trove of operatic treasure.
And the Metropolitan Opera has been doing its bit for opera by doing the broadcast simulcasts at movie houses on select Saturdays, a wonderful experience that has allowed patrons to see some fascinating productions from a seat that’s much better than one most of them could actually get at the house.
But opera companies are facing the same economic constraints as every other arts organization, which means outreach is even more critical.
Later this month, Florida Grand is planning its Family Fun Day, two short events built around the company’s third production, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The Feb. 27 event includes craft projects, wig and costume demonstrations and an “instrument petting zoo,” according to an FGO news release. There will be music, too, all of it designed to implant the idea of opera as a special kind of theater that also is a normal, fun thing to do.
Up north, the Palm Beach Opera is planning several outreach events around its upcoming production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. This Saturday, the company’s Young Artists Program will offer a one-hour version with piano of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, one of the three operas – the other two are Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro — the composer wrote with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.
And after the first performance on Feb. 27, members of the PBO’s Overtures club are invited to a cast party where they can mingle with the singers, another activity that helps demystify opera and make it less remote for newcomers to the art form.
All of these activities strike me as good ideas. It’s much easier to gain monetary support for opera if it’s seen not only as something usual in our daily cultural lives, but after a while, necessary for its health.
South Florida is fortunate in that it has several good arts museums, classical music ensembles, and opera companies. They are part of our everyday lives, and they need to stay that way, which is why efforts like Family Fun Day and Opera in One Hour are so important.
No one who’s covered the arts here (or most other places, really) can have failed to notice how often a single generous person will have been responsible for underwriting an entire performance of an opera or a season of concerts. It’s likely that the arts always will need the help of someone like that.
And it’s also quite possible that an 8-year-old who shows up later this month to learn for the first time about an oboe and who Gioachino Rossini was might one day be helping make sure South Florida continues to have opera.