Bringing Inclusion to the Opera

Bringing Inclusion to the Opera

I’ve been to one opera in my life, but I never returned.

I shared with Opera America conference attendees why last year in a Q&A with it’s CEO, Marc Scorca, after a keynote about inclusion marketing tenets.

My reasons were linked to a feeling of not belonging. Anyone who looked like me was handing me a playbill or wiping up in the restrooms. Nothing wrong with these jobs, but I didn’t see a reflection of me or my experience in the opera house that night. But I learned about the great Leontine Price and Marion Anderson in school and absolutely love Kathleen Battle and hearing her soaring soprano voice. So this art form was something I knew people like me had conquered…at least on the stage.

So it is ironic that soon, I’ll be St Louis bound for my first meeting as a member of the board of directors for Opera America. I’ll be digging in to see how I can help bring inclusion to the opera, advising around culture, marketing and communications as key drivers.

Let me be clear–I am indeed a singer–mezzo soprano and classically-trained. This was also revealed in that post-keynote exchange with Scorca which is how I find myself at this juncture.

I’ll happily find my Messiah score any holiday for a metroplex sing along and have done just that. But I am not an opera singer. I’ve sung professionally, but focused on pop, R&B and gospel. In high school and college, it was all classical (Requiem, anyone?), show tunes (Purlie, The Wiz) and in grad school on the board of directors and singing with God’s Property. Separately, I spent some time under Kirk Franklin–before he was “KIRK” when he directed the campus’ Gospel Word of Truth student-led choir.

My NABJ family knows that I brought music to its annual convention for several years in a a row in the early 2000s, where an intersection of singing journalists and communicators learned songs from national recording artists like David Frazier (I Need You to Survive). We’d rehearse all week to ultimately open for the likes of Donnie McClurkin and other gospel stars for its Sunday Gospel Brunch finale on Sunday.

It is safe to say that I would lay down and give up the ghost if there was no music in my life.

Would I die without opera? That’s the issue.

So being a student of culture has led to the data-driven insight of how music, entertainment and the arts are cultural passion points of every multicultural segment and even the masses–and ultimately a GREAT unifier. It follows that my interest with Opera America is helping another industry evolve and bring people together, having a deep background in the performing arts and well, marketing and communications. It is the perfect collision of my passions.

The opera audience is aging and it is a monolith… with the exception of a thriving LGBTQ community, a group that understands under representation, and is more than ready to usher in a more inclusive experience.

How do we get the millennial audience, the most multicultural adult generation, to consider opera, or even plan to lure in Gen Z while not alienating the 50+ audience? How do we navigate ticket cost considerations? How do we bring the opera to THEM leveraging streaming technologies and social media components? Can opera get its groove and capture a cool factor?

This is the challenge before us.

Any of you opera goers? How many of you are NOT, but would if you felt you belonged? What is the first barrier to inclusion you’d identify in the opera house experience? I want to hear from you!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Follow me on Twitter if you want to chop it up more @lmichellepr.

#marketing #communication #opera #conferences #performingarts #pop #gospel#cultureiskey

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