Viewpoint: The Long View
This issue of OPERA NEWS takes a look at some of the people we feel will be increasingly important during opera's next decade. The list of names that we have chosen isn't meant to be exhaustive or all-inclusive; in a field as well stocked with talent as opera, there were literally scores of possibilities for this issue. We chose to concentrate on individuals whose artistic and professional progress had caught our attention in the past few seasons — and whose exceptional talent, ambition and energy have allowed them to thrive in a field that will always be rich in challenges. These are men and women who have come a long way in the past decade: for example, in 2002, the majority of the singers featured in this issue had not yet made their professional debuts.
OPERA NEWS readers are already acquainted with most of these artists, about half of whom have been featured in the magazine's "Sound Bites" section. Four of them — Michael Fabiano, Angela Meade, Alek Shrader and Amber Wagner — were among the singers in The Audition, Susan Froemke's documentary about the final round of competition in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 2007. (Another singer in that documentary, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, is featured in this month's "Sound Bites.") And all of them have been covered in our "In Review" section, from high-profile assignments at the Met, such as Angela Meade's Elvira in this past season's Ernani, to breakout student performances by Alek Shrader and Isabel Leonard at Juilliard or Anthony Roth Costanzo at Manhattan School of Music.
There's an essential part of opera's next wave that isn't covered in the set of profiles that begins on page 16 — the audience. Just as singers, conductors, stage directors and impresarios yield the stage to a new generation, so does the audience. The tricky thing in an art form such as opera is that a committed audience member has a longer "career," if that is the correct word, than most performers. I am now part of the demographic known as "older audiences." I don't know how it happened, or when, but I finally accepted the label when I realized that I started going to the opera before any of our five August cover subjects had been born. (Please don't be depressed on my account; I am actually still quite spry.) That said, I have no intention of stopping my consumption of opera any time soon: I still find its possibilities exhilarating. There's always something — or someone — I haven't yet heard or seen, or a way of presenting a piece that I had never considered.
The question of how to attract new audiences remains an urgent one, especially with the astonishing number of entertainment options available to consumers. The Metropolitan Opera has devoted considerable time and money to audience-development initiatives, among them innovative content-delivery vehicles such as The Met: Live in HD and Met Opera on Demand, as well as a popular rush-ticket program. Not every company has the Met's world-class resources, of course, but some smaller presenters are applying liberal doses of imagination to the problem. In the case of Le Poisson Rouge, the informal, affordable Manhattan concert venue covered on page 41, it seems to be working. Le Poisson Rouge knows that the first way to attract audiences is to make them feel welcome.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.
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