Revisiting Boston

Lloyd Schwartz's recent OPERA NEWS article entitled "The Boston Conundrum" compels me to tell readers that opera is, in fact, alive and well in Boston.

Despite the lack of a purposed performance space for opera, Bostonians have supported the art form for decades, and I am proud of our loyal patrons who have enabled BLO's growth into New England's largest opera company over thirty-seven seasons. I'm also proud of Boston's enthusiasm for opera, evidenced in the community's support for opera in all forms — amateur groups, smaller ensembles and fully professional companies — which is why Boston continues to be the place where fledgling opera companies such as Odyssey Opera choose to be born. This vibrant, collaborative community is not polarized, as Mr. Schwartz suggests.

Most critics do not share Mr. Schwartz's opinions of BLO's work. The Boston Globe described BLO's Opera Annex productions as "part of the national dialogue" because of their role as entry points for new opera audiences, drawing crowds that comprise musical insiders, young hipsters and out-of-town press, clad in everything from Sunday best to jeans and a t-shirt. The New York Times observed that BLO "presents only a handful of productions a year but clearly intends them to catch the interest of operagoers around the country."

Our local music critics understand that the challenge of running an opera company demands both artistic and business sense, with Boston Globe music critic Jeremy Eichler calling BLO's efforts "a significant step toward modernization as a company without creating the perception of drastic change that might frighten traditional subscribers away." The city's collaborative spirit is made manifest in partnership programs with the Museum of Fine Arts, Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Public Library, Boston Children's Museum and Zoo New England, all of whom join BLO's efforts to take opera deeper into the community fabric for all to experience.

Boston is home to internationally renowned conservatory, college and university opera programs, and I am proud of the immense talent that both trains and lives in and around Boston. The city is a hotbed of emerging artists, and the opera community provides a platform from which these future stars can, and do, launch international careers. The artists of the community, professional or emerging, are afforded opportunities among all opera companies in town. Each of us, regardless of our size or history, is here to support the art and the artists.

I agree with Mr. Schwartz that opera companies should have artistic leadership at the executive table, and BLO is fortunate to have music director David Angus and artistic advisor John Conklin, both internationally respected artists; however, most successful artists such as David and John actively pursue their artistic careers rather than manage the business complexities of larger institutions.

The city's richness in opera is rooted in its people — their support and their optimism for this vital living art form. It turns out that what Mr. Schwartz calls a "conundrum" is actually an embarrassment of riches that has kept Boston's love affair with opera vibrant and strong — a romance that endures. spacer 

Esther Nelson,
General and Artistic Director,
Boston Lyric Opera

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