Sunday, June 16, 2024

Opera For All Voices (Call for proposals)

One of the biggest issues opera companies face today is how to connect to today’s audiences. Opera has a very long and elaborate history and a reputation that often proceeds itself, contributing to stereo-typical notions of elitism, close-mindedness, antiquated ideas, and excessive cost.

Many theatres in the United States have realized the importance of Facing The Issue head on and have started brainstorming ideas and introducing new programs to help counter the illusion that has been created. This is assuming, of course, that opera’s reputation really is an illusion…

One initiative that has recently caught my attention is Opera for All Voices (OFAV). This is a joint program which hopes to commission operas that meet the audience on a number of different levels. The grand idea is that the chosen works will be stories for today, and be representative of everyone. Besides accessibility, there is another interesting element, the operas must be low-budget, shoestring productions. The irony of their request is glaring, but nonetheless valid. All I could think of when I read that point was, of course, only the canonic, non-accessible works can be grand and expensive. It’s the accessible commissions that must be budget. Perhaps I’m reading to far into it? Who knows. The OFAV idea seems wonderful, but these small details continue to trip me up.

“Opera for All Voices was born out of the need for works with outstanding artistic quality that can still reach all audiences via both accessibility of subject material and manageable budgets. The project also addresses the serious need to bring new audiences to opera by commissioning important works that speak to all voices, designed with modern attention spans in mind, and aimed at breaking down pre-conceived notions that opera is antiquated or elitist.”

The project is a consortium* of the Lyric Opera of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Minnesota Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, Sarasota Opera and Seattle Opera.

*A consortium is an association of groups, companies, or individuals all working towards a common goal, in case you were wondering.

There is a wonderful promo video that patches together the whimsical, understanding and thoughtful ideas of the composers, librettists, and administrators involved in OFAV. I recommend you watch it and leave a comment below. I would love to know whether you, as a potential audience member, feel included in their vision.

[Opera for All Voices – YouTube]

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Previous winners:
2019 Commission – The Sante Fe Opera
Augusta Read Thomas, Composer and Jason Kim, librettist.

2020 Commission – San Francisco Opera
Laura Kaminsky, Composer and Kimberly Reed, Librettist.

Applications are currently open for the 2021 commission. You can find out more here: [Santa Fe Opera] and here: [Santa Fe Opera].


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