"Not for me?" Not so fast!
So here’s the conundrum. 49.5% of millennials report feeling that opera and symphony are “not for me.” Yet they make up the largest share of visitors to cultural organizations and are likely to grow as a percentage of patrons in future years. Much more likely to explore new experiences, go out regularly for entertainment, enjoy live music and appreciate spectacle.
As Christine Goerke, the Long-Island-born Brünnhilde who is taking on performing the entire Ring cycle at the Met this spring observes, “People are always trying to talk about how to make opera more accessible. And I feel like the way to make is more accessible is to let folks know it is accessible.”
Case in point: Opera North’s Summerfest and the glimmer of bringing a Cornish Colony arts renaissance (already well under way) back to the Upper Valley.
Last year, the second outing at Blow-Me-Down Farm (our collaboration with the National Park Service to create a national “park for the arts” on the Beaman Farm that’s part of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park) drew sell-out crowds. Including the elusive demographic of singles and young families. As the writer for New Hampshire Magazine – who described being “blown away” by the performance of “Singers and Swingers” she attended – observed, “Under the Blow-Me-Down big top, a little boy with a ringside seat doesn’t realize he is the face of what’s possible in the 2020s.”
Suddenly, that future is now for Opera North and we happily accept the responsibility for continuing to surprise and delight our audiences. That reputation – and the demand from the new audiences we’re all striving to meet – is built on a solid foundation of excellence. 37 years of discovering new voices and musicians who go on to professional careers, of imaginative staging and world class set design and production (drawing not only from the studios of Paris, but supplying demand in New York and Boston from our own Scene Shop in Windsor Vermont), and of introducing contemporary pieces to New England audiences (Scalia & Ginsburg last October and Glory Denied this fall).
Summerfest 2019 wraps Copeland’s “Hoedown” and other familiar American songs around Resident Artist voices and professional circus performers once again, then brings on the Pirates of Penzance in the round under the big top. Verdi’s Macbeth at the Lebanon Opera House gives young audiences an accessible taste of “Game of Thrones” drama.
Market analysts say young audiences want ‘quality, authenticity and innovation.” At the most impressive level it’s what Jason Eagan whose Ars Nova brought us Lin Manuel Miranda and the musical based on War and Peace, describes as “the thing – the person or show – that’s completely mesmerizing… and [figuring] out what we can do with that.”
We hope that Blow-Me-Down Farm is our Hamilton, our sandbox as General Director Evans Haile calls it, where Opera North can present our unique mashups of familiar stories told in totally unexpected ways that our audience feels is for them. Experiences they can’t wait to magnify by sharing them with their friends. We want to join Eagan, “three steps ahead of the culture,” blowing through the “not for me” stereotypes while leading a joyous line back to a place in Cornish NH when once and future pasts of art, music and delight intertwine.