Mainstage operas, Opera Annex, Signature Series, Music!Words!Opera!, etc.
Arts, Culture & Humanities
- Population Served:
Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)
BLO performs a season of three mainstage operas each year at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre. There are five performances of each, along with a final dress rehearsal which high school students are invited to attend for free. The Company also presents an “Opera Annex” production each season held in a “found space” specifically chosen for the opera.
The Company’s upcoming 2012/13 Season is comprised of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with an Opera Annex production of James MacMillan's Clemency, a piece co-commissioned by BLO, to be performed at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in Boston. The Season showcases BLO's mission devoted to presenting the full range of operatic repertoire.
BLO also presents a “Signature Series” in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This four-part series includes multi-disciplinary explorations of the opera productions presented each season.
The Company recently added the highly regarded curriculum Music! Words! Opera! to its educational offerings. Designed for children in grades K-12, Music! Words! Opera! trains classroom teachers to lead students step-by-step through the process of producing an original opera. Music! Words! Opera! is open to all public and private school teachers and teaching artists in Greater Boston. The program continues throughout the school year, as teachers using the curriculum have access to BLO's resources for support, including in-school visits, attendance at dress rehearsals. and advocacy assistance within the schools. At the end of the year, classrooms perform their own creations on the stage of the prestigious Wheelock Family Theatre.
Program Long-Term Success:
After Esther Nelson’s arrival at the Company as General & Artistic Director in 2008, BLO has made transformational changes to the way it operates, including audience building through the new Opera Annex program in alternative spaces (sold-out performances and 90% of capacity in just the second year); a new Signature Series performance and lecture program in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (steadily increasing attendance); and a boost in new productions, collaborations, and artistic focus. Recent audience development initiatives have demonstrated that BLO is capable of attracting more diverse audiences to the art form. These include new student subscriptions, high attendance at free community performances (11,000 at the most recent outdoor concert, the highest attendance on record for that annual free performance), and sold out Opera Annex performances. Over the past three years there has been a 10% increase in contributions, including a significant percentage from foundations and the Board of Directors. The number of education and artistic collaborations has amplified as well, in depth and number. There has been a boost in free attendance from 4,000 people to 13,293; this is largely spurred by an increase of attendance at the free annual summer outdoor concert. The 2012 production of The Barber of Seville was the most successful in single ticket sales for a five-performance run in BLO history. Press attention has magnified. There has been an increase in average press reviews per production since 2008.
Program Short-Term Success:
By strengthening its fiscal viability (generating a modest surplus in three of the past four years), Boston Lyric Opera has become one of very few opera companies to have expanded its production season in recent years. BLO is now presenting four productions to the public, including Opera Annex. By altering existing productions into new adaptations, BLO has created new artistic output that can be rented to other companies, creating a new revenue stream. BLO has successfully met the goals in years one and two of the Envision Opera Challenge, an initiative to raise $4 million over 4 years for Opera Annex and new artistic initiatives. Meanwhile, Opera Annex has provided the structure upon which to build a following for lesser known and rarely performed contemporary works in an adventurous repertoire by allowing the lower cost (1/3 of mainstage) to provide greater freedom to choose lesser known operas. Each new production brings a creative energy to the city, as directors, costume designers, lighting and set designers, come to Boston to work out the creative vision for the production. These Boston premiers bring attention to the city from the press and internationalopera community, resulting in higher public visibility for BLO.
Program Success Monitored by:
: BLO Board and staff use various methods of self-assessment including The Balanced Scorecard that offers a comprehensive, top-down view of organizational performance with a strong focus on vision and strategy. In these challenging economic times the Company is focusing on continuing to be a learning organization, measuring the effectiveness of everything it does and making changes as needed. BLO measures traffic on its website, ticket trends, and sends out online questionnaires to profile and measure the ticket buyers’ attitudes and satisfaction levels, and backs those results up with rigorous qualitative and quantitative research.
Program Success Examples:
1) BLO continued the third year of Opera Annex, a program launched in 2009 to present lesser-known chamber opera in alternative spaces throughout Boston at lower ticket prices, in order to attract new audiences to the art form. During the past three seasons, Opera Annex productions sold out a majority of their performances, and during only the second year reached 90% of house capacity during the critically-acclaimed production of Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis. According to BLO market research, 15% of Opera Annex ticketholders have never purchased a ticket to BLO before, as compared with lower averages for other productions. The program also attracts younger and more economically diverse audiences than other productions, indicating this program successfully attracts significantly new and more diverse audiences to opera.
2) The Company began a new partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2009 called Signature Series, a 1 ½ hour lecture/performance program at the Museum discovering each opera of the season through an interdisciplinary exploration that infuses visual arts, objects from the MFA collection, film, literature, theater, and other music. Guest speakers and performances offer new ways of looking at each opera, followed by a reception offering guests a chance to meet singers and artistic staff. In its first three seasons the program’s attendance has steadily increased, it has drawn attention from media and BLO’s audiences, and attracted sponsors as well as praise from attendees who call the program a “wonderful sampler” and a “good way to try opera for the first time.”
3) Boston Lyric Opera’s donors, board members, and constituents have shown their commitment to BLO’s artistic vision through a number of ways. BLO’s Board of Directors formed the Vision Fund and raised $1,150,000 to support new productions, contemporary works, and Opera Annex productions. In 2010, BLO received a $1 million four-year challenge grant pledge, the Envision Opera Challenge, to support Opera Annex, new productions at BLO, and the expanded artistic vision of the Company. This challenge has a $4 million goal, and calls upon other foundations and donors to help Boston Lyric Opera achieve this fundraising initiative by 2014, in order to secure the future of diverse operatic repertoire in New England for years to come. Midway through the four years, BLO is on track to reach the full goal.