Jean Nicholson, 7 June 2015


Amalgamated with Catherine Jenkins question… - participants – feel free to amend or add to these notes!

Jean called the session to explore three key points:

1. the art doesn’t really exist until it meets the audience

2. we need to nurture and grow them because unless they are prepared to pay – tickets, tax or donations - opera won’t exist in its current form

3. some of the existing audience is the problem – too clubby and competitive with knowledge

All present agreed that engagement and exchange in a live performance is essential for great opera to happen. The magic of the shared experience in which the audiences have magical influence over the performance – for good and bad!

Mention of the influence of the Claque (according to Wiki – ‘an organised body of professional applauders’ and booing. Audiences at different opera houses have different ways of expressing – not much booing in UK but lots in Germany.

Example offered of working on the small scale from a company creating their work around the format of a meal. Support from designers/craft-makers with product placement as a kind of sponsorship with items available for sale to audience members. Partnerships with food industry too. Offering new experience to new audiences.

Another example spoke of opera of place to promote engagement. Local story and local music whether in Glasgow or in Shetland which then influences the work created. It connects directly with the audience.

Open up the work for people to access and then they can choose whether they engage. Talk to people, be hospitable.

Don’t be embarrassed that people don’t know what to do or what the etiquette is – can’t expect comfort from the unfamiliar BUT you can make people feel welcome.

Should we encourage audiences to be more forgiving and generous of people who don’t necessarily know the opera code? Can we encourage loyal audiences to be more welcoming?

Organisations can be more connected to their local community – eg Young Vic – local people employed and feel part of the bigger project. Pulling in rather than servicing a community

So much opera is based in institutions whose maintenance can sometimes eclipse the focus on the work. Is the sense of opera as an ‘industry’ getting in the way? Are we creating a “profession’ now unrealistically crowded, particularly for young singers? Are audiences more customers than co-creators?


Audience, Engagement, new audiences, audience, open door, new experiences, in kind sponsorship, local story, hospitable, opera institutions, access to opera, product placement, engagement