#Flashback Friday: “Exploiting” Opera Is the First Step to Making People Care

Happy Friday! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie 2010 post from Jim: “Exploiting” Opera Is the First Step to Making People Care.

In the U.K., there’s a show called Popstar to Operastar. True to its name, it’s a reality show about well-known pop stars trying their hand at opera and being eliminated one at a time, Dancing with the Stars-style.

Here in America, DWTS has not only been a popular show, but it’s also gotten people interested in dancing again. Right here in Pasadena, two or three dance studios for adults have opened up since DWTS became a hit. If you were interested in getting people dancing and promoting the genre of dance, you could hardly order up a better piece of marketing support.

A popular TV show about opera could help break this stereotype, no? Photo Credit: “Lego Opera Singer,” © 2013 Ted Drake, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license.

Part of the appeal of DWTS (I’m not a watcher, but many are) is that you get a sense that a regular schlub like you could do some semblance of what the skilled, elegant, polished professionals do with a modicum of effort. You know you’ll never be one of them, but from a distance, maybe you’d look like you’d know what you were doing.

Couldn’t opera use the same thing? Wouldn’t it be nice to have tens of millions of people humming arias they heard on TV the night before? Isn’t this just the kind of cultural relevancy that the opera business can use and build on?

Apparently not. Famous (well, opera famous) Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans thinks that instead of being helpful, the show is “exploiting opera.”

Say wa? Do tell, oh person almost no one’s ever heard of until you commented on this show:

“Being an opera star is working in an opera house where you spend six weeks in a rehearsal room planning for the production. Opera singers are like athletes — you have to have stamina. It takes years of hard graft and dedication to become an opera singer. The series will give the wrong impression.”

The series will give the wrong impression … hmm. You mean, as opposed to not being on TV at all? As opposed to no one paying attention except the already-existing hard core of fans?

This is just the problem. A comment like this reinforces the belief in the mainstream consumer’s mind that you look down your nose at them, and this kind of arrogance is what they’ll experience if they should ever venture toward opera.

Fortunately, I don’t think this is the norm in opera, and several other singers thought the show was great.

Which is good, because opera is a great form of art that can be really, really entertaining. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Popstar to Operastar come to the U.S.

And it reminds me of Terry Teachout’s advice to opera marketers. He wants to put a sign in the office of every opera company that says, “MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY DON’T LIKE OPERA. YOU WON’T CHANGE THEIR MINDS BY TELLING THEM THEY SHOULD.”

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