Monday, March 19, 2012

First Report from Lyon's Opera Europa Conference

Last week, we heard from Production Administrator Andrea Reay, who was headed to France (along with Alicia Hall, Seattle Opera’s Technical Financial Services Coordinator) for the Opera Europa conference. Here’s another update from the road, about her first day at the conference.

Andrea and Alicia arrive in Lyon!
Photo by Andrea Reay

After a long flight, we arrived in Lyon for the first day of the Opera Europa conference. There are over 200 participants from over 26 different countries, and not only European countries--there are representatives from opera companies as far away as Hong Kong. (So I guess I shouldn't complain about our long flight!)

Opera Europa is similar to Opera America in that it is an organization that exists for the betterment of its member companies, and to serve the art form as well. The conference began with a welcome from the host company's general director, Serge Dorny. He spoke on the theme of the conference (“Sustainability at What Price?”) and focused on the commitment European opera companies have to their audiences, both culturally and from a fiscal perspective, as it relates to the subsidies many European opera companies receive from their governments. As government subsidies have decreased with the economic crisis, our need for dialogue has increased, both within the institutions and without. He encouraged everyone to gather, share ideas, and debate.

Alain-Gerard Slama then spoke on the need for opera as an art form to never lose sight of its artistic integrity. In these times of crisis it can be tempting to try and reinvent opera, to make it more “popular” or ”modern,” but Slama said opera is always modern when we view it through the lens of modern sensibilities and society. He also spoke of the need for European companies not to stay locked as strictly national and historical institutions, but rather to have cross-cultural dialogue with each other, as opera is an art form that transcends cultural barriers.

Alicia and I then took part in a technical/production forum on labor costs. Eleven opera companies answered two questions: How many performances do you perform in a year/season, and what are your labor costs of the stage technicians? These questions prompted a lively debate on relevancy, our ability to compare costs accurately, and socioeconomic differences across Europe. The session was moderated by Philippe Agid, author of a book about opera production management, which I am anxious to add to my personal library.

We are now off to a Wagner concert with Ann Peterson conducted by Kazushi Ono, followed by a 10:30 p.m. networking dinner. On a cultural note--people eat dinner late in France!

--Andrea Reay

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