Opera Europa was established in its present independent form 20 years ago. At that time it had 36 members; today it has more than 200. Then as now, its purpose was to strengthen opera and the companies which perform it by means of mutual support and collective action. The stated mission of its founders ‘to become the leading service organisation for professional opera companies and opera festivals in Europe’ has been fulfilled.
Like the European Union, Opera Europa is a peace project. It encourages constructive dialogue among its diverse membership from more than 40 countries. It is dedicated to the belief that culture can be a force for good in people’s lives.
During the last 19 years, Opera Europa has convened 38 conferences, which have been hosted by 35 member companies from 22 different countries within Europe. Those conferences have been supplemented by as many again smaller gatherings of specialist forums. In addition, it has launched collaborative initiatives such as The Opera Platform and OperaVision; the Opera Management Course to train young professionals; the World Opera Forum and World Opera Day; Operabook and now Next Stage. Credit for these achievements belongs principally with member companies who have willingly pooled resources for the common good.
But this is no time for complacency. Opera’s relationship with its audience suffered a severe blow from the onset of the pandemic more than two years ago. That is why recovery and regeneration of the audience is the theme of the forthcoming conference in Prague. Then this year has been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, which threatens the validity of the European peace project that is fundamental to our existence. Such challenges demand fresh solutions.
Even before the pandemic struck, I had advised the Board of Opera Europa to start thinking about succession planning. That was understandably put on hold while we focused on new methods of ensuring communication during lockdown, but the Board resumed its discussion at last autumn’s Bergamo conference and subsequently in Brussels. They have outlined a job description, published here, and will conduct recruitment this summer. For my part, I am content to fit in with the timescale needed to secure my successor.
Meanwhile, I am confident that Opera Europa is in the safe hands of our stable and dedicated team whom members have come to trust: Audrey, Aline, Susanna, Célia; and at OperaVision Luke and Matthieu.