During last June’s conference in Prague, Vik Leyten of La Monnaie/De Munt expertly moderated a lively debate about the relative roles of marketing and dramaturgy. Advocates of both métiers argued the respective supremacy of their disciplines, rather as do Flamand and Olivier in Strauss’s Capriccio. And, just as the conclusion of that composer’s swansong is that you need both music and words to make opera, so the lesson became clear that dramaturgs and marketeers must work hand-in-hand to educate and attract audiences.
The lesson of integration applies equally to education within an opera company. Graham Vick used to argue that opera companies should not have separate education departments, because education was at the core of a company’s mission. Programming, interpretation, communication are all part of the process of encouraging people to learn to like opera.
Hungarian State Opera, who are hosting our autumn conference in Budapest, last year created a physical embodiment of this principle of integration when it opened its ambitious and extensive Eiffel Art Studios. This converted railway depot now houses a studio theatre; rehearsal and recording studios; production making facilities for set-building, painting and costumes; education and exhibition spaces; and a young artist programme. Most days, but especially at weekends, the building is teeming with young people learning to engage with opera and dance. Opera Europa members will be able to experience the thrill of the place and its high-ceilinged hall at the conference party on Friday 21 October; and to explore it further within the programme for Saturday 22 October. We welcome this chance to integrate Education personnel as an essential element of a full conference.
INCLUSION is the central column among the three pillars of our Next Stage initiative. It is probably the hardest to erect, and is therefore the over-arching theme of the autumn conference. Diversity and equality embrace a profusion of aims: ethnicity; gender; physical and social disadvantage. We want to encourage honest and free discussion of barriers to inclusion, and to share those initiatives and actions which are beginning to break down those barriers. It is easy, also probably truthful, to say that change will require time. But, unless opera companies make progress on inclusion this year and next, it will become too late to rescue. Our inspirational contributors may chart a course, but each theatre has a responsibility to formulate its own action plan.
On either side of the focus on Inclusion in Budapest between 20 and 22 October, we are convening events devoted to the other two pillars of Next Stage.
GREEN PHILANTHROPY is the Sustainability challenge as we seek to integrate our fundraisers into raising money for socially and environmentally aware projects, in Barcelona between 27 and 29 September.
DIGITAL ADVANCE will be the aim of our gathering in Amsterdam on 17 and 18 November, when we want to open doors for both experts and laymen together to devise ways to employ technology to improve performance and accessibility.
Our autumn programme offers members a choice of times and topics, which we hope will appeal both to specialist groups and to General, Artistic and Business Directors.