A couple of days ago Joseph So interviewed Alexander Neef about various aspects of the current situation in a session organised by the IRCPA. Inevitably and appropriately it focussed heavily on the challenges facing performers; especially those at the beginning of their careers, but there were a couple or three things not related to that that really caught my attention.
The first was around the theme of “what does the opera world look like if and when we get back in the theatre?” One part of this question that really wasn’t addressed was “will it be the same audience?” Given the demographics of the current viral epidemic I really wonder whether the oldest section of the audience will come back; at least in the short/medium term. Which is probably linked to a question that was addressed which was “will the financial impact of the crisis make companies program more conservatively?” Alexander handled this pretty diplomatically (surprise!) by answering (more or less) “if we don’t make art, we cease to have a purpose” and saying there was a limit to how many times one could program standard rep, though to be honest I’ve never detected any such limit at the COC. My guess is that we see an intensification of the trend already apparent under the pressure of long term decline in ticket sales. That’s to say one or two marquee productions a season buttressed with unchallenging revivals of the Operabase top 20 but we shall see. That’s been a formula that has, by and large, appealed to the traditional audience but if (big if) future audiences skew younger it may merely make things worse.
The other comment that caught my attention was one by Joseph. He said that, contrary to his expectations, he wasn’t binge watching the web streams now available from houses around the world. He wasn’t watching much at all. I’ve been having some similar experiences. I’m actually finding it very hard to watch opera though the intimidating pile of video disks for review sitting on my desk rather forces my hand! I think the issue is that watching good opera is an intensely emotionally demanding experience and right now I’m well down in the emotional spoons department. When I do watch something as powerful as Robert Carsen’s production of Idomeneo I have to take it in fairly short bursts or I crack up. It’s much easier to watch endless reruns of old cricket matches. I wonder how we are all going to cope when we can once again experience the much more intense experience of live performance?
Anyway, it was an interesting interview and I think it’s going to be archived a ircpa.net but it’s not available at time of writing.