For Immediate Release
Contact: Patricia Kiernan Johnson;


Building Opera Audiences Grants Encourage Experimental, Innovative and Creative Audience-Building Activities

April 5, 2016 (New York) — OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce it has awarded $300,000 in grants to eight opera companies through the fourth year of its Building Opera Audiences program, generously funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. This grant program seeks to support the efforts of North American opera companies to build informed, enthusiastic audiences for opera through innovative marketing projects. Forty-nine applications totaling over $2.1 million in requests were submitted, demonstrating how important audience development is to opera companies today.

The eight organizations receiving 2016 Building Opera Audiences grants are Chicago Opera Theater, Los Angeles Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre (Detroit, MI), Opera on Tap (Brooklyn, NY), Opera Philadelphia, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, San Diego Opera and San Francisco Opera.

"As cultural and entertainment options continue to grow, opera companies face increased competition for audiences," stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. "Awards from the Building Opera Audiences grant program provide opera companies with support to experiment with innovative projects that can inform the work of the entire field."

The fourth cycle of Building Opera Audiences grants features a diverse array of initiatives that seek to increase first-time attendance and improve retention rates among current audiences. These include activities to overcome perceived barriers to attendance, projects that take advantage of technology and multimedia opportunities, efforts to engage underrepresented audience segments and events that bring opera into the community.

Each funded project will be documented and evaluated throughout its lifespan. The results will be shared with the entire field so other organizations can learn from and adapt projects in their communities.

Recipients of Building Opera Audiences grants were selected by an independent panel of industry leaders, including Jim Atkinson, director of programs and services, ArtPride New Jersey (Burlington, NJ); Colleen Flanigan, chief marketing officer, Auditorium Theatre (Chicago, IL); Gary Murphy, public relations consultant (Los Angeles, CA); Ann Owens, consultant (Atlanta, GA); and Nick Renkoski, creative director, Happy Medium (Des Moines, IA).

OPERA America’s Building Opera Audiences grant program is made possible through the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.


Breaking the Walls Initiative
The Breaking the Walls initiative is a comprehensive, multi-prong approach to opening doors to new audiences and creating a cohesive network among patrons for the opera. The initiative includes a young professionals component that leverages relationships with 10 other intimate local opera and music companies (Opera Underground); a series of curated adjacent cultural events, including film, dialogue and culinary activities (Viewpoints); and a transformation of each step of the engagement with Chicago Opera Theater’s mainstage productions (the Audience Experience). Throughout, Chicago Opera Theater will be mapping inter-audience relationships and finding ways to build connections between individual patrons, as well as between individuals and the opera company.
DTLA Opera
DTLA Opera is an innovative audience-building initiative that uses a life-size, mobile LED interactive touch screen to introduce the art form with the power of full-scale mainstage productions. Embracing the renaissance in arts and culture in Downtown Los Angeles, LA Opera will introduce the art form to the new, younger demographic that lives downtown and the many people who work in the area. The touch screen will travel to iconic and popular indoor and outdoor DTLA locations, giving users the unique opportunity to watch and listen to selections from opera performances, play opera-themed games and learn about opera. Loaded with high-quality audio-visual content, the screen will provide control of sound and visual quality in diverse environments, ensure brand consistency and enable unlimited "performances" with reduced costs.
MOT Ambassadors
Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) will develop a new community engagement program, the MOT Ambassadors, to help build new opera audiences. Drawing inspiration from docent models long used by museums, MOT will cultivate, train and empower volunteers to contribute to audience development efforts at the grassroots community level. The program will provide volunteers with the knowledge, resources and institutional support needed to represent MOT effectively in numerous communities across Michigan. Ambassadors will leverage their own passion for opera to help introduce the art form to diverse audiences and build new regional and statewide relationships. Volunteers will advocate the distinctive needs and cultural interests of their own communities to ensure appealing and rewarding experiences that help generate new interest in opera and increased ticket sales.
OPERA ON TAP (Brooklyn, NY) |
The Parksville Murders: An Episodic Virtual Reality Horror Opera
Based on the campy horror movies of the 1980s, The Parksville Murders is an episodic opera film created for virtual reality (VR). Shot on location in the hamlet of Parksville, New York, the story revolves around a group of sorority sisters (all sopranos) who head to Parksville for a weekend getaway, only to be categorically slaughtered by mysterious watchers in the woods. The Parksville Murders will come to life through partnerships between Opera on Tap, members of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and Beaverkill Studio. With VR, the possibilities for powerful, compelling storytelling in film suddenly seem boundless. Now imagine merging this with opera — an art form that over centuries has accrued an arsenal of diverse storytelling tools through its marriage of sound, language, movement, theater and visual art.

Libretto by Jerre Dye. Music by Kamala Sankaram. Direction by Cari Ann Shim Sham. A ROADWORKS project.
Opera Philadelphia Festival Mobile App
As mobile devices rapidly become primary tools in consumer interactions, Opera Philadelphia seeks to create a mobile experience that matches modern expectations and engages audiences attending O, Opera Philadelphia’s 12-day urban opera festival debuting in September 2017. Opera Philadelphia seeks to create a mobile application that will enable attendees to navigate their festival experience through personalized information and services, including event scheduling and notifications, dynamic mapping, interactive multimedia content, social media integration, and hospitality partner access. The app will enable attendees to have an unparalleled experience by supporting new ways to enjoy original Opera Philadelphia content and by bringing a cohesive community overlay to a festival footprint that spreads across a major urban center.
"Bring the Kids!" Matinees
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) will launch a family-focused pilot program offering child care during Saturday matinees throughout its 2017 festival season. At these matinees, the company will provide children with a fun, interactive educational experience inspired by the opera their parents are seeing. This will enable both parents and children to enjoy age-appropriate opera experiences simultaneously — experiences that they will be able to share with one another after the performance. Through this new initiative, OTSL envisions building a culture of family participation at the opera, integrating opera into early arts education and ultimately helping to overcome one of the most practical barriers to participation for parents of young children.
Opera on Track
Heavy traffic patterns and transportation limitations, especially for seniors, have impacted San Diego Opera (SDO) attendance. The company now sees the need to attract new and returning ticket buyers to the possibility of traveling to the opera via the local light rail system. SDO’s new audience-building program, Opera on Track, will present opera performances by young artists along three light rail lines in order to enhance interest and market its fall production, Rossini’s La Cenerentola. These performances will take place at or near selected light rail stations, targeting neighborhoods where SDO’s impact hasn’t been felt in the past. This initiative will be strengthened by creative partnerships with local private and civic organizations.
SF Opera Lab Pop-Ups
SF Opera Lab, the experimental programming arm of San Francisco Opera (SFO), will host a series of "Pop-Ups" at unique venues around the Bay Area. These Pop-Ups will allow the company to diversify its access points to the "opera curious," many of whom are young professionals, introducing them to the art form in a casual way. Pop-Ups aim to break down the perceptual barriers of opera through informal, short, artist-driven performances that take place in hip, alternative venues. Tickets will be offered at a low price point, and venues will be selected to expand the organization’s reach beyond the city limits. Pop-Ups aim to broaden the reach of SFO beyond its mainstay venues, eradicate the perceptual barriers around opera and provide an accessible entry point to the art form.

For more information about OPERA America, its many programs and the National Opera Center, visit @OPERAAmerica

About OPERA America
OPERA America ( leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.
  • Artistic services help opera companies and creative and performing artists to improve the quality of productions and increase the creation and presentation of North American works.
  • Information, technical and administrative services to opera companies reflect the need for strengthened leadership among staff, trustees and volunteers.
  • Education, audience development and community services are designed to enhance all forms of opera appreciation.

Founded in 1970, OPERA America's worldwide membership network includes nearly 200 Company Members, 300 Associate and Business Members, 2,000 Individual Members and more than 15,000 subscribers to the association's electronic news service. In response to the critical need for suitable audition, rehearsal and recording facilities, OPERA America opened the first-ever NATIONAL OPERA CENTER ( in September 2012 in New York City. With a wide range of artistic and administrative services in a purpose-built facility, OPERA America is dedicated to increasing the level of excellence, creativity and effectiveness across the field.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund, a growing endowment that allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. Since its inception, OPERA America has made grants of nearly $13 million to assist companies with the expenses associated with the creation and development of new works.