Before the pandemic struck, the Board of Opera Europa had accepted an invitation from the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo to host the autumn 2020 conference at the renovated Teatro Donizetti between 19 and 21 November. As is well known, Bergamo is recovering from being at the epicentre of the outbreak in Italy. It would have been a powerful symbol of renewal to hold an international event there this year. Artistic Director Francesco Micheli and his team have been working hard to offer both a completed theatre and an attractive programme. Nonetheless, audiences in the theatre will be restricted by public health measures.
Under these circumstances, we have together decided that it is preferable to postpone holding the conference in Bergamo until the following year, when we anticipate that it should be easier to appreciate the city and its theatres with fewer restrictions. We look forward to being able to announce further details of an Opera Europa conference in Bergamo next spring.
Meanwhile Opera Europa and its Board have been exploring the possibility of planning a selection of smaller conference events at locations within easier reach of different geographical sectors of the membership. Choice has been influenced by accessibility by car and train, as well as by air; reliable safety measures; and willingness of theatres to host such events, which should preferably last no more than two days with a single overnight and performance. Examples of host cities which answer to this purpose include Copenhagen, Düsseldorf and Zagreb.
The Board further wishes to respond to what members regard as key topics for the agenda this autumn. Some which have arisen include:
• Devising new and leaner business models
• Operas, or versions of operas, for smaller forces
• Comparison of international parameters for public subsidy
• Support, training and representation of freelance artists
• The future relationship of live and digital, including its monetarisation
• Making opera more sustainable
• Leadership and the abuse of power
There will doubtless be other equally pertinent topics, and we shall be canvassing the views of members during the next weeks. We shall prioritise subjects for debate this autumn or next year, so that we may conduct appropriate research, identify expert speakers, and allocate areas for discussion across each event.
At this uncertain time, we are wary of proposing gatherings which members may be cautious about attending. If, on balance, most members would prefer another online conference, that is what we should plan. On the other hand, Opera Europa should be ready to respond to members’ demands, as travel and the desire for face-to-face meetings resumes. As a next step for this autumn, we do not propose a large conference for 300+ people over three days: but instead believe that two or three smaller and more containable events are options worth considering for the second part of November.
After 1 October we shall confirm and publish full details.