‘Music and theatre have been going for 1,000 years. Covid’s had winners and losers and in the arts the people that reinvent themselves, in a sort of Charles Darwin mindset, will be the winners’.
That recent assessment by banker and philanthropist John Studzinski was expressed even more starkly last August by businessman Ed Warner: ‘Whatever the future holds, it’s the businesses that gave it a crack while the competition dithered that will be rewarded by their customers and clients – the pub that opened on 4 July while others stayed dark, the adviser who kept in touch regularly through lockdown, the sports that found their way back on to your screen while others wrote off the summer. Reputations are being made and others irreparably broken’.
Opera Europa members, as we know from our regular conference calls, have been inventive in devising programmes to maintain contact with audiences. Constantly changing conditions have forced them to be adaptable, and that consumes both money and time. Yet it remains necessary to look beyond immediate obstacles and plan for a future in which the world will have changed. That is the challenge facing this autumn conference.
We recognise that many members will be unable to travel, so all of the 3-day event will be accessible online. Within this framework, seven member theatres plan to act as live hubs by hosting small local gatherings where members from the same or neighbouring countries may be able to meet. We are inviting members with proven safe access to join the live events in Moscow, Como, Helsinki, Madrid, Stockholm, Düsseldorf and Zagreb.
The first afternoon of Wednesday 18 November will address strategies for survival, first in the immediate future, then in the longer term. In partnership with FEDORA, we shall present an ambitious initiative to reinvent the performing arts as a driver for a sustainable future, with a 3-point plan for investment in sustainability; equality; and digital transformation.
The second day Thursday 19 November will explore changes in opera’s operating model:
1. Research into the proportions and parameters of public subsidy will inform debate about shifts in the social perception and purpose of opera.
2. The pandemic has compelled us to re-examine the requirements of leadership in navigating a workforce through crisis.
3. The relationship between live and digital has changed. How may it be exploited for the benefit or both artists and audiences?
The third day Friday 20 November will begin with a new form of co-production marketplace, with presentations of some imaginative proposals for Transforming Opera. Then we shall examine examples of how to adapt programmes to take advantage of current circumstances, before concluding by setting some priorities for next year and endorsing a plan of action for Opera Europa during its Extraordinary General Assembly.
We urge as many members as possible to join us between 18 and 20 November to help influence our future direction.