There have been many who've asked me "Why is an opera company doing musical theater?" You may be wondering the same thing, so I'm taking a moment to explain the artistic committee recommendation and the board's desicion to present this piece as the mainstage production for Arbor Opera Theater in 2014.
Originally our five-year vision, culminating in this season, was to present two productions (an opera and a classic musical). We were on a steady path to being able to do so, but following our 2013 festival, we fell far below the projected revenues. We are sure that there are multiple reasons behind this shortfall, though three factors seemed most responsible:
- Lack of a critical mass of people who know about AOT
- Lack of community involvement in The Marriage of Figaro production
- Box office problems (mostly with the online vendor Vendini, which was dealing with a national hacking problem during our festival)
Looking forward to the long-term financial viability of the organization, we felt it was necessary to address the factors that we had control over, while staying true to our mission. So while we were all disappointed to sway from our original plan, we knew that we had to focus on choosing a production that would draw a critical audience mass and involve many members of the community directly in the production.
Based on this, it became clear that The Sound of Music was the best vehicle to accomplish these goals. We understood that many would be disappointed and that we might never do opera once we went down this path. Let me put those worries to rest. We still plan to present opera in future seasons, and we worked hard to find a financially viable way to include opera in this season. We will be presenting a Gala on Saturday evening, June 21st. This will be a way to celebrate the 15 years AOT has been providing emerging professional artists with a platform to begin their careers.
Another reason we're including a golden-age musical in our season is that it these gems of the American cultural heritage are becoming a regular part of the repertoire of major opera houses all over the world. Our mission is to help singers launch their careers, and we have to be aware of the way in which the landscape of a classical singing career is changing. The skill set required to professionally perform in a musical is different from that of an opera, and there are few opportunities for singers to gain professional training experience in this medium. Arbor Opera Theater will be filling a large void by including this repertoire in this season.
Finally, we hope to cultivate a new audience for opera. Every season I'm amazed at the number of people who tell me that AOT is their first exposure to opera and that they loved it! They are surprised at how engaging and "unstuffy" it is. We hope that when they experience the quality of AOT through a musical that they might be willing to check out one of our operatic productions. To test these waters, we are offering 200 free tickets for our 15th Anniversary Opera Gala to Sound of Music attendees who've never been to an opera.
We hope that those of you who have attended Arbor Opera Theater events in the past will continue to show your support for our organization by attending this festival season as well. We promise you that it will be a wonderful season....your heart will be blessed with the sound of music!