The Canadian Opera Company is marketing itself as an affordable night out for students with $20 tickets, the TSO with $12 tickets. With a date night at the movies easily costing over thirty dollars, a night of culture is an attractive change from the latest cookie-cutter Hollywood flick.
“We’re trying to bring younger people into our audiences… by making [opera] affordable,” says Falan Hamilton, COC assistant publicist.
Opera has shed its stereotypical image of being bland and boring. The modern opera is as much a theatrical experience as it is a musical one. A person could even be forgiven for believing their attending a live variation of The Muppet Show last fall when the COC used puppets in their innovative production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.
Nightingale earned wide critical acclaim and is indicative of modernization of the Opera. The production broke convention by placing the orchestra on-stage and the performance in the orchestra pit was flooded with 67 tons of water. Paul Wells of Maclean’s called it “the most beautiful piece of creative work I saw, in any genre or medium, this year.”
The COC is not the only cultural organization marketing itself to students, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers tickets to the under-35 crowd for $12 per performance; less than the average price of a ticket to even the worst Hollywood movie.
Both organizations are trying to connect with young people by holding special social events. The TSO holds two after-performance parties during the year and the COC offers special dinner and movie packages for their under-30 crowd.
Knowing that many of the youth they hope to draw may not have experienced opera previously, the COC offers special educational sessions during the year. Opera 101 is marketed as a “free, relaxed, no-attitude evening” to learn about upcoming performances and better understand the art form. The TSO offers similar events. Both have youth oriented sections on their websites; TSO even lists frequently asked questions such as “What should I wear?” and “When do I applaud?”
Professor David Briskin, director of orchestral studies at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, says the key to successfully reaching out to a younger generation is to make it affordable, relevant, and “whatever you do, don’t 'dumb down' the work in order to attract a younger audience.”
This winter, the COC will be performing crowd favourites Carmen and Otello. The TSO will be performing a wide range of concerts from numerous Mozart classics, Beethoven, and even a Vegas themed night.