Tonight’s premier of the opera Appomattox by Philip Glass will be an interesting test of the junction of very old media (opera), mass media (news) and new media (Web). The opera is presented by The San Francisco Opera
David Gockley, general director of the San Franciso Opera, is on somewhat of a "populist" campaign to bring opera to a wide range of audiences, which is part of a larger strategy to maintain the organization in an era where traditional support by business is declining and, to the degree this support continues, is much more commercial. Today’s business underwriting is given with an expectation of positioning a brand or reaching underserved customer groups.
Gockley was speaking this morning with members of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), where I’m gathered with other operators of PR and communications firms from around the world. Since coming aboard as the sixth general director, David has developed high definition video which he’s using to bring opera to people who don’t have the financial capability to attend. Good stuff.
Beyond revitalizing the opera, David and his team are building new, diversified audiences with free screenings in parks, Giant’s stadium, all kinds of innovations leading to tonight’s debut.
The renaissance has, to a great extent, been supported by generating news coverage in the mainstream media that reach the richly diverse community of San Francisco and the Bay area, says Karen Ames who handles communications for the SF Opera.
While the opera has been working intensively with the traditional media, new Web sites have arisen that cover the arts, and they’re adding a new voice to how the arts are presented and interpreted. The Opera has received remarkable coverage in the media, with, I might add, great support from our host David Landis, founder of Lanids Communications, Inc. Meanwhile, about five local Web sites that cover the arts have appeared on the scene. "It wont be long before our promotion people begin using quotes from these sites," Karen adds. Karen says these Web site critics "may be more welcoming" to the opera than the traditional critcs, especially given the Opera’s outreach to multiple audiences and the edgy nature of tonight’s program.
"We’re really at historic moment with tonights opera," says David. Philip Glass, who has developed performances for a wide range of audiences, approached him several years ago about setting an opera in the last days of the Civil War. It’s set in the last battles of the war, as messages are going across between the Union and Confederacy. The opera focuses on how both generals were united in a belief that lives had to be saved. It shows Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee as men of high moral standards who were committed to saving lives and reuniting the country.
Act two introduces a "confrontational approach" to unfinished business that has contributed to separation since that war. It is not only about the legacy of rour relations with African Americans but also to people of various ethnic and racial backghrounds.
How the traditional media and the "new" Web sites respond will be telling, says David.