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About PDX OPERAbeat

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Jess Crawford

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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera. Jess Crawford is our primary blogger. Jess spends much of her time eating enormous amounts of cake, making long lists of books she'll probably never read, and challenging people to arm-wrestling contests. During the day (and sometimes at night) she is Portland Opera's music librarian. She writes more about her escapades at her personal blog: http://bravissimi.blogspot.com

Week Four: Putting it Together: Plan It!

Logan is taking our Summer Opera Education Class: "Putting it Together."  We asked her to share her experiences throughout this 8-week interactive class.  Updates will be posted weekly.  Enjoy!

 

This week, we were able to get a glimpse at what goes into planning and budgeting a season of opera here in Portland. We were visited tonight by General Director, Christopher Mattaliano and Director of Artistic Administration, Clare Burovac, and they gave us their insight and personal experiences with organizing opera seasons.


Our class began with Mr. Mattaliano sharing his formula for a good opera season (with four operas): two well-known popular operas, one lesser-known opera but composed by a well-loved composer, and one “undiscovered” opera. The two popular operas are usually the opening and closing operas to both grab Portland’s attention and to end with a bang. By incorporating lesser known operas, Mr. Mattaliano is providing new and unusual music and styles that fits perfectly with the Portland vibe. With these four operas, Mr. Mattaliano also suggests having a common theme or synergy. For example, Leoncavello’s Pagliacci¸ Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Puccini’s Turandot among others in the 2010/11 Season were all connected through the idea of “fantasy or reality.” These common themes are “a reflection of who we are as human beings in a profound way,” said Christopher Mattaliano. I’d say that fulfills the expectations of performers and audiences alike. After all, the Portland Opera mission is “Portland Opera exists to inspire, challenge, and uplift our audiences by creating productions of high artistic quality that celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera”.


After learning how to select productions for an opera season, we learned the mechanics of budgeting the season with Clare Burovac. She explained that each opera that is performed at the Keller Auditorium costs roughly one million dollars. Most of the expenses are for principal singers, orchestra members, stage staff, and stagehands. Other expenses include costumes, make-up and wigs, props, etc. These expenses really add up, and sadly, selling tickets isn’t enough. We learned that if every production sold out for an entire season, the profits would only contribute to about 36% of the total revenue needed. Where does the rest come from? Very little is contributed from corporations and government funds, but 57% comes from individual donors. That’s over half! I was shocked to learn that it takes more than just selling tickets to fund operas: fundraising and individual support are crucial. So to those out there donating to the Portland Opera, thank you!


To end our fourth class, we were put to the test. Ms. Burovac distributed sheets of paper with an exercise to plan an opera season. On one piece of paper was a list of operas in various categories such as “Blockbusters,” “Chamber,” etc. To the right of each opera was a number that represented on a point-based system the amount of money the opera would cost to produce, extra fees for a large orchestra, number of lead roles, etc. This exercise was very fun, although it was harder than I thought. Ideas were tossed around with the idea of holding a budget in mind (i.e., the total number of expense points had to be under 2200, and profit points had to be at least 800). We had to erase our numbers a few times, but eventually, we had four different opera seasons. My group chose Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky, and Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This season is indeed a very daring one, but a fun one just around our budget! After we all shared our seasons, Ms. Burovac shared with us a website that can be a useful tool for looking at production information such as cast size, role types, etc. The website is http://www.musicalartists.org, although the page describing various operas can be found at http://www.musicalartists.org/agreements_schedule_c.html.

Tonight’s class was very fun and very insightful (as usual), but it especially helped us as a class begin to understand just how difficult it is to put together a year of beautiful opera. Bravo to Christopher Mattaliano for going through this difficult process for a successful ten years, and for more years to come!

Truly yours,

Logan Stewart

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