Under the big tent: opening night of The Atlanta Opera's "Pagliacci." (source: TAO)

Innovations score big for The Atlanta Opera

The company has received both an invitation to participate in this month’s Opera Europa conference and a major gift supporting production equipment and digital media technology

EarRelevant Staff | 16 NOV 2020

The Atlanta Opera has been invited by Opera Europa, the professional association of opera companies and festivals in Europe, to take part in its 2020 autumn online conference, which will be held online November 18 – 20 via Zoom.

TAO general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun will participate as one of three presenters in the session titled Adapting Programmes to Current Measures on Friday morning, November 20, between 11:45 and 13:00 CET (5:30am to 6:45am ET in Atlanta), along with Joan Matabosch of Teatro Real (Madrid, Spain) and Monica Fracassetti of Teatro La Fenice (Venice, Italy). The three were chosen because their respective opera companies have been at the forefront of devising ingenious means to re-engage artists and audiences in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of The Atlanta Opera. (source: The Atlanta Opera)

Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of The Atlanta Opera. (source: The Atlanta Opera)

“Perhaps the greatest recognition TAO received for the Big Tent Series is the fact that Opera Europa invited us to give a presentation about our innovations in the European opera conference about resilience through the pandemic. We are the only American opera company to be invited to present,” wrote Zvulun in an e-mail to EarRelevant’s principal writer Mark Gresham last week.

According to Opera Europa director Nicholas Payne, “The aim of the conference is to explore ways to make opera survive the current pandemic, and adapt to the future. The first day will launch a change-making initiative to raise money to invest in sustainability; equality; and digital transformation. The central day will present research into opera’s business model and the parameters affecting public subsidy; explore new perspectives on leadership during crisis; and examine the relationship between live and digital. The third and final day will begin with five specific projects of transformative productions, before moving to our debate about practical solutions.”

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Teatro Real was one of the first to re-open in July with multiple performances of its semi-staged Traviata, and has continued with an adapted program for the new season. Teatro La Fenice re-formatted its historic auditorium and introduced a transformed program and careful distancing measures for artists and audiences, while Atlanta Opera bucked the trend of closures in the US with its focus on local artists and outdoor spaces. “In their different ways,” says Payne, “all three showed exemplary resilience, which can inspire others.”

Based in Brussels, Belgium, Opera Europa is the leading service organization for professional opera companies and opera festivals throughout Europe. It currently serves over 200 members from 43 countries.

Then this past Friday, November 13, The Atlanta Opera announced that the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation has granted it $500,000 towards building the company’s digital media and technology capacity. The grant enables the opera company to pursue its goals of creating film and special web-based project content to reach global audiences. It also allows the opera to purchase cutting edge equipment for live productions.

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In Friday’s press release, Zvulun described the Foundation’s major gift as “a vote of confidence” that demonstrates their belief in The Atlanta Opera as a long-term assetmfor the community.

TAO has already been busy filming its two fall productions of Pagliacci and The Kaiser of Atlantis, which on concluded their interleaved run of performances to limited in-person audiences on Sunday night. In August, the company invested substantially in equipment for a digital media studio to support creation of digital performances throughout the innovative 2020-21 “Big Tent” season and into the future.

TAO’s chief of marketing and audience development, Ashley Mirakian, who also heads the opera company’s digital media department, says that “This investment is a rocket booster to our film infrastructure, and our audience will definitely appreciate the exceptional cinematic quality this gift makes possible.”

The Atlanta Opera will announce the launch of its digital platform in the coming weeks. ■