Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Virginia Tech “Invents the Future” with New Opera

Virginia Tech, whose motto is “Invent the Future,” is arguably doing just that with their newly commissioned opera The Three Feathers, opening this weekend. Written by Lori Laitman and former NEA chairman Dana Gioia, the work is based on a relatively unknown fairy tale in the Grimm collection, and involves a new, technically advanced set, three separate rhyming children’s choruses, princesses, and a large variety of other engaging elements. Read more about it here..

Undoubtedly, there are a few different schools of thought on the direction of new operas and how they fit into the history and future of the art form. Most straightforwardly, however, there are those who like it, those who don’t; those who see that these new works have a place, and those that don’t think they’ll stay around to make the history books.

While this is an opera originally written for children, these creators have put a lot of thought into the sustainability of the piece, considering what might work well with their audiences, or cause them to remember/discuss what was heard and seen. And ultimately, I’d argue that that may be a major factor in creating a sustainable piece of art in the United States today. And arts managers across all fields should pay heed to what is working in the opera world; as one of the most dynamically struggling branches of our industry, eyes and ears should be peeled for what is working for millennial audiences and young families, as well as what continues to engage those of older generations.


One comment on “Virginia Tech “Invents the Future” with New Opera

  1. evanjsanderson
    October 16, 2014

    In my opinion, it would be more accurate to say that they are “inventing A future.” I say that because when an organization starts talking in binaries (no matter what industry) I start to get a prickly sensation behind my ears that makes me wary. The assumption in this kind of thinking is that innovation moves unilaterally, when it usually doesn’t. In other words, creating this new type of opera to appeal to a larger audience base is an incredibly cool, very effective idea. But it is important to consider that one size does not fit all, and innovation in any field takes many forms. For example, extrapolating the work they are doing to a different culture or a different audience base might not necessarily work. It’s very exciting to see the arts thinking outside the box, but the main value lies in the impetus to do just that – let’s continue to encourage this kind of thinking without assuming each solution is “the future.”

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