For devotees, opera is the art form which stands above all others; the combination of great singing via unamplified voices, powerful music, engaging productions and the electricity of live theatre stirs the emotions like few other experiences. At its very best, it can floor you, leaving you dazed, uplifted, and clamouring for more. When controversial new productions are met with an angry response, it’s because the audience is passionately devoted to the form. The debate surrounding directors, singers and productions rages fiercely. Yet, what about the audiences of the future? Will they be as passionate about opera? Will there even be an audience for opera in years to come? What are companies actively doing to develop new audiences?

The Cunning Little Vixen © Opéra de Paris | Medici Arts
The Cunning Little Vixen
© Opéra de Paris | Medici Arts

This month we consider the issue of accessibility in opera. How do companies reach out beyond their houses to develop audiences of the future? We look at the wide range of education and outreach projects, as well as investigating some of the inventive ticket schemes coaxing newcomers across the threshold. We learn about a remarkable scheme in Paris, where opera is used to help get pupils back on track in their academic lives. 

We also explore some of the ways in which companies are taking opera out of the opera house, from intimate performances in tiny venues to arena opera on the grandest of scales. Meg Wilhoite explores the rise of chamber opera performances in New York City, while Jaime Robles looks at some innovative approaches to presenting opera in the San Francisco Bay Area

Andréa Chenier at the Bregenz Festival
Andréa Chenier at the Bregenz Festival

One way to draw in a young audience is children’s opera. Composer Jonathan Dove tells us about composing opera for children, from deciding on texts to involving kids in performances.

Since the Metropolitan Opera beamed its production of The Magic Flute to cinemas in 2006, high-definition broadcasts have become big business. But can opera in HD really bring in a new audience or does it threaten ticket sales? We consider the issues surrounding cinema screenings of opera and the impact they’re having, including an interview with David Pountney, artistic director of Welsh National Opera.

Met Opera: Live in HD in Times Square © Lovis Dengler Ostenrik for the Times Square Alliance
Met Opera: Live in HD in Times Square
© Lovis Dengler Ostenrik for the Times Square Alliance

English National Opera recently broadcast its first live opera in cinemas, with David Alden’s production of Peter Grimes, starring tenor Stuart Skelton, beamed around the world. Opera blogger Sarah Noble, Skelton’s other half, reports from the cinema on a production she has probably seen in the Coliseum more than most, comparing the experiences. Stuart and mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham then offer their thoughts on the HD experience from a singer’s point of view.

During April, news emerged that ENO and the Vienna State Opera are rapidly expanding their forays into HD. We would love to hear your views on the issues raised. Be sure to use the Disqus comments box at the bottom of each article to share your experiences or ideas. Keep returning during April for more articles and updates.

We are also exploring accessibility in Dance. Read an interview with Candoco's Pedro Machado as we ask how dance companies make their art form available to everyone.

Read on

Does High-Definition mean High Noon for Opera Houses?

Peter Grimes: Coliseum vs Empire Leicester Square

David Pountney interview

Grimes on Grimes in HD: Stuart Skelton interview

Seducing the cameras as Carmen: Rinat Shaham

Operatic child's play: Interview with Jonathan Dove

10 Months of School and Opera: find the path to success

The rise of chamber opera in New York City

Radical Opera in the San Francisco Bay Area

Forging a new generation of opera lovers

Opera ticket schemes: does affordability equal accessibility?

Opera on screen: a Topsy-Turvy World

Taking Baroque Opera out of the Opera House