Repertoire Programming Decisions of Major West Coast Opera Companies in Washington, Oregon, and California
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This graduate research project serves as a guide for emerging leaders and arts professionals in understanding the relationship between artistic programming choices of North American opera companies, and community participation in the art form. Studies and statistics echoed through a variety of media outlets over the past 10 years have recorded a significant drop in opera attendance, which many opera companies have attempted to combat with new or re-energized artistic programming. A gap in research exists between the repertoire programming process of American opera companies, and the community engagement it fosters. This study presents: a literature review of the challenges facing performing arts organizations in the United States; a comprehensive history and contemporary analysis of opera in the United States; a collective case study of the San Francisco Opera, the Portland Opera, and the Seattle Opera; a set of considerations for arts administrators using the case study findings. After collecting data from all three sites, the findings uncovered that many opera companies do not include the many functional areas of the organization to help select repertoire, but rather rely solely on the Executive Director to make the annual programming decisions. The main recommendation stemming from the findings are that more companies should work to include key staff and department heads in the repertoire programming process. By ensuring collaboration and harnessing the creativity of their arts leaders, opera has the opportunity both stay relevant in modern society and grow into an avenue for innovative and timely storytelling.
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