Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rise of the Small Opera Company, Part Four: Gateway Opera

What year was your company founded and by whom?

Gateway Opera was founded in 2014 by myself, Kate Reimann, and my husband, Matt Muncy. Our story can be found on the "about page" of our website. 

What is the mission of your company?
Our mission is best summed up in the tagline: “A gateway for audiences and performers.”

It means we seek to be a gateway to opera for new fans. We also are a gateway for emerging artists to a career in professional singing.

Who makes up your creative team and staff? What are their backgrounds?
Kate Reimann, Artistic Director, has been featured as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and has sung with all four St. Louis opera companies: Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Union Avenue Opera, Winter Opera, and Gateway Opera. After receiving her Master of Music degree from Washington University, Kate spent a year singing with and learning from grassroots companies in Louisville, KY, Bloomington, IL and Vancouver, BC, and returned to St. Louis with a vision for Gateway Opera: serving artists and audience members through a new kind of opera experience.

Michaeleh Mentz, Development and Marketing Director  In the past two years she has worked independently with nonprofits in St. Louis on projects that include development planning, program evaluation, prospect research, grant writing, and grant program management. Michaeleh has a Masters of Public Policy and Administration and a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from the University of Missouri St. Louis. 
Matt Muncy, Operations Director, graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Computer Science. A computer engineer with over a decade of experience. Matt provides exemplary leadership, innovative solutions, and the ability to adapt to any situation. A self-motivated rock of stability, he has been invaluable in helping Gateway Opera move forward.

What do you see as being your most important contribution to the opera industry?
Providing professional opportunities for emerging artists, and showing new audience members how awesome opera can be.

What kind of opera do you produce? Describe your opera productions.

We produced one opera last year and have two planned for this year- all hour-long comedies sung in English. Our focus is contemporary opera and productions that will be appealing to seasoned opera-goers as well as "opera virgins." While the older generation is certainly welcome at our shows, we are not "your grandmother's opera company." We strive to produce opera that feels new, fresh and innovative.

What kind of performers do you look for in casting?

We look for artists with strong musicianship and acting skills who are committed to communicating with the audience and telling a story. We love to give opportunities to emerging artists looking to add leading roles to their resume.

Do you feel like you are reaching a new audience? Is it growing? What is the audience response?

Around half of the audience of our first show, Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief,  had never been to an opera before, and we got an overwhelmingly positive response. Many of them told us, "I had no idea opera could be funny!" 

We certainly hope to grow our audience in upcoming productions, but continue our focus on presenting opera in intimate venues, because we really value that connection between performers and the audience that you can't get in a larger hall.

Do you think opera is dying?
We can all admit that audiences for some companies are dwindling and getting older. But as long as there are artists and producers committed to creating productions, as long as opera companies are open to growing, changing and adapting to the world we live in today, as long as there are people with an open mind willing to take a risk and attend their first opera, this art form will grow and thrive. It won't be the same as it was 200, 100, or 50 years ago. But it will still be that powerful, vital, thrilling force that combines the beauty of the human voice with the magic of story and drama.

For more information on Gateway Opera visit their website: