Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rise of the Small Opera Company, Part Five: NY Opera Exchange

1. What year was your company founded and by whom?  

NY Opera Exchange was founded in 2010 by Justin Werner, Rebecca Stump and Alden Gatt to provide opportunities for emerging singers, instrumentalists, directors, designers and conductors to learn, perform and connect with audiences.

  1. What is the mission of your company?
To make opera accessible and enrich the community by presenting relevant, fully-staged operatic productions in New York City .

  1. Who makes up your creative team and staff? What are their backgrounds?
One of the things that makes us unique is that our creative team is made up of everyone on staff. We believe that a good idea can come from anywhere and we encourage staff and production members, as well as singers and orchestra musicians to contribute to the development of the company. This leads to richer, more diverse ideas across our production and marketing efforts. 

  1. What do you see as being your most important contribution to the opera industry?
Our biggest contribution is that we focus on creating a personal connection with each and every person who comes into contact with our company. A personal connection isn't created by asking people to merely audition or come to your show - it's created by showing individuals you care about them and what they have to contribute as human beings. It is helping them find the meaning of the opera for themselves and empowering them to tell the story as they see and understand it. It is through this connection that we will be able to break down the barriers that exists in making opera accessible. 

  1. What kind of opera do you produce? Describe your opera productions.
As our mission statement says, our goal is to make opera accessible. The best way to make opera accessible to is perform pieces that are part of the standard repertoire.  Because much of the opera being performed in New York (outside of some of the larger companies) is contemporary, there are few options for opera goers (as well as artists) to learn (and perform) the standard repertoire. We believe that if opera is to remain relevant, we need to emphasize the tradition of standard repertoire, by providing an accessible alternative to larger companies. 

  1. What kind of performers do you look for in casting?
We look for performers who are going to be the right fit - both musically and culturally. One of our largest differentiators is that we genuinely like everyone we work with and it's critical that we keep it that way. Having an attitude problem or a reputation for not working well with others is a big no-no when we're casting - and you can bet we do our research.

  1. Do you feel like you are reaching a new audience? Is it growing? What is the audience response?
We are gaining a lot of tracking with our audience - and it's constantly expanding. In addition to increasing our fan-base on Facebook by nearly 50% in Q4 of 2014, nearly all four of our performances of Die Fledermaus sold out. Audience feedback is consistently positive and many audience members return and bring their friends to another one of our productions.

  1. Do you think opera is dying? 
Opera isn't dying. The biggest challenge, however, is the fragmentation of the entertainment industry. We have to realize that opera competes, not just against other operatic or classical music productions, but against popular movies, plays, musicals and television as well. We constantly have to ask ourselves, why would someone pay (more) money to see our production than they would to go see the latest Benedict Cumberbatch movie or stay home and watch football. For us, the answer is in what makes us different. We've built the NY Opera Exchange brand around making opera more accessible for people and that starts with making ourselves open and approachable. This manifests itself in everything we do - from our communications to our productions. At our performances, we offer a personalized experience where audience members have an opportunity to come, interact and build a relationship not only with the NY Opera Exchange brand, but with us as people as well. Whether it be serving free wine at intermission or starting a conversation with someone as they enter the venue, our number one focus is on creating a memorable experience for everyone who comes to one of our performances. 

For more information on NY Opera Exchange, visit their website: