Category Archives: Opera Marketing

COC launches 2011-12 season with Gluck masterpiece

Susan Graham (centre) as Iphigenia in the Lyric Opera of Chicago production, 2006. Photo: Robert Kusel

From the same creative team that brought Toronto audiences the Dora Award-winning production of Orfeo ed Euridice comes the COC’s 2011/2012 season opening production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Iphigenia in Tauris.

Iphigenia marks its company premiere with director Robert Carsen at the helm and featuring Susan Graham, who makes her COC debut in the title role.  Leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado,who conducted last season’s Nixon in China.

“This is why we go to the opera,” said the Globe and Mail of the COC’s Orfeo ed Euridice, May 2011.

A scene from the Lyric Opera of Chicago production, 2006. Photo: Robert Kusel

Iphigenia in Tauris was Gluck’s greatest triumph, telling of how the heroine Iphigenia is rescued from imminent death only to confront the tragic twist of fate of being required to kill her long-lost brother.  Composed in 1779, Gluck created a score of refined, classical beauty that lays bare the emotional intensity of this Greek tragedy. Carsen’s directorial vision for the COC’s Iphigenia in Tauris takes the ancient Greek myth into a timeless present, with a staging that strips away  distraction and highlights the opera’s emotions and music drama.

Renowned mezzo-soprano Susan Graham is a leader in the international revival of Gluck’s operas.  Recent performances as Iphigenia include Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Teatro Real de Madrid, for which her “molten tone and vivid acting” (Financial Times) as well as “nobility and vibrant vocal beauty” (Chicago Tribune), has been praised in performances described as “poignant and majestic” (Opera News) and “riveting” (New York Times).  Rising Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte, “a compelling vocal and dramatic presence” (Opera Canada) who has made impressive debuts with English National Opera, Atlanta Opera and l’Opéra national de Bordeaux in recent years, will also debut in the title role,  sings Iphigenia on October15.

Graham and Whyte are joined by Canadian lyric baritone Russell Braun is Iphigenia’s brother Orestes. Braun is a regular presence at the Metropolitan Opera, l’Opéra national de Paris, Vienna State Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, LA Opera, La Scala and the Salzburg and Glyndebourne festivals.  Returning  to the COC in the role of Orestes’ best friend, Pylades, is Met regular and COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Joseph Kaiser, who has performed in opera, oratorio and concerts throughout North America and Europe, as well as in film, having starred as Tamino in the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation of The Magic Flute in 2007.

In returning to direct Iphigenia in Tauris, Robert Carsen brings with him other members of the Orfeo ed Euridice creative team: set and costume designer Tobias Hoheisel and co-lighting designer Peter Van Praet.  Choreography for the 20 dancers in Iphigenia in Tauris is by Philippe Giraudeau, who makes his COC debut.

A co-production of Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Carsen’s Iphigenia in Tauris that has already played to acclaim in Chicago, San Francisco, London and Madrid.

Sung in French with English SURTITLES™, Iphigenia in Tauris runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Sept. 22, 25, 28 and Oct. 1, 4, 7, 12, 15, 2011.

Individual tickets go on sale tomorrow. For more information, see the COC website at

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Filed under North American Opera, Opera Marketing

50K today? prizes! olé!

Fifty is an important measurement in the United States. It’s a big honkin’ deal to turn fifty years old or to have been married fifty years.

Sometime today, I’ll hit 50,000 visits to “Operatoonity.” (Not page views–those numbers are even higher.)

The fact that 50,000 unique visitors stopped by this blog is a reason to strike up the harpsichord. Break out the baroque. Give  away some prizes!

When I started this blog in February of 2010, I never imagined so many people would eventually visit a blog about opera. I hoped readers would stop by but had no expectations of hundreds of visitors daily. That’s why I’m celebrating today!


I’ll be giving out prizes–Operatoonity mugs and mousepads, which feature my new URL:–which I’ll be moving to at the end of the month.

One lucky visitor will even win his or her own profile on this blog.

To be eligible to win a prize or profile, just leave a comment on this blog today, August 2, 2011, the day that I’ll hit 50K visits.


And thank you for visiting “Operatoonity.” I hope you found what you were looking for. I’m absolutely tickled you stopped by and hope you’ll stop back soon.

Don’t forget to leave a comment. Since the editorial focus moves to modern opera this month, I’d welcome a comment about your experience with modern opera, viewing or performing. You can also suggest modern operas you value, whether  you appreciate it as much as classic opera or anything you care to comment on.


Filed under opera blogs, Opera Marketing, opera milestones

Barkarole? Tannschnauzer? NY opera company seeks calendar dogs!

Victor the Basset Hound as Canio in 'I Pagliacci'

Have a canine who’s a natural to star in The Marriage of Fido, Lassi Of Lammermoor, The Dalmation of Faust?

Attention, dog-loving opera fans!  Tri-Cities Opera of Binghamton, New York, is calling all photogenic mutts for its Mutt-ropolitan Opera Dog 2012 calendar.

Set against a TCO opera backdrop, your prized pup can play a lead role or be part of the opera chorus. Solo and ensemble photo sessions with photographer Randy Cummings will take place periodically at the Opera Center, 315 Clinton St. in Binghamton, and will include TCO costumes to either be worn by your pet or superimposed onto the photo afterwards.

Existing favorite photos of your pet will be accepted for use in the desk-format calendar, and a special “In memoriam” section will be reserved for photos of beloved pets that have passed away.

Mutt-ropolitan Opera Calendar canine

The calendar will be released in the fall and sold throughout TCO’s 2011-12 season. Pricing options are available. For more information, visit For questions or to schedule a photo session for your canine countertenor, call TCO at 729-3444 today or e-mail

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Opera and humor, Opera Marketing, opera parody

do you know ‘The world’s best way to find live classical music’?

*In the last few days, several people I assumed knew about Bachtrack asked me all about it, so I thought an Operatoonity encore post was in order.   

 There are plenty of websites serving the classical music world, covering record stores, highlighting individual composers, performers, and symphony orchestras, and showcasing individual houses and performances.                      

When music lovers ask Google the simple question, “What concerts are on?” it is incredibly difficult to find useful answers–even using almighty Google. No single site had all the information music lovers typically need, in one handy location.                  

Until now.                     

Alison and David Karlin

Enter Alison and David Karlin, creators of Bachtrack.                     

Three years ago, they launched an integrated and easy-to-use attractive website that organizes, reviews, and classifies thousands of classical arts events happening around the world. With one click, you can find an opera, a concert of symphonic music, or a ballet. You can see who’s giving talks or search for music festivals–by month and by country.                     

And there’s more functionality than you ever dreamed possible. Find classical music CD’s, stay apprised of arts-related news stories. There’s even info for both kids and teens–including reviews of classical music for kids and children’s ticket prices.                     

A couple months ago, I put out an all-call on Twitter. I was looking for a domestic performance of Don Giovanni, somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic States. I was at the mercy of cyberspace. By sheer luck,  a friend saw my Tweet, took pity on me, and told me about an upcoming performance in New Jersey.                     

the Bachtrack website

Within two clicks on Bachtrack, I found 74 performances of Don G. happening around the world, through March of 2011. With one more click, I found a crackshot review about Opera New Jersey’s production, a link to a CD for purchase, links to future performances of the performing singing the title role, and two links to video-on-demand performances of Mozart’s works, including the Metropolitan Opera’s The Magic Flute.                     

Bachtrack creator Alison Karlin, who is on a fast-track to making the website the world’s most comprehensive, best integrated, one-stop-shopping classical music online venue, stopped by to answer a few questions for “Operatoonity” readers.                    

What’s the best source of referrals and how are people finding you?  People come to Bachtrack in so many different ways. As I look now on the site’s administration pages, I can tell that one person was looking for “covent garden tannhauser,” another was searching for “Vassily Sinaisky,” and someone else was directed to our pages by an alert they had set up on to be informed when Malin Hartelius was performing in their country. There is an assumption amongst many in the arts that thousands of people are looking for “opera” every day and whoever comes out on top of that natural search will be a winner. In our experience, that is not correct. There are many individuals looking for something very specific–a performer, a venue, a composer, a conductor. We aim to ensure that whatever they are looking for they find on Bachtrack. We have also worked really hard on usability to make the site as flexible as we can so visitors can start anywhere on the site and click through to find what they want.                    

How many registered users do you have?  We have several thousand registered users on the site and more come to us day by day.                     

How are you able to keep up with an ever-changing landscape of performing arts/music events?  When we first started the site in December 2007, the possibility of covering the whole of the UK seemed unimaginable. But as time has gone by and more and more people use our site as a matter of course, the effort we need to expend on the earliest uptakers reduces, and there is time in the schedule to branch out to new countries. Since we can’t use the mornings to call the USA or Canada, it works well to be able to speak to Eastern European and then Western European countries instead.  Languages can be daunting, but I speak French, have enough German, and have picked up key words in several Scandanavian languages to be able to work out when someone isn’t in the office and whether or not they are on holiday. There are only a few countries where someone will actually put the phone down on me because they can’t understand anything I say–although it does sometimes happen!                     


I cope with the vast number of clients and potential clients by being extremely organised. Every every six months or so I try to ramp up my organisation skills a couple of notches and become more time-efficient. If you really want to be successful, I think superhuman organisational skills go a very long way.                     

I don’t think the musical landscape changes very fast if you are immersed in it internationally all the time. The very edges of that scene are constantly changing but since the new entrants are usually very keen to become a part very quickly, they usually find us fast. It is the organisations who have been in existence for 50 plus years who are slower to adopt new practices. For them, any Internet publicity and advertising seems a step too far.                     

The scope of your project is seems enormous and growing.  Because I have a unique overview of the market and talk to people literally around the world all day long, I can see trends at an early stage. On-demand video has been on our radar for a while, but we wanted to wait until the offerings were good enough before getting involved. We now think The Met and the Berlin Philharmonic both offer amazingly high quality streaming video on demand to your computer or TV so we have added a section to our site for on-demand. We constantly evaluate offerings to see what might be next.                     


What are your greatest needs right now, in terms of the site and or its management?  There are just two full time people working on our site–David and me. David does all the technicals of the website, the design and accounts, I do the marketing and sales. We share the ideas. Our concentration of effort is geared to getting more visitors and more revenue so we have to work continually at trying to publicise the site and get people to tell their friends to use the site. Secondly, we have to persuade arts organisations around the world to start using web advertising which is a fraction of the cost of print. US and UK early adopters are starting to put some money into new media, but the change is slow and barely touches the opera houses at all. Our greatest challenge is to get sufficiently successful that we can afford to take on staff. When we do, we will need to be sure that they share the same vision as us: we believe that if all classical, opera and ballet events were available on one site, more people would attend events and those who already do attend events would go to a few more events each year. This would boost the substantial industries which surround classical music and have a positive effect on everyone involved.                     

Bolshoi Ballet's "Spartacus"

How are you finding and screening reviewers?  We screen the reviews, not the reviewers. Our most recent site upgrade took place on June 1st this year and involved allowing anyone registered to add reviews, but they don’t become visible to the public until we’ve looked at them and approved them. Our thinking behind this was that people considering paying for an opera ticket wanted to know more about the opera and maybe the performers too. If people around the world add reviews in a constructive way, giving their thoughts of the works and performers they hear, this will be a really useful resource for future visitors to the site.                    

We are now actively looking for people who go to classical, opera, or ballet events and who write about them and would be prepared to do so for Bachtrack. We need this to be a collaborative process to get in lots of reviews and would be pleased to hear from anyone interested. And if you know music students please get them involved, this is a huge project and we need all your help!                     

We moderate all reviews because we don’t think it’s helpful to be gratuitously rude about performers or work. That doesn’t mean you have to be overly generous: when a performance is imperfect, we frequently write and publish mixed reviews, but if it’s unmitigatedly dreadful, we prefer simply not to publish anything about it.                     

all Bard Music Festival events are on Bachtrack

When will you feel as though the site has “arrived,” or are you already there?  We’re not even close to having “arrived” at the end of the journey, although we’ve clearly made our mark on the classical music scene. Right now there are between 10,000 and 11,000 forthcoming events on the site. I would like there to be 30-40,000 at least and for us to cover more of the excellent quality, lesser known festivals around the world as well as the larger ones. I would like our site to be the living equivalent of a Wikipedia containing a mix of dynamic and static data which comprehensively covers classical music, opera and ballet and helps people find both their local events and those they may wish to visit elsewhere in the world.                   


Best of luck to Alison and David as they continue to offer a site indispensible to the classical music world–who now list Bachtrack buttons right beside their Facebook and Twitter links on their home pages. Read this review of the mobile app for Bachtrack appearing in    


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Classical Music, Don Giovanni, Festival Opera, opera firsts, Opera Marketing, Reviews

Bachtrack’s Young Reviewer Program offers fresh, fun learning

A few months ago, a young, knowledgeable friend from the operasphere won a young reviewer’s contest sponsored by Pacific Opera. You can read all about Paulo Montoya’s winning review at this Operatoonity post. Regarding Paulo’s review of Hansel and Gretel, someone remarked that United States opera companies should encourage more reviews of classical events from young people, which encourages their attendance at concerts and operas, contributing to a lifelong appreciation for the classical arts.        

Bachtrack is going one better. Their worldview is, well, a global one. They have classical music, opera, and ballet listings from all over the planet. Now they have a Young Reviewer Program which gives children ages 12 to 18 an opportunity get free tickets to a top class classical concert and have the review published on the Bachtrack site.        

If I were still a junior high teacher, I’d give my students the choice to see a concert or an opera and write a review for Bachtrack as one of their writing requirements. This kind of program introduces an important life skill to children: first, deciding whether or not they like something and then articulating to what extent they appreciated the performance and why.        

Washington National Opera's "Opera in the Outfield" attracted thousands of young viewers.


Bachtrack is actively seeking orchestras, promoters, opera companies, concert halls and/or anyone else who promotes classical music, to partner with them in building young audiences as a component of the young reviewers program. There’s a simple, online application form to fill out. Bachtrack even offers guidelines on how to write a review.        

All of us should pursue opportunities to sharpen our critical thinking skills. What a splendid chance for children to develop confidence in themselves and their thinking and writing abilities, replete with a prestigious clip that can be enjoyed by a worldwide audience!        

Bravo, Bachtrack!

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Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Music, opera firsts, Opera Marketing, opera trends, Reviews

how about COC’s indie pop & opera mashup!

Indie darlings Broken Social Scene and members of the Canadian Opera Company (COC’s) Ensemble Studio are combining forces for a truly special special event, Operanation VII, Cinderella: Rock the Ball. Operanation takes place at the beautiful Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October  29.  So, pack your sedans and head to Toronto, one of the most vital opera meccas in North America.

The theme of this event is inspired by the opera La Cenerentola, the Cinderella story as written by Rossini. It includes a special (sold-out) VIP dinner before the party. Tickets are $150.

The evening’s performances will include triple-threat Clara Venice, Canadian artist who is an electric violinist, theraminist, and vocalist, who will give a special performance when the clock strikes midnight. Her style has been described as “electro-pop-meets-cabaret-show,” and she’s planning a special genre-bending performance. She’s keeping some of the details of her midnight performance under wraps: “I’ve created something extra-special and never-yet-performed, so expect a few surprises.”

We also have it on good authority that the audience is in for another surprise–that there will be two drag queens playing the roles of the “ugly stepsisters.”

Parlando, the COC Blog, has Q&As with Ambur Braid and Wallis Giunta, who will sing with Broken Social Scene, as well as a behind-the-scenes perspective from Barney Bayliss on preparing the Four Seasons Centre for the party and a primer on the work of Clara Venice.

Fashion designers and jewelers dressing the artists include Evan Biddell, Farley Chatto, McCaffrey Haute Couture, and Myles Mindham. The cocktails and appetizers will be provided by Rose Reisman Catering.

Does this sound like a can’t miss event or what? Canadian Opera Company, stop back with pix from this fabulous fall event that we know without a doubt is going to Rock the Party.


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Benefit, North American Opera, Opera Marketing

ask Richard about National Opera Week

Dear Richard,  

My sister-in-law said National Opera Week begins on October 29.  Here’s my problem. I’m going to be traveling out to see her that week, with stops in Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Quincy, Illinois; and finally, heading back toward Cincinatti, early on the 7th. What’s worth stopping for along the way?  

Alice in Altoona  

Dr. Richard Rohrer, self-proclaimed opera expert


Dear Alice,  

You have hit the jackpot, my dear. Get a load of just some of the fun things you can do in America’s heartland during this celebrated week.  

First stop is on Sunday, October 31 at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, 2425 Liberty Avenue,  at 2:00 p.m.  There you can enjoy “Opera Up Close: Lucia di Lammermoor,”  an in-depth look at the music and story of Lucia di Lammermoor — with Maestro Walker and a star-studded panel of opera artists. Free and open to the public. No reservations required. More information here.  

Next stop on Thursday, November 4, at Opera Columbus, 11 E. Gay Street, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m for Opera’s Greatest Hits at Sugardaddie’s Sumptuous Sweeties. For more information, contact Sarah Rhorer at or visit  

If you’re speedy, next you hightail it over to Quincy Illinois, on Saturday, November 6, to see Muddy River Opera Company’s  “Potpourri of Songs and Roses” at the State Theatre at 434 South 8th Street,  from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Enjoy a  special American Opera Week luncheon, strolling fashion show, entertainment with songs of past operas and musicals, raffle and door prizes.  Tickets are $25. Raffle tickets, which include a one half-hour plane ride over the city and the Mississippi River plus 15 other prizes, are six for $10. For information and tickets, contact or 217-242-3829.  

The Turn of the Screw/photo by John Cahill


For the last official day of National Opera Week, hustle back to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music on Sunday, November 7, for the final performance of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (one of my favorites!) held at the Patricia Corbett Theater on W, Corry St, at Jefferson Avenue, on the UC Campus at 2:30 p.m.  This production is directed by Amanda Consol and conducted by Christopher Allen. Tickets are $15 for General Admission; $10 for non-UC Students (UC Students are free). For information, contact  

There you go, Alice. A week jam-packed with opera because these organizations participate in National Opera Week.  

And if any of you, dear readers, want to know what’s on the docket in your neck of the words, you can use the nifty little search engine on the Opera America site to find the complete slate of events–from Alabama to Wisconsin.


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Character from DEVILED BY DON, Live opera performance, Opera Marketing

take me out to WNO opera any day! it’s a win-win-win!

For years now, the Pennsylvania Lottery has used the saying, “You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play.” So simple, it’s (almost) eloquent.      

Fact of life. You’ll never complete that slide to second base if you’re afraid to muddy your pants. Similarly, you’ll never win any kind of writing contest if you’re not willing to put your work, yourself, and your (oh *so* delicate) ego out there for public scrutiny from time to time.      

Just to clarify, I do put my writing “out there” regularly, querying agents, editors, and publishers, sometimes receiving a friendly “keep at it,” but more often incurring a) callous rejections b) snarky comments c) downright bitchiness and/or d) all of the above.  Generally, no one knows but them and me whether I’ve succeeded or not in my literary quest unless a snarky agent snarks about me on Twitter (which actually happened).      

masked revelers in Nationals Park

How lucky for me then that the Washington National Opera was sponsoring a really fun-sounding, heart-pounding, low-risk songwriting contest themed around a Simulcast of Verdi’s “Masked Ball” in Nationals Park. All entrants had to do was take one verse of the acclaimed “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” tune and adapt it with creativity and singability, while paying homage to the nature of the event: live opera in a major league ball park on the big screen.      

I had a week’s vacation and figured I’d give it a try. I agreed with this kind of event in principle. A noble idea! Finding corporate underwriters to make the event free for thousands of people (families, too) and holding it in a setting as comfortable as your favorite pair of slippers–lime green slippers with big floppy bunny ears.      

a shot from my video entry

Also, I have a high fun index, so this augured to be several hours of creative engagement–writing, editing, filming, and learning the movie works program on my laptop, for starters. Truth is, I utterly entertained myself by just writing and filming my entry, which I blogged about earlier this month. The making it was enough of a reward, if I’m being honest. And I like major league baseball–especially at Citizens Bank Park.      

So, pleased with myself for following through on a goal and because I liked the end results, I sent my entry sailing through cyberspace to the people at WNO.      

I waited a few days.      

And nice things began to happen. First, WNO posted my video on their website. Then I got an email saying I was one of three finalists in the contest, inviting me to come down to the park to receive my prize during the “7th Aria Stretch.”      

Sunday, September 19 was a breathtakingly beautiful day in the Mid-Atlantic States. Blue skies, wispy clouds, a hint of a breeze. It was a smooth drive to Washington, D.C.  despite being a  home game day for the Redskins. The staff at the park was friendly and upbeat–they had their game faces on–though their game had changed from nine innings to three acts.      

Luca Salsi as Count Anckarström

The picture on the Nationals Park Jumbotron is brilliant. It’s HD to the max. The sound was wonderful–and not so loud you couldn’t talk quietly to the person beside you. The air smelled like fattening, stadium foods. The sun was shining, the beer flowing.      

When the opera began, the singing was glorious–none more so than Tamara Wilson as Amelia. It was so easy to become enraptured in the production, I sort of forgot that the grand prize winner would be announced at the end of Act II and that I was a contender.      

Contest organizers gathered all the finalists in a VIP staging area just before Act II concluded. The reporter from the DC television station picked off the contestants, one by one. After the second and first runners-up were named, I was left standing. I had won first prize. What an honor. A talented singer from WNO’s young artists program along with the TV reporter warbled with me as my lyrics appeared on the Jumbotron.        

Being announced as the Grand Prize Winner

I remember feeling a little shell-shocked, mostly because I was surprised that I’d won–that my little entry was selected by none other than Placido Domingo, WNO’s general director. It was like someone dumped two tons of  glee on top of all the joy and attention participating in this event had already garnered me as a finalist from friends, family, and writing colleagues.       

A crowning touch was having the lyrics I wrote appear on the Jumbotron while everyone sang along–that sealed the specialness of the day for me (just click on the pic for the video). Oh, and I also loved the curtain call when the principals came onstage for their bows wearing Nationals red baseball caps.      

Though WNO has offered “Opera in the Outfield” for three years, this was the first year for the songwriting contest. If they offer it again next year, I have three words for you: Go. For. It.      

All my "booty" from WNO

They are a capable, friendly organization. I think their marketing department could sell sand in the Sahara. The prizes were are fantastic. In addition to the generous Target gift card and VIP tickets to Madama Butterfly, I got a tote bag, T-shirt, screen-printed baseball souvenir, and, of course, crackerjacks. Oh, and a mention in the Washington Post today (I just had to throw that tidbit in there).      

Fun. Glory. Prizes. Win. Win. Win.


Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Contests, favorites, Opera Marketing