Reaching new audiences: Sandra Piques Eddy sings the title role in Carmen

This Friday we run our second unique event for bloggers this year, – a ‘blopera’ perhaps – at a live performance of Carmen in The Lowry, Salford Quays. People in the big cities we perform in such as Manchester/Salford and  Leeds have created their own cultural urban networks, interacting with each other in different ways and we wanted to see how we could engage with them, offering a new way to access our productions.

We undertook a similar event at the beginning of the year with The Culture Vulture in Leeds, where there is a vibrant bloggers scene. It was a fascinating evening, many of the attendees had never been to the opera before and it was great to see their reactions to this unique artform. We gave them backstage access, the opportunity to take photos on the stage and meet some of the singers, we encouraged them to tweet before and after the performance and also to write a blog on their experience. It was a really successful experiment in engaging with new audiences in new and interesting ways.

I was appointed Digital Communications Manager last year, a new role within the company, and have spent a whirlwind 6 months sharing my knowledge and experience (and learning a great deal myself in the process). We have been exploring a number of digital projects and have been keeping a tag on what other arts organisations around the world are doing, such as Vancouver Opera (http://vancouveropera.blogspot.com/2011/05/blogger-night-at-la-traviata.html) and San Francisco Opera (http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/07/live-tweeting-the-opera/). Online is definitely a growing area of our communications activity.

Last week Opera North announced its 2011-12 season. Whilst this had already been done via a press release to the print media, the announcement yesterday involved the coordinated release of email newsletters, videos on YouTube, website listings and a blog from the company’s General Director, Richard Mantle. This content was then promptly read and watched by people in Leeds, London, Munich, Helsinki, Hong Kong and Tokyoand commented on via email, Facebook and Twitter.

The development and adoption of ‘digital’ by the arts sector has probably been slightly slower than in other areas, but it is now an important part of the way in which we communicate and engage with our audience. As well as removing physical and geographic boundaries it also allows us to give a much better insight into the working of the Company via the range of content we can make available online. The announcement of 2011-12 was accompanied by a mini-series of videos in which the company’s Music Director, Richard Farnes, Planning Director, Christine Chibnall and General Director, Richard Mantle discussed the creative and artistic decisions behind the programme. Being able to provide a direct link into the inner workings of the company like this is an exciting element of the opportunities that ‘digital’ presents.

Ash Mann

Digital Communications Manager

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