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The Importance of Being a Fan

I was recently thanked by an opera singer via twitter for being so “enthusiastic”. My enthusiasm for opera is long and deep with roots in childhood and I spent much of my 20’s working as a stage manager, production coordinator, and/or cueing supertitles in Houston, Norfolk, San Antonio, Austin, and Los Angeles.

But I’m not littering my twitter feed with opera enthusiasms just because I have enjoyed a particular performance. In our current cultural climate, those of us that attend opera and/or symphony performances on a regular basis have an important part to play in the continuation and health of these art forms.

Because I am an enthusiast, I have been dismayed to read about the demise of New York City Opera and the near demise of the San Diego Opera. The crippling lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra, the strike by the San Francisco Symphony, and the impending meltdown of the Metropolitan Opera have made me even more depressed about the future of our beloved art forms.

Some “fans” and “journalists” have taken to the internets to excoriate the managers of current arts organizations or call the unionized musicians who play for them all sorts of tacky names. While the issues in these disputes matter, this atmosphere of nastiness doesn’t do a thing to actually solve the real problem of attracting new and enthusiastic (!) audiences to classical music.

Here’s where we fans enter from stage left. I don’t know anyone who gets up in the morning, sees an ad on a bus shelter for the local production of Madama Butterfly and then goes online to buy a pair of tickets for the price of dinner at Chez Panisse.

Nope. Love of opera and classical music is learned. You decide to give it a whirl because someone (in my case, my Dad) played a recording for you, took you to a performance, or encouraged you to listen.

In our current culture, that person who might introduce you to opera or classical music could be a teacher, an acquaintance, or even a facebook friend or twitter follower who invites you to Opera at the Ballpark or some other free outreach event.

There are some amazing artists performing these days and even though they will never be famous like Pavarotti, back when opera had more cultural caché, they deliver the goods all over the world to an appreciative, if dwindling audience.

So while everyone else is doing their “fan” thing for the World Cup, I’m excited about hearing Britten tonight at the San Francisco Symphony and seeing all three of the summer operas at the San Francisco Opera that are perfect for first-timers: Showboat, La Traviata, and Madama Butterfly and hope you will be too! Follow me @revgirrl to find out more!

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