The Well-Tempered Ear

Madison Opera to hold first-ever Bloggers Night on Nov. 6 opening of ‘Carmen’

October 12, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

Here’s your chance to whisper to The Ear in person.

I have just accepted an invitation to publicly blog live from the Overture Center lobby about the Madison Opera’s production of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” on opening night, Friday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m. (A second performance is Sunday, Nov. 8, at 2:30 p.m.) Carmen Act IV(1)

“This is our first time,” says Brian Hinrichs, who is the new manager of Communications and Community Outreach for the Madison Opera. “It has become a growing trend in the opera world and elsewhere, what with dwindling arts coverage in print and other traditional media. It’s important to bring in other alternative media where people can write.”

Another goal of Bloggers Night is pursuing diversity with the aim of building audiences.

“We will have a big range of voices,” says Hinrichs. “It will run from people who know opera to people who are experiencing for the first time or from a different perspective. We want to break down barriers, introduce the art form to new audiences and bring new media to our core audience. We want to bring more people into the conversation.”

As for new media, the Madison Opera is already sponsoring a “Show Us Your Habanera” contest on YouTube. Here’s a link:

Bloggers who have already accepted the invitation include “The Well-Tempered Ear”; “Dane101”; Katie Vaughn from Madison Magazine whose blog is “Liberal Arts”;  and “The Lost Albatross,” by Emily Mills, who writes about rock music and her own experiences. Other bloggers may be added, Hinrichs says.

To plan Bloggers Night, Hinrichs (below right)  talked to the Vancouver Opera, which is generally credited with being the first to host a blogger night. He has also researched how the Portland Opera did the same thing. Hinrichs_photo_3

“The people I spoke to in Vancouver had incredibly positive experiences,” says Hinrichs. “It’s fun for the bloggers and for the audience members, who come out at intermission and see people blogging and Twittering live and can ask questions.”

The news isn’t even out “but I’ve already heard some good things,” Hinrichs says. “People seem to be excited. When I sent out the proposal, everybody responded positively within an hour, especially people who might not have been expected to be contacted by the Madison Opera.”

The format will be simple, he says.

A table will be set up in the lobby of the Overture Center. Bloggers will plug into power strips and join a wireless (wi-fi) connection that will be available. They can write before the show in the lobby, where flamenco dancers will be performing before the show. (“Carmen” takes a place in Spain, as you can see in a photo, above, of the visually striking set that was last used at the Washington National Opera.)

There will be no texting or blogging from inside the hall during the performance, Hinrichs emphasizes, because that would be distracting to both performers and members of the audience.

But during intermission, bloggers can ask audience members for their reactions or write their own observations or even file a preliminary review.

But bloggers should feel under no pressure to praise the production, Hinrichs adds.

“It’s up to the bloggers to write what they want to write. We don’t want to dictate to them,” he says. “If somebody has a critical thing to say, that goes with what we’re doing. You can’t control what a critic says.”

But at intermission, the live streaming, including blogging and Tweeting, resumes.

Then the hope, Hinrichs adds, is that bloggers will go home and write a full-fledged review.

He says the group’s general director, Alan Naplan, “is excited about it.”

“We’ve had our own blog for a year and have slowly been building an on-line community, and this is another step to expand it and bring more people in,” he says.

At just 24, Hinrichs feels right at home with the new media. Hinrichs in Thailand

“It’s been really fun that it is part of my job,” he says. “It’s fun but also educational as well as commercial. It’s a way for people who want more out of the experience to read things and get behind-the-scenes and even see videos.”

Hinrichs came from New York where he graduated from Colgate University in English and music, and worked for the Glimmerglass Opera and Chamber Music magazine. He also had a Fulbright grant to do research did music research in on the development of Western classical music in Thailand. (See the photo above right, where Hinrichs is on the left.)

“Carmen,” he adds, seems a good choice to start the blogging night.

“It’s a popular and populist work, and one of the operas that have a lot of music that a lot of people recognize,” he says.

If things work out well, he says the Madison Opera will do it again, probably not for the smaller mid-winter production of Benjamin Britten’s opera version of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” but certainly for the spring production of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” the Madison Opera’s first Wagner.

Ticket sales for “Carmen” are “on track,” he added, but like most performing arts organizations, The Madison opera expects a lot of non-subscription sales in the week leading up to the performance.

For information and ticket prices, call 608 238-8085 or visit:

Do you think new media can help classical music and opera reach new audiences?

What do you think of Madison Opera’s Bloggers Night?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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