In 1986 I co-founded Longwood Opera with John Balme. The original concept of what and how we should be as a company changed quickly and has morphed over the last 27 years.
Hard to think that 27 years of my life has been pushing this little bus up the hill - and to where and perhaps why? And more importantly, maybe it is time for a change.
For many years I have lovingly called us the "minor league" or "the pawtucket" of opera. We have become a spring board for opera singers graduating from the multitude of educational opera institutions in the Boston area. There are probably more opera programs in the Boston area then most other cities in the world. A singer has spent thousands of dollars on a program(s) and yet the larger professional/global companies are not yet interested (for most of these singers) in hiring them. What do they do? Where do they go? How do they proceed up the arduous path of the profession where one becomes a full time Opera Singer? Arduous indeed and close to impossible. Being at the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, and most of all luck and somewhat my "3 P's" are needed - Polite, Prepared, Punctual. Alas, many do not heed the need for the "3 P's," and if they know the right people and/or are lucky - off they go to stardom. And yet many of those embracing the "3P's" but have no luck and/or connections go nowhere.
So what has happened for 27 years? I decided to take a different tact as a producer and a director then most other companies. Nurture the singer, offer them positive experiences, give them at least a small (sad) remuneration for the efforts. Costume them as well as possible and surround them with an imaginative/simple set and props only as needed. AND put them in front of an appreciative audience. Give them an opportunity to hone their singing and acting tools in a live environment. What could be better the this? In 2009 I took some time and created a spreadsheet that included every production and every performer involved in performances going back to only 1996. 534 singers have been part of these productions. I have 4 more years to plug in to get to 2013 and a lot further to dig in to get to the beginnings (when we would triple cast productions like Carmen)! Note this does not include the number of singers performing on our summer concerts for the last 23 years. 50-70 each summer! A lot of singers.
We hear close to 200 singers each winter and spring - all wanting to be part of what Longwood Opera does and offers. Or so they say at the time.
How many of the 534 are "famous" or successful - I frequently see familiar names from our lists in reviews of productions around the world. Most others have just disappeared - I often wonder what they are doing, where and why?
I am so glad that there are an abundance of successful singers, who started with us. This validates me in what we have been attempting to do. I do thank profusely the few who at least include "Longwood Opera" as a mention. Sadly, the majority do not recognize their beginnings? I find this curious. It seems that it is more important, in their bio in a program of a major company where they are currently performing, to list that they performed "tree #3" with some famous other company rather then "Tosca in Tosca" with Longwood Opera or the "15th wood elf" instead of Mimi or Musetta in La Bohème with Longwood Opera.
And how may singer web sites do I visit, with again, no mention of how we helped? I guess in their eyes maybe we didn't.
Why is this?
How soon we are forgotten.
Perhaps this is just another signal that the times have changed and I didn't.
The bus has run out of gas, no filling station in sight and maybe pushing it is no longer needed or wanted.