LOS ANGELES – Opera is a larger than life artform. You might think too large to be contained in a laptop or smartphone. And yet small screens are the LA Opera’s latest stage.
Joshua Winograde, senior director of artistic programs, says even before the pandemic, LA Opera was trying to figure out ways to interact with their audience digitally.
“You know, how can we bring what is so squarely a live unamplified artform – no electronics -- how can we bring that with electronics into people’s homes?" he said.
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These were long standing conversations about ideas for the future, but suddenly the timeline changed.
“It certainly was the closure of the Music Center that said, 'it has to be now,'" Winograde explained.
Thanks to recordings of past productions they were able to move quickly, and deliver some content online. But archival performances lacked what Winograde considers one of the most special things LA Opera offers – a live congregational experience.
Cue the Living Room Recital.
“I hope we’re live," Janai Brugger said to her Facebook audience as the livestream started. “Welcome to our living room.”
The intimate concerts are part of #LAOatHome and that’s exactly where the singers are -- in their homes, surrounded by the spouses, children and pets.
Brugger is an alumna of LA Opera’s Young Artist Program and performed in last season’s Clemency of Titus. She says the Living Room Recitals give audiences a chance to see the singers in a whole new light.
“We are just ordinary people," she explained. "They can see my book cases, my kid running around in his pajamas. It’s not so hoity-toity.”
And since the performances are live on Facebook, she personally felt more connected to her audience too, with her husband relaying the reactions in real time.
“He would be giving me thumbs up or covering his heart because he read something touching," Brugger recalled.
Winograde says the digital offerings will continue even after the Opera is able to reopen its doors. Not only has it given opera fans something they yearn for, it’s also allowed the organization to reach new audiences in a very welcoming way, through popular events like Opera Happy Hour or the soothing Opera Lullabies project.
“We’re seeing a lot of people talking about how these opportunities are providing them comfort at a time when everybody seems to need to feel connected and to feel supported," Winograde explained.
A high note for music lovers even if it’s coming from a tiny screen.
The organization has also established the LA Opera Relief Fund to support the hundreds of people impacted by the cancellation of productions. For more information, click here.