Opera, what solutions in the digital era?

In the previous article ” Opera, which challenges in the digital era “, I discussed the many and multifaceted challenges opera faces in the digital era. What could be the solutions?

One solution, in fact, emerged from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Also known as La Scala, the famed opera house, since its inauguration in 1778, has been the cradle, and pinnacle, of many of the most influential operas in history.

On February 14, 2023, in La Scala’s over 200 years’ history, for the first time, an opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s I Vespri siciliani, was streamed live to audience worldwide through the opera house’s online platform, LaScala.Tv . When the curtain rose on stage, in the digital world, bits of data started flowing to all corners of the planet. The revered opera house opened its gate to everyone, everywhere, all at once.

Does online streaming of opera make sense?

From a business perspective, it definitely does. Granted, art is not business; meanwhile, art needs funding generated from the business of art to survive and thrive. In today’s digital age, online streaming seems the natural convergence of art, technology, and business.

In the short term, online streaming, if well received, could quickly and significantly increase revenue. If opera can attract a large number of viewers from the global market, the volume of ticket sales can increase dramatically. In this industry, La Scala certainly has the pedigree, prestige, and quality to attract opera lovers from around the world.

A long-tail strategy

There is a concept called long-tail strategy in business. In this context, it means that it is important to tap into diverse communities of opera fans distributed around the world. Even though each community is small, the combined market demand can be massive. Online streaming is the vehicle for bringing this “long tail” of communities together.

In the medium term, as opera reaches more viewers and more diverse viewers, the value proposition of opera for sponsors, especially corporate sponsors who support art but also use art to build brand and access potential consumers, would increase dramatically. The increased funding from sponsors could then give the company more resources for public outreach, investment in content, talent and technology, and both conservation and innovation.

In the long term, if online streaming can give more people exposure and access to opera, as an art form, opera can be more effectively promoted, sustained, renewed, and even reinvented. A child who had never been to an opera house might watch an online video and become intrigued. The child might one day pursue opera as a hobby, passion, or even profession. When that happens to kids in all parts of the world, opera’s future is truly secured.

Back in the grand Milanese opera house, the suspense remains: will La Scala’s digital makeover receive a standing ovation? Is online streaming the beginning of a new chapter for opera?

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