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Opera Europa Conference in LondonThursday, March 3, 2011 By Darren K. Woods
Our Producing Director Kurt Howard and I have come to London to learn from and to help our counterparts in Europe and also to see the new opera "Anna Nicole" by composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. We took off yesterday (Wednesday) late afternoon and arrived this cold Thursday morning. After checking in at the hotel and have a great lunch at the National Portrait Gallery (where you can eat on the top floor, with gorgeous views of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and other London wonders), we headed to our first session with our European counterparts.
The biggest thing that is happening in Europe is the ending of government funding. Their government funding is not like ours in America - for years, European companies have had almost total government funding and have never really had to rely on fund raising the way we do. Even their ticket prices are subsidized so that everyone can afford them, so when the British Prime minister decreed that at least 60% of arts funding would be cut, it stunned the arts and culture community. Now our friends here must fight for not only these funds, but they must begin thinking about a dialogue with politicians, audience members, and artists about fund raising and audience development.
In the USA, we have always had to fund raise. We do depend on some government grants, like the National Endowment, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Arts Council of Fort Worth, but all of these combined only make up about 3% of our budget. We have always gone to our audiences and made the case for opera, ballet, symphony, museums, and the rest. In Europe they must now "face" their audience for the first time, really, and say, "What do you want?" and "Are we giving that to you?" These are questions we at Fort Worth Opera ask everyday - not only of you, but of ourselves. We don't need to exist just to exist - we should exist only as long as we are passionate, responding to our community and giving back to it. Opera and all art is transcendent, but we must have buy-in from all of you.
Darren K. Woods
General Director, Fort Worth Opera
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