Opera Daily 🎶 — To give or not to give the audience what they want
This week's Opera Daily features one of the most viewed operatic performances on YouTube
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I never thought I would be quoting American rapper, actor, and filmmaker Ice Cube in Opera Daily, but here we are.
I heard a story yesterday that reminded me of this quote and I couldn’t help but make the connection to opera.
Last week, Will Guidara, who co-owned and operated the restaurant Eleven Madison Park in NYC for nearly a decade, talked about an experience that made me think.
One day, while clearing a table in the restaurant, he heard four European diners talking about how they had eaten at all the fanciest restaurants in the city but were disappointed that they did not have a chance to try an NYC hot dog. They were heading to the airport right after dinner and were disappointed.
Here’s Will (in his own words) talking about what happened next:
I went back into the kitchen, dropped off the plates, ran outside to the corner hotdog cart, and bought a hot dog. I ran back inside to our chef with it.
Then came the hard part–to trust me. He eventually agreed to cut the hot dog up and add some sauerkraut and mustard.
Right before their final savory course, which was a honey lavender glaze, Muscovy ducks that had been fried for two weeks, utilizing a technique that has taken years to perfect, we brought over the hot dog.
I told them I wanted to make sure they didn’t go home with any culinary regrets, and so we brought them a New York City hot dog.
They freaked out, and it was one of those moments where I recognized that there was an opportunity to approach all of this differently than it had been done before.
I knew that if we could create a culture where the team was present enough at the table to pick up on these cues, and then not take themselves too seriously, we could accomplish that goal.
Customer obsessed? Definitely.
Talk about being in tune with the desires and expectations of his audience.
In opera, there is a similar need to understand and cater to the audience's preferences. Operagoers sometimes want to enjoy the timeless classics without fuss or reinvention.
Just as the guests at Eleven Madison Park appreciated the traditional New York City hot dog in the midst of an elaborate fine dining experience, many operagoers relish the opportunity to experience the standard repertoire performed true to its original form. For these audiences, the familiar melodies, stories, and emotions hold the greatest appeal. They may not necessarily be looking for modern twists or fancy interpretations.
In our quest to innovate and push boundaries in opera, I think it’s important to remember that not all audiences crave novelty or experimentation. Sometimes, they want the comfort and familiarity of the classics.
The lesson from Eleven Madison Park is valuable: listen carefully to what your audience is saying and cater to their desires, whether they want something new and groundbreaking or to revel in the beauty of the classics. By paying attention to the diverse preferences of the audience, we can create memorable experiences that resonate and keep the art form thriving.
In the spirit of giving people what they want, we are listening to one of the most viewed operatic performances on YouTube (51 million views) of a tenor supergroup 😉
🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen): Tenors Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras singing “O Sole mio” a well-known Neapolitan song, in a live LA concert in 1994
Thank you for reading (and listening), and feel free to reply with feedback or leave a comment.
Please have a wonderful week,
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we featured a tenor aria from the French opera La Fille du Régiment by Gaetano Donizetti.
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How ironic--a few weeks ago I took a few friends to Rutt's Hut which has been serving hot dogs for 95 years. I have taken them to the Opera and Symphony as well. Does the Frankfurt Opera serve hot dogs ? That was their first time at Rutt's Hut but I have been going there and to The Met since 1970, as we both survived.
I will have an opportunity to test that theory this Wednesday. As luck would have it, I have been invited to experience "Blue" this Wednesday. My sister purchased a ticket for me, though she warned it's in the nosebleed seats.😊 I will grab an extra program for you and let you know what I think later, both about this new contemporary opera and also "O Sole Mio" with these three luminaries in the profession.