Friday, September 21, 2007

Let's All Go to the Opera

By Mitchell

It had been a while since the Minnesota Opera had gotten on my nerves, and I'd been wondering, frankly, what the problem was. Well, as it turns out, I needn't have worried. The new season starts next week, and our subscription correspondence included this bit on a group called "Out @ the Opera."

"Out at the Opera" (the @ ruined the link, so I'll leave it out here) is described as "The Minnesota Opera's new group for our friends in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Allies community. Join us for a peek inside the world of The Minnesota Opera with special behind-the-scenes access to the 2007-2008 season."

Now, understand this - what follows is in now way intended to be disparaging to homosexuals. In all honesty, I think the best way to get involved in any group - arts or otherwise - is to be part of a group that already shares common interests. No, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but it has everything to do with marketing a product and pandering to an audience.

There's already a perception that homosexuality is a dominant feature in the arts today (see this take we did on it back in February, when we looked at a 2 Blowhards piece asking the question,"Why do so many American males consider arty and aesthetic matters to be faggy?"), which makes me wonder why any organization would want to emphasize this perception, unless they wanted to make it even more so. Otherwise, they're simply playing up to their own stereotype. And why would this group be any more in need of "behind-the-scenes access" than any other? In fact, if you're going to try to appeal to a group that would seem to be underrepresented in the arts - that is, if you're going to try to play against your own stereotypical demographic - wouldn't that group be hetrosexuals?

Sure, it's true that the Minnesota Opera has a "Young Professionals" group, which either serves as a music education group or a classical dating service, I'm not sure which. And it's also true, based on some of the MO's performances we've attended, that they're desperately in need of a younger demographic. But if you're trying to expand your reach (and aren't all arts groups in that dilemma?), wouldn't it make more sense to try and appeal to people other than those that - again, stereotypically - already fall into your target market? (Drew adds, in passing, that if "Gay @ the Opera" really takes off, at least you won't be needing a young people's education program.)

And so it strikes me that the Minnesota Opera isn't really doing much to expand its reach by starting up a program that looks like it's pandering to a group that is already part of its major demographic. If arts organizations truly want to shake the perception that art is not masculine - in other words, if they truly want to reach out to new consumers and broaden their appeal - this doesn't seem to be a very smart way to go about doing it. And I'll finish up with a quote that Michael Blowhard had in his original 2 Blowhards piece: "Is this state of affairs a good thing? Wouldn't we all be a bit better off if the aesthetic fields had a few more straight guys in them?"

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