At the Opera. Yes, the Opera. - American Rural
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At the Opera. Yes, the Opera.

23 May At the Opera. Yes, the Opera.

Last weekend, I went to the opera. Not just any opera either. I saw The Metropolitan Opera’s spectacular performance of Turandot by Puccini at Lincoln Center. The voices, the costumes, the drama! It was transcendent. And the best part? I never left the great state of Montana.With about 100 other opera fans, I watched a live broadcast of Turandot at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. In high definition! It was awesome. In addition to the actual live performance which included the famed aria Nessun Dorma (translation – None Shall Sleep), we were treated to interviews with the performers, fascinating backstage shots, and commentary from renowned soprano Renee Fleming.

Even if you’re not an opera buff, this is a great story for lots of reasons. Like so many arts organizations, the Metropolitan Opera needed to grow revenue but had a serious limitations; ticket sales were limited to the number of seats available at Lincoln Center in downtown New York City – not much room for growth there. Simultaneously, there’s been a growing recognition among communities nationwide that the arts are a big economic booster, even in small towns. Voila; a little collaboration, some fundraising, and a win-win solution emerged.

According to Americans for the Arts, in 2010 the nonprofit arts and culture industry accounted for 2.25 million full-time equivalent jobs, $61.1 billion in spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and $74.1 billion in spending by their audiences. The nonprofit arts industry generates $22.3 billion annually in revenue for local, state, and federal governments. This reflects a whopping return on investment for the $4 billion government entities make in yearly arts allocations.

Money spent on the arts stays local and that’s key for revenue-strapped communities. It makes sense. When we spend $100 on Amazon, that money effectively leaves the community. But if we buy tickets for a local theater or symphony production, the money stays local. If we also go out to dinner, hire a babysitter or have drinks after the show, a large chunk of that money gets recycled back into the community as well. So not only do the arts contribute to improving the overall amenities of a location, it’s pretty easy to see how arts are a great financial investment for urban centers and small towns alike.

But back to the Met. From big cities to Ellsworth, Maine (pop. 7,875), Berlin, Wisconsin (pop. 5,478), Eads, Colorado (pop. 609), Lander, Wyoming, (pop. 7,732) and here in the Flathead, lots of us can now watch live performances of the Metropolitan Opera without ever getting on an airplane. And as broadcasting and streaming technologies advance, live performances of all types become more feasible than ever, even in out of the way communities.

The Whitefish Arts Council is the volunteer organization that spearheaded the fundraising necessary to bring the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to the Flathead. WAC volunteers staff ticket and snack sales on opera days. Even local high school students attend, oftentimes as a result of tickets donated by our own opera-supporting neighbors. It’s a great example of small-town innovation and hard work. Proving yet again that when collaboration meets creativity, win-win solutions result. Just about anywhere.

February 10, 2016

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