volcanohunter

audience surveys

7 posts in this topic

The other day I received an audience questionnaire from the Paris Opera. It was very nice of them to ask, though in light of the fact that I'm not likely to visit Paris all that frequently, I can't pretend to be a typical patron. Still, it got me to thinking about the audience questionnaires I've filled out in recent years, and I'm curious about the experiences of other BTers. For example:

Do you think audience surveys are worthwhile, or do they lead to pandering on the part of arts organizations?

Do you think that arts institutions actually pay attention to the results of such surveys, or do other factors predominate in programming? Put it another way: do some companies choose repertoire in spite of what surveys and box office receipts tell them; is this a good thing?

Have your requests or suggestions been heeded?

Do theatres really need to ask whether audiences prefer Italian opera to German opera?

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They use me as a control for what not to program, because for a typical season, I'd pick:

Wozzeck

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Elektra

Otello

Pelleas et Melisande

Les Troyens

Iphigenie en Tauride

Das Rheingold

Un Ballo in Maschera

Ainadomar

La Clemenza di Tito

Jenufa

War and Peace

Nixon in China

Katya Kabanova

Boris Gudanov

and they'd go broke.

In Seattle, Speight Jenkins tends toward the Balanchinian: he makes a meal of each season, and for every new or "difficult" opera, there's usually an antidote, like "Pearl Fishers" (French, melodic) after "Elektra" (German, dramatic, some would say strident). I think it's interesting that we're also getting a "Bluebeard's Castle"/"Erwartung" double bill in the same season as "Elektra", but the season was bookended by "Aida", where normally there is a German opera in the summer, and the season ends with "Marriage of Figaro".

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Remember, Nutcracker premiered as a second bill on an evening which started with Iolanta! An attempt at some kind of balance, but must have made for a very long evening at the Maryinsky!

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Our local opera company has been quite frank about the role that economics are playing in their recent move into an even more conservative programming direction. This season: Rigoletto (packed houses this weekend), Norma, Figaro, Boheme. All in Italian! All hummable! All "old friends."

Both ABT and Perm are bringing (surprise!) Giselle later this season. Apparently only that and Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are considered appropriate for tours to south Florida.

Volcanohunter, I'd be interested to hear what kind of questions Paris asked in their survey. Given that there is controversy about the increasing bias towads the contemporary by POB management, did you have the sense that they were trying to measure audience feelings about that issue?

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Volcanohunter, I'd be interested to hear what kind of questions Paris asked in their survey. Given that there is controversy about the increasing bias towads the contemporary by POB management, did you have the sense that they were trying to measure audience feelings about that issue?

Unfortunately, I didn't write them down as I was filling them out online because the system is rigged to prevent ballot stuffing, so I couldn't go back to reread the questions. They concerned both opera and ballet programming, asking, more or less on a scale of one to five, what sort of programming I preferred. I was asked about 19th-century ballet, neo-classical ballet, modern choreography and modern opera-ballet productions (Bausch, Waltz, etc.). In addition, the questions concerned the relative preference for 19th-century narrative ballet, 20th-century narrative ballet, abstract ballet, mixed bills and visiting companies. I'm sure the perceived bias of the POB management was an issue, though who can tell whether the results of a survey would have any sort of influence over it.

On the operatic side, the choices offered were Italian, French, German/Austrian, Wagner, and Slavic opera. There didn't seem to be as much emphasis on period as I would've expected. The questionnaire also asked whether I attended symphonic concerts, how many Paris Opera performances I attended in the last year, which other Parisian musical theatres I'd visited, which media sources I used for concert information (not particularly relevant in my case), my occupation and where I lived.

I'm assuming that the questionnaire was sent to those who purchased tickets to the Paris Opera in the last year. Obviously, I wouldn't be a typical patron. In my case a relevant question would have been something like: what would you be willing to cross the Atlantic for to see?

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Did you purchase tickets using the French version of the website? I purchased tickets to four performances last season, ballet and opera from the website in the English version; sadly, because POB moved the School Peformance dates and Leigh and I changed our dates, I missed the "Wozzeck". I didn't receive a questionnaire, and I open all email from POB, even in French (and hope that Babelfish can help me out).

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Did you purchase tickets using the French version of the website?

I probably ordered the tickets in English because both the e-mail and the questionnaire itself were in English. Mine arrived last Friday. Perhaps not all the questionnaires were sent out at once and yours is still forthcoming.

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