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Alexandra

Audience demographics: age

20 posts in this topic

Every time I read one of these articles, I think that the unconscious subtext is that they want to round up everyone over 70 and bus them to a concentration camp to get them out of the way for real people. Ageism lives.

I posted this on Links, but thought it worthy of discussion, so post it here as well.

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Why it's trainers, not tiaras, for a night out at the opera.

For generations, the popular image of the average Covent Garden operagoer has remained the same: grey-haired and doddery, the men wearing formal evening dress, the women draped in the family jewels.

But the Royal Opera House has discovered that its audience is much more in tune with the twenty-first century than expected.

http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,...,651649,00.html

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I didn't read the article, it would be too depressing. But, even the title proves that we all assume things about our audiences that are nto true. There is only one way to really know who fills the seats - research. I know it is expensive but it is worth it.

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My initial reaction was to take offense at the stereo-type of young people not dressing "appropriately" when going to the opera or the ballet.

I think they worry too much about the "future" audience when they do these marketing campaigns.

They should concentrate on what the audience now wants, because a lot of the future is already sitting there.

In talking to a friend about how the audience isn't made up of all "older people" anymore. She told me opera and ballet used to be an "acquired, refined" evening. It was meant for people who wanted to learn more and were ready for it.

The last comment intriqued me. She explained it in terms of her profession (a teacher at a private school in Manhattan)

Sure you can give a 13 year old "Emma" to read and they can get through it, but it doesn't have the same meaning as it does to someone who's 23 and reads it and that same person who's 33 will read it from another perspective.

It's fine to bring a young one to the ballet and introduce them, but far another thing to expect them to understand it and like it.

(That is all paraphrased, of course)

I think those of us that like ballet (and those in charge) naturally want everyone to like it, but maybe it's not for everyone. The art is far from dead or even near-death. Heck, it even has boards like this on the internet!

I'd rather see the marketing money spent on rehearsal time.

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Calliope wrote:

"I'd rather see the marketing money spent on rehearsal time."

Oh, yes, please, please. And all the education money that's supposedly used to hook those young people and which, if it was doing its job, would have produced more ballet fans than NFL fans by now.

I agree -- I've said this before, and I nkow there are others who feel the same (and those who feel differently, of course smile.gif ): ballet is not for everyone. It can be for anyone, regardless of race, class, AGE, or financial condition. But there are probably many more people who will be bored by it than not.

This week at Sleeping Beauty -- the long version -- there were people who were delighted and people who groused that there wasn't enough dancing. At the Satuday matinee (curiously, the "old people's" matinee) there were a lot of empty seats after Act II, while no one within my eyesight in the orchestra left early on Friday and Saturday nights (where the audiences are very mixed, as far as age goes; my "research" is eyeballing the orchestra audience on the trek up the aisle during intermissions). I get impatient with people who think "Sleeping Beauty" is too long, until I remember that there are people who are happy to watch little cars race around a track for five hours, which would bore me to tears. You could have dragged me to stock car races at any age and I wouldn't have been interested -- like ballet, it's not for everyone smile.gif

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From my extremely limited perspective, my anecdotal impression is that the NYCB audience is getting older and the NYCOpera audience younger. Why this is so I haven't a clue, and I would hate to have a survey to determine why. In fact, the next time someone hands me a form to fill out with one of those nasty pencil stubs at the New York State Theater, I will not be responsible for my actions.

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Alexandra, I think your research technique should now be the new method of market research. The eyeball! No matter where I sit all I see is under rehearsed dancers and an audience that's becoming more disgruntled about it.

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Just a defense from the artistic side for the people in the outreach departments. I don't begrudge them their money at all. I don't want people trying to turn ballet into something it isn't. I got the most depressing email from a ticket outreach program in NYC for high school students. It described George Balanchine as having burned through five wives before succumbing to mad cow disease. I'm not kidding, I think I still have the email. After I recovered from my aneurysm, they got a very terse letter.

But I think a "Take your kids to the ballet, the museum, the opera!!" campaign is money well and necessarily spent. It's not that the audience is aging. It's that we're getting out of the habit of seeing live performances, and I think it's fallacious to think we need to make live performances just as sensationalistic as TV to get people to go. But we do need to inspire people to go, and that takes people out there spreading the good word.

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Out of curiousity, how many people on this board have gone to the ballet as a result of a marketing campaign (cheaper tickets...) for the first time?

I think if ballet companies were to advertise on TV, they might have a better shot at getting younger kids in. But aside from the weekend programs (and the freebies for school programs) it's a tough ticket to get regardless of age. Weekends naturally sell more tickets anyway (times work better for out of towners, people that work and kids). I can't help but wonder if companies would ever try doing a la Nutcracker a 6:00 performance start a couple of times during the week.

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I wasn't drawn in by a specific marketing campaign, but I did go for brand name. I ALMOST went to my first ballet to see Baryshnikov, because there was an article in the Post about him, and how he was the next Nijinsky. Having missed the first Nijinsky (of whom I had heard smile.gif ) I wanted to rush to see the new one while he was still young. Alas, the tickets were sold out.

A few months later, that other Next Nijinsky, Nureyev, was in town. I didn't have to be sold; I just saw a flyer.

Leigh, I love your Five Wives and Mad Cow -- what an epitaph! I am glad you wrote to them and I hope those people are now selling hair products or something more worthy of those talents.

Calliope, I hope you are right about disgruntled audiences. Unfortunately, since it's a pervasive problem,, we can't really vote with our feet, in the sense of abandoning Underrehearsed Company A for Beautifully Manicured Company B. People just stop coming. Then the marketeers are brought in, in a climate of high hysteria, and blame the old. biggrin.gif

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Some friends that were NYCB Guild members, wrote back on their renewal forms they would not be giving to the company and instead were sending their donations to SAB. No word yet from the Company.

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Calliope wrote:

Out of curiousity, how many people on this board have gone to the ballet as a result of a marketing campaign (cheaper tickets...) for the first time?

The first time I went to the ballet was because the orchestra was playing Tchiakovsky, whose music I had fallen in love with. It was the ABT on tour in Chicago and was a LONG time ago. The hook for us was an evening long Pyotr Illych concert--the ballet was a bonus. Whatever his faults, Tchiakovsky is a hyper-romantic master of melody. I am listening to his Op. 50 Piano Trio as I type this.

Some bonus--we were hooked on ballet from that evening.

At about the same time I read a weekend feature piece in the Chicago Daily news about the "greying of the audience" for serious culture--ballet, opera, symphony, chamber music. I thought it was odd, since many of the people with whom we shared the far reaches of the Auditorium Theater or the Civic Opera House were as young as we were.

The ABT still tours, the Lyric Opera is as successful as it ever has been and the Chicago Symphony has been a musical money machine. The Daily News went out of business about 25 years ago.

[ February 18, 2002: Message edited by: Ed Waffle ]

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Originally posted by Farrell Fan:

From my extremely limited perspective, my anecdotal impression is that the NYCB audience is getting older and the NYCOpera audience younger. .


Farrell Fan: I concur with your anecdotal impression! At a recent NYCO Rigoletto I was stunned by the number of 20 something couples I saw wandering around the promenade during intermission holding hands and drinking champagne. (I never really thought of Rigoletto as a date opera, but you never know ...) I wouldn't have been so surprised if had been one of NYCO's forays into the spikier by-ways of the repetoire or a new commission that had generated some buzz in the media -- but Rigoletto is about as mainstream as it gets (and there were no real stars in the cast that might have been the draw). I assume it's something with NYCO; at the Metropolitan Opera across the plaza I always seem to be the youngest person in my row by decades (and I am not, as Jane Austen would say, in my first youth ...). However, at NYCB I have been exactly the same age as everyone on line at the ladies' room for about 25 years now ...

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Kathleen O'Connell wrote: "However, at NYCB I have been exactly the same age as everyone on line at the ladies' room for about 25 years now ..."

Exactly! And yet, when I started going to the ballet, also around 25 years ago, I read that there was alarm because the average age of the NYCB subscriber was 55. (The only conclusion I can draw from this is that women over 55 don't use the ladies room smile.gif )

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Kathleen O’Connell’s observations about the audience for "Rigoletto" at the NYCO and some of my experiences here in the Motor City make me think that the acknowledged classics of the rep (or warhorses or "not that again", based on your point of view) may be the best way to get young people to the opera or ballet. Middle Verdi, Puccini, Mozart plus "Carmen" for the lyric stage, "Swan Lake", "Giselle", "Romeo and Juliet" plus some American classics for ballet. Easy stories to follow, big tunes that have been used for commercials and cartoons for years and which have been plundered for crossover hits.

"Madame Butterfly" and "La Traviata" sell out in Detroit even on weekday evenings. For Saturday night performances the standards draw lots of younger couples who buy tickets for that show. Our subscription for Saturday nights are in the nosebleed seats—the last ones in a row in the upper balcony without an obstructed view of the stage. One standards nights, the even the obstructed view seats are filled, generally with high school or college age women.

On the other hand, more adventurous (for Detroit) programming doesn’t attract the kids. Our matinee subscription is in a much more expensive section of the house. Our immediate neighbors are several seventy-something ladies who have been going to the opera for a long time and have heard many "La Traviata" productions. They were much more enthralled with "Peter Grimes" by Benjamin Britten, a work that played to acres of empty seats at the Detroit Opera House.

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I don't really go enough, but the ABT crowd vs. NYCB? With all due respect to NYCO, I think many people (at least in my 30-something circle) go there to see if they like opera before spending $100 to go to the Met.

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I believe NYCO does an agressive marketing campaign to "younger" and professional people. When I was at Columbia just a few years ago, I saw flyers posted all the time for discounted tickets for the NYCO. So, maybe these people started going to the opera while in college or graduate school and kept it up afterwards. Or maybe some see it is being good for their careers networking wise, like taking up golf smile.gif

NYCB used to do the same thing with the 4th Ring Society. I think the ad said something like, "Try to new bar scene..." And it showed a very lithe and lovely Margaret Tracey in Afternoon of a Faun standing at the barre.

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I think the 4th Ring Society is one of the good ideas in marketing. There are people who are intimidated by going to the ballet, and this is giving them a place where they know they'll be comfortable -- with "people like us". I can still remember the first time I went to the Met (to see Nureyev with the National Ballet of Canada). It was my second performance ever, and I bought matinee tickets because I felt I didn't belong there -- it was like going to a strange church. I wouldn't know when to kneel and how much money to put in the collection smile.gif Somehow, I thought I'd fit in better at a matinee smile.gif

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As a Londoner I found the results of this survey rather surprising. Yes, the average ROH audience does appear to include all age groups, but the regular ballet going audience is another matter. I personally know of only three ardent ballet fans under the age of thirty and although I am not acquainted with the entire ballet going fraternity at Covent Garden, I still maintain that the average age of the regulars must be pretty high.

The income figures published are misleading too as £30,000 per year is very high, far higher than the average wage and the £15,000 per year figure probably refers exclusively to students and pensioners. I know of one lady in the latter category who performs heroic acts of self-denial in order to afford her ballet.

London now ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world and the ROH seat prices are indicative of that. The prices in Paris for example are far lower both for ballet and the more expensive opera.

Finally I have to admit I did not fill in one of these questionnaires as I find questions concerning age and income impertinent - but perhaps that reflects the attitude of my particular age group.

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Calliope, what was the reason given by those NYCB Guild members, or former members, why they are contributing to SAB but not NYCB? Personally, I like giving to SAB better, but I also give to NYCB. I'm sure they need the money. Besides, the same guy runs both organizations, as Chairman of Faculty and Ballet Master in Chief.

My "Subscriber Remarks" this year concerned the early Tuesday curtain and fewer intermissions. I dislike both. In recent years, I've had nothing to say. But following Martins' firing of Suzanne in 1993, for a couple of seasons I wrote: "SHAME! SHAME! BRING BACK SUZANNE FARRELL!" I got a letter and a phone call in response, thanking me for my opinion. As it turned out, getting fired from NYCB was not a bad thing for SF at all.

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I'm not sure exactly what they wrote, but the gist of it was that they were so disappointed that NYCB looked under re-hearsed in so many pieces that they'd rather give the money to the school where the kids at least would learn a ballet with proper training and amount of time for performance.

It's by no means a huge movement, but we used to have a subscription where 6 of us went, we're all in our 30's and were just amazed (some not even knowing the pieces) of what is "thrown out" there. We all cancelled the subscriptions and go every once in a while, but switched to going to other companies, instead of NYCB this spring, we'll go see the Kirov this summer.

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