This case study describes how the Boston Lyric Opera (BLO), the largest opera company in New England, increased opportunities for families to experience the art form in hopes of developing future audiences. To that end, it turned its abridged operas, used in school programs, into high-quality family productions. BLO supplemented and promoted those productions with free scaled-down workshops at local libraries and other community venues.

Post-show surveys revealed the majority of adult attendees were opera fans who wanted to introduce their children to the art form, thus meeting two of BLO’s primary goals—providing children with their first experience of opera and creating opportunities for their busy parents to attend performances. Two of the venues, however, were in neighborhoods with few opera fans, creating the need to reach out to adults with little or no experience with the art form. While BLO’s efforts to engage members of this community were largely unsuccessful, the previews held at local libraries did attract a large percentage of first-time adult opera-goers. On average, 56 percent of adults at a preview had never attended a fully staged opera before, compared with 12 percent at the family performances.

This report is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones.

 Points of Interest

  • Before attending Boston Lyric Opera’s family performances, approximately 67 percent of the audience visited BLO’s website, which featured such content for parents as story synopses and composer backgrounds.
    67% of #family #opera performance audiences visited @BostLyricOpera’s website before attending. #Boston #arts
  • During four years of post-show surveys, 57 percent to 76 percent of adults attending the Boston Lyric Opera’s family performances indicated their children were “completely captivated” by the performances.
    57–76% of adults said #kids were “completely captivated” by @BostLyricOpera’s #family #opera performances. #arts
  • After the Boston Lyric Opera introduced a pre-curtain speech aimed at giving the audience attending its family performances time to settle, reminding children to yell “bravo” at the appropriate time and focusing attention on the stage, complaints about late arrivals and fidgeting children disappeared.
    Pre-curtain talks at @BostLyricOpera #family #opera performances: fewer fidgeting children. #Boston #arts