Day 2 of Opera America's 2010 Conference by Guest Bloger Kala Maxym

     The second day of the conference started out on an un-operatic note for me. My sister was graduating residency that morning and the ceremony was being live-streamed from Seattle. I set up to watch it, paying a whopping $10 for the internet only to realize that it wasn't going to work at all. But given that I was already going to be late to the first session, I decided to rest up a bit for the remaining event that day.
     The first session I attended today was given by David McIntosh of DSMcIntosh. I remembered the guy from last year, and was so thrilled when I realized it was the same man who'd had me in stitches in Houston. He gave a phenomenal talk on "Finding a Better Business Model." To be honest none of the ideas were that new or really that innovative, but he presented them in such a way that you had to think again about whether you had actually been taking the best advantage of the products and customers you had at your fingertips. Of course "products" and "customers" (in most cases, this meant audience members of course) are not really relevant as such to our mission at The Opera Insider, but of course it all relates to us in that the "customers" we hope will be our members, engaging in discussion over the state of opera in America and around the world today.

     The food at lunch was decidedly unappetizing but the company made up for it. The General Manager of Opera in the Heights, Bill Haase, whom I had met last year in his hometown of Houston, invited me to sit with him and we discussed some exciting projects he has up his sleeve with his company, specifically a project to integrate the East Side of town more into the operatic life of the city. With such a large Hispanic community, he says it's just not possible to maintain an opera presence without making significant inroads into that cultural landscape. His answer? Zarzuela! It's upbeat, it's different, it's in a language that is familiar to this demographic, and it's not quite as intricate as opera is traditionally. I can't wait to see what he does with this idea and TOI will support him all the way!
     A discussion with Placido Domingo followed lunch, and there is little to say about this man except that he is indeed the most gracious, the most passionate, the must devoted man we must have in opera today. Long-winded perhaps, but really all that he had to say was so on the mark, that even when he strayed utterly from the question that had been asked him, no one cared. He spoke about his beginnings in music with his parents who ran a small opera company in Mexico when he was a child, and spoke about the joys (and obstacles) of running an opera company. Huge applause of course followed his statement that although he thought he would retire after his most recent runs as Simon Boccanegra, he will in fact keep singing. And at 69 he is in the most amazing physical and vocal shape. Truly remarkable.
     I tried to meet with Lee Abrahamian of the Metropolitan Opera's communications department today. We had tried unsuccessfully to contact her several times before the conference so I was excited to meet her in person and ask her some questions. Sadly she never showed up... so I ended up attending a Focus Session presented by Jan Hultin of the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Savonlinna, Finland. They have just launched a new and exciting project called "Opera by You 2012" (, which is an attempt to put together an opera with the input of audience members and industry professionals from around the world. No surprise here that I thought it
was a pretty good idea!!!
     That was the end of the day for me! Sadly the Anniversary Dinner and Reception was sold out (although at almost $100 a person, it was priced just slightly out of my range!) but I had much better plans anyway! My friend Courtney and I met over 15 years ago when we both attended a year-long Study Abroad program in Barcelona, Spain... I attended her wedding in 2004 and I haven't seen her since. Three babies later, she looks amazing, and is hoping for a fourth child. Makes opera look like a
piece of cake!

-Kala Maxym
Executive Director
The Opera Insider

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