Thursday, August 14, 2014

The World of Opera through the eyes of Speight Jenkins

Last night, during some late night hacking, I hit SoundCloud to find something new and different to listen to. A search for 'Opera' eventually brought me to this interview with Speight Jenkins. At the time of the interview, Jenkins was leaving the Seattle Opera company, after having served as director there for 31 years.

As the interview played on, I realized I was finding it quite riveting. Jenkins has the voice and the stories to make his career really come alive.

Along with a number of entertaining anecdotes, there were a couple of points that really hit me: (1) I'd always assumed that Opera was a static art form. Surely the way a performance is done now is the same way it would have been done 100 years ago. Not so; Jenkins does a great job of explaining how the art form has evolved. And (2) his strategy for dealing with difficult actors is pretty simple: he makes it clear to his team that while they are visiting the opera company, everyone needs to put up with and try to satisfy this individual. But, he also promises that this person won't be invited back. I think that's a simple strategy that can be applied to all sorts of difficult people and tasks.

Give the interview a listen. Perhaps like me you'll be sucked in, and be impressed with the (surprisingly?) lively world of running an Opera company.

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