Combined Sacramento Opera, Philharmonic hope to draw larger audience

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 4:09 pm

An avant-garde classical concert at a nightclub, an opera production at the Crocker Art Museum – these are a couple of ways that the soon-to-be-merged Sacramento Opera and Sacramento Philharmonic are trying to draw in more families and a larger audience for the 2013-2014 season.

"It gives the community more opportunity to participate in the classical arts – more affordable prices, more family-oriented entertainment – many, many positives," said Rod Gideons, general director of Sacramento Opera.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Philharmonic and the Sacramento Opera decided to merge to reduce costs and become more sustainable.

Two boards will be combined into one, and a new general director, Robert Tannenbaum, will take over the new entity next month. The budget for the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance – the umbrella group under which the two arts organizations will operate – was set at $1.8 million, down from the combined budget of $2.1 million that the two organizations had this year.

The inaugural season for the alliance offers a mix of opera performances and orchestral concerts in different venues.

The Sacramento Opera will be staging one recital and two productions, while the Sacramento Philharmonic will be holding four concerts. That translates to one fewer production for the opera and one fewer performance for the orchestra than in their regular seasons as separate entities.

However, the two groups will be collaborating on a joint event at Fairytale Town in William Land Park on Aug. 11. The Sacramento Opera will present "The Bremen Town Musicians" while WolfGANG!, the woodwind ensemble from the Sacramento Philharmonic, will perform "Peter and the Wolf."

The event not only kicks off the 2013-2014 season but also serves as the first of two family-oriented programs to be offered this year.

"We're really looking at the millennial generation. If you get the kids, you get the parents with them," said Jane Hill, interim executive director for Sacramento Philharmonic.

"If people didn't grow up with these art forms, they can be intimidating. With these entry places, they can try these art forms with their kids and see how entertaining, how fun they can be."

The Sacramento Philharmonic will also present its first pop music concert this year, "Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience," on Oct. 19 at the Community Center Theater.

"We hope that it will be the start of a pop series," said Hill. "If the pop concert goes well, maybe we'll do two next year."

Season ticket prices will be lower than in the past for the respective organizations.

For example, the lowest price for three concerts for the 2013-2014 season is $46, compared to $54 for the 2012-2013 season. The same goes for the highest-priced seats – $286 for the upcoming season, $298 for the past season.

Opera lovers will find that their tickets will cost a little more than those for orchestra patrons, but still less than in the past. Ticket prices will range from $54 to $222 for the upcoming season.

"Our prices are cheaper this year than they were last year," said Gideons. "We're trying to bring the pricing down to what the Philharmonic is charging."

One factor in keeping the ticket prices low is the use of new venues for the 2013-2014 season.

"We have to find new ways to present the art forms," said Hill. "The smaller venues cost less than the Community Center Theater."

One of the opera productions, the "International Stars of Opera Recital," will be held at the Crest Theatre on Nov. 22, while the orchestra will be performing its Satellite Series concert, "Old World/New World" at the Assembly at 10th and K streets on March 14.

"We've never performed there," said Hill, adding that the program at the nightclub will range from Bach to Metallica.

"It would be a wonderful experience. You can order food and drinks. It's still the classics and something that people have not experienced before."

Another novel setting for the upcoming season is the Crocker Art Museum, where the family opera "Monkey See, Monkey Do" will be staged by the Sacramento Opera on June 21 and 22.

"We hope to expand our audience, and we hope to expand their (the art museum's) audience," said Hill. "If someone comes to our opera, they may want to see the museum, too.

According to Hill, the alliance will have to raise $500,000 in sales in the new season to survive.

Last month, the two boards approved a new, one-year bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Musicians Local 12, which AFM members ratified on June 7.

"It's a big laboratory experiment," she said of the innovations in programming. "It's an exciting time and an exciting opportunity."

For a listing of the groups' upcoming performances, go to www.sacbee.com/links.

Call The Bee's Tillie Fong, (916) 321-1006.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Tillie Fong



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