As Bel Canto Boot Camp was already in preparation for a July 23 concert at The National Opera Center, the recent leak of offensive messages from Opera America’s listserv written by administrators at young artist programs placed BCBC in a difficult situation as to whether to proceed as planned. BCBC’s leadership reached out to the singers scheduled to perform and gave them the opportunity to voice their opinions. Unsurprisingly they had reservations about performing at Opera America’s flagship venue. We summarized their views in an email to Dan Cooperman (Chief Advancement Officer at Opera America) on Wednesday, July 20, excerpted below:
While Opera America distanced itself from the hurtful remarks of Ms. Svoronic, it failed to see the offensive nature of the thread as a whole as introduced by Ms. Rogers and subsequent responses of others including Mr. Kazaras and Mr. Ronis. Young singers deserve respect both as people and as artists. The whole presumption underlying every aspect of the initial message and responses is that the young singer should not feature in the power hierarchy of the opera world at all. They simply should be seen and heard only when asked to sing. And when they sing they should sing as they are told to sing. Their opinion is neither desired nor regarded and thus when offered unsolicited is considered “attitude, pushback, entitlement, difficult” (Ms. Rogers’ words).
Where does Opera America stand on this issue in a broad sense? Does Opera America condone discussions on its forums about young singers having to know their place and keep their opinions to themselves?
On Wednesday July 20, BCBC received a thoughtful response from Christian De Gré Cárdenas (Chief Operating Officer of Opera America) promising the imminent public release of “an apology, a statement, an action plan for change, and an invitation for artists to come to the table to address us, and the field, on how we can support them and create meaningful progress.”
Opera America sent this statement to BCBC on Friday, July 22 and published the same on their website.
In light of this public statement and its emphasis on the road forward, BCBC and its artists have chosen to accept Opera America’s apology and move forward with the July 23 performance at The National Opera Center as planned. As an organization we are committed not only to defining problems but above all to engaging in finding solutions. As a professional member of Opera America, BCBC and our artists will hold Opera America accountable to the promises they have made today.
BCBC stands in solidarity with and wishes to thank other artists and organizations, especially members of marginalized communities, who already have and continue to advocate for singers in our business.
Opera America can count on our participation in all actions that will restore the equilibrium between artist and artist management in all its diverse forms. BCBC is committed to restoring singers to their rightful place as the most influential participants in the opera world, which is how it used to be and how we believe it should be again. We are committed to playing an active role in preparing singers to reclaim that place. Knowledge empowers singers—knowledge not only of their own voices but of performance practice of all the styles they choose to perform. When they are engaged to perform, they deserve the right to exercise the power of that knowledge as fully empowered artistic collaborators both in rehearsal and in performance. As Lilli Lehmann said: “The authority of my knowledge was my protection.” It is unacceptable that singers have to hide their own knowledge, expertise, and musical expression in order to “get along.” Let’s change that together.