Canadian Interview: Pierre Dufour

Pierre Dufour, Opéra de Montréal's general and production director, told PRWeek that a big part of the Opéra's success has been reaching out to new audiences—particularly young people.

The Opéra de Montréal has—against the odds—paid off a $2 million deficit in two years, a year ahead of its recovery plan schedule. In fact, Quebec's largest opera even recently registered a small $25,000 profit. Pierre Dufour, Opéra de Montréal's general and production director, told PRWeek that a big part of its success has been reaching out to new audiences—particularly young people.

Who is the typical opera goer today?
We like to think that the opera is becoming more popular among all types of people. But you do face prejudices among audiences because they think you need to be knowledgeable about classical music to appreciate the opera. While we are not Cirque du Soleil, the opera is musical theatre. And the fact is 33% of our audience right now is composed of people under the age of 30.That's why we have a program in place called 18-30, that lets a young person see two shows for $60, for example, or all six shows for $165. The opera is not as expensive as they might think it is.

But how do you attract young people who don't think it's for them, regardless of the cost?
We perform final dress rehearsals free of charge for people between the ages of 11 and 17. For every one of those shows, that brings from elementary and high schools about 2,000 people, and that creates an amazing energy. We have also been staging live transmissions. Last June, we set up a giant LCD screen [in downtown Montreal] where people could watch the final performance of Madame Butterfly. We had about 33,000 people show up, and some people were there for nine hours before the show started to make sure they had a good seat. Through such events, we can change people's mind about the opera.

How have you expanded your media outreach?
We don't want to just focus on targeting music and special-interest titles. If we want to reach young people, we need to be in the media that they use and read often—which means, for example, being written about in celebrity magazines. That is our goal.

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