Meet the Duo Making Opera Cool
No longer does attending the opera mean tight tuxedos, rigid seats, drooping eyelids and the need for binoculars. Now it’s all about comfy cushions, local beer and performers who stand just a few inches away.
Founded by stepsiblings Daniel Ellis-Ferris, 27, and Brianna Maury, 26, LoftOpera hosts fully staged operas in unique locations (such as a former car restoration shop) throughout Brooklyn, New York. Tickets cost $30 a pop.
“It serves our mission better to shoot for a more grassroots-style growth.”
The New York City opera scene has spiraled downward in recent years. The Gotham Chamber Opera closed in October 2015, and The New York City Opera filed for bankruptcy in 2013 (it returned to the stage in January 2016). LoftOpera wants to keep the art form alive.
“As we’ve grown, the idea of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it has sort of solidified,” says Ellis-Ferris. “A large part of that has been a real interest in introducing people to this art form because we really believe in it, and we think it deserves to continue in New York in a lot of different ways.”
Maury says that after their shows people come up to them and say things like, “I’ve never experienced the human voice this way.”
LoftOpera’s first performance in 2013 was Don Giovanni. The show featured a 18-piece orchestra and had 450 attendees over three shows. The most recent production in March of Tosca had 3,000 attendees over six performances and brought in $62,000 in ticket revenue. Ellis-Ferris says, in terms of profit, they have found their sweet spot. For LoftOpera, growth isn’t about moving upward—it’s about moving outward. In 2017, he says they’re looking at expanding to Detroit and New Orleans.
“It serves our mission better to shoot for a more grassroots-style growth. I think that sort of growth serves our mission of creating real, sustainable change in how opera is produced in America much better than us just emulating one of the larger opera companies.”