The power of live theater can leave an imprint long after the curtain falls. Susan Danis, general director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera (FGO), still remembers seeing her first live opera when she was in the third grade.
“I was sitting in the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut, watching Carmen,” Danis recalls, “and I didn’t know what hit me.”
From that moment, Danis nurtured her love of the arts and eventually studied theater in college, earned an MBA, and, eight years ago, landed at FGO.
“My exposure to the arts is really what grew my passion,” she says. “I have this mix of a knowledge and a passion for the art form, as well as a business acumen. For an arts organization to survive these days, you definitely need both.”
Danis put all of her skill sets to use when working with her team to launch the online forum FGO Go. Art organizations around the globe are trying to come up with unique ways to stay relevant and involved in people’s lives. Can’t make it out to the theater? The theater will come to you.
“We went with the name 'FGO Go' because we wanted to make it sound a little more exciting than just staying at home,” Danis says. Although the name implies viewers will be going places, the travels will be virtual. It’ll be the first time that watching opera in your pajamas is culturally acceptable.
“As the world started to change... we wanted our audience to know that we were thinking about them,” Danis explains. “We understand what everybody is up against... and we wanted to make it easy for our audience to still enjoy opera even though we can’t all congregate in a theater.”
The company will push content on its social media pages, and everything will ultimately stream on its YouTube channel. Before FGO's studio artists left to shelter in place, they were able to record a few things. FGO, in turn, created six mini-concerts using that footage, which will be released weekly.
Highlights from Verdi’s Rigoletto and Cimarosa's El Matrimonio Secreto (The Secret Marriage) are already online. “Anything that we as FGO Go create as content will stay that way so people can view it at their leisure,” Danis says.
FGO will stagger its releases and offer plenty of varied content. For the next four weeks, the company will finish uploading one new mini-concert a week. After that, the plan is to begin releasing playlists and audio series so users can learn about their favorite operas while enjoying familiar arias. FGO is also working on video interviews with staff and company members.
All of the videos will run less than 30 minutes each, Danis promises. But will there be full recordings of past performances? The American Guild of Musical Artists is deliberating on whether to allow them.
“We’re really excited about this possibility,” she says. “We’re still waiting for final approval, but it’s unprecedented that [the guild] even considers it. It’s a testament to the fact that it is a new world.”
The beauty of FGO Go is that those who might've never had the opportunity to experience live theater can now more easily access it. And when the stay-at-home orders are lifted and performances are rescheduled, there'll be a desire to see live opera.
“People get excited about what they’re experiencing virtually,” Danis says. “We’re all going to be craving so many things after this is over.”
FGO Go is available at youtube.com/floridagrandopera.