Mystery score

Mystery score

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Get Your Priorities Straight, People

I just filled out an audience survey for Santa Fe Opera, which tells me my opinion is important to them.

  • The survey asked only factual questions, mostly about waiting times for parking, restroom, etc., as well as questions about whether my experience with various activities (buying tickets, example) was satisfactory.
  • The survey asked no questions about the musical performances.
This is exactly backwards. I don't give a flying fuck about whether I'm waiting in line for the bathrooms. I care a whole lot about the quality of the musical productions, the singing, and the conducting. That is why I'm willing to fly to Santa Fe, take time off, and spend a lot of money attending the opera: to see top-flight productions of works I won't see anywhere else in the US.

6 comments:

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Yes, but opinions on musical performance, which operas are worth seeing, etc, are going to vary widely, whereas waiting in line for a bathroom is going to inconvenience everyone. I don't blame organizations for checking on more procedural matters, which, after all, are easier to take care of -- you can hire great artists but they might have an off night, but if the ticketing system sucks they can adjust it. I wish more organizations did surveys on things like location, start times, prices, seating, etc. You yourself have commented on your many difficulties with the SF Symphony's ticketing system, and while the difficulties may not have put you off attending, not everyone is as intrepid or as willing to put up with the irritation and inconvenience, especially given the prices charged for most opera/symphony performances. I've had conversations with theater managers who desperately wanted to replace their awful folding chairs, but they couldn't get grants for something as basic and unglamorous. Things like that do matter to all but the most dedicated.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I don't think opinions on the works will vary so widely that an organization can't get useful information from asking about the works. At a minimum, they'll be able to tell whether they had a hit or a disaster, not that they wouldn't be able to tell based on internal opinion and critics. It's just a complete shock to get a survey that does not in any way touch on the core business of the organization.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Sure, but for some opera fans (like you and me) the chance to see something like King Roger would motivate us to attend, while for others a well-cast Tosca is the ultimate in operatic pleasures. Both approaches are valid, and I think that's where the Artistic Director can step in and make his/her own decisions about what the organization should be doing. As you point out, the organization can already get some idea on what works and what doesn't and what isn't popular but is still worth doing, based on internal opinion, critics, and ticket sales. How are they going to know about things like whether it's easy to buy tickets unless they ask? They don't buy tickets to their own shows. I really can't fault Santa Fe for keeping an eye on more prosaic concerns. People who can travel for opera have a lot of choices, and could easily go to a summer festival where they have an overall better experience.

Lisa Hirsch said...

As I see it, the problem is that they are ONLY asking about the attending-the-opera process, as opposed to also asking about the artistic side of what they're doing. Remember, as important as the other stuff is, their business is not providing sandwiches or a short walk from the parking lot (there are physical constraints on the latter, after all): their business is putting on operas.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Sure. I can see your objection. But the artistic side and the prosaic "mechanics of attending" side are very different, and would require different solutions and approaches. Maybe it made sense to them to separate the two instead of sending one long survey that people might not fill out (I've bailed on some surveys that just went on too long for me). I imagine that Artistic Directors do have a certain "you can leave opera choice and casting to me" attitude, which (to me) is fine, that's their job.

I'm sure you can write them separately and encourage more King Rogers! ;-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

I bail all the time on too-long surveys; in fact, I bailed on one from Southwest that I got right after my trip home when they started asking the same questions in a different way.

I look forward to receiving the artistic administrator's survey from SFe. :)