Callers chose a national number to phone in on. They were invited to select an opera company from a recorded menu and connect to a live usher, someone who was involved with that opera. The caller was randomly assigned the usher who may have been a singer, a designer, a dramaturg, a trainee, a composer, an administrator, a make-up artist and so on. The Usher introduced themselves and their production and a conversation with the caller commenced. There were no strict guidelines around this – if a conversation felt right there it was, if not the usher would simply guide the caller towards the recordings. The dynamics of how that worked was very much up to the individuals involved.
Conversations took place in many languages – Norwegian, Flemish, Dutch, French, Spanish, German and English. Then the ushers connected the callers to fragments of audio related to their production.
What each production had available very much depended on the stage they were at when lockdown occurred in their country. Some works like Bergen National Opers’s Clemenza di Tito had just made it onto the stage for that phase of rehearsal. Some, like Wuppertaler Bühnen’s La Boehm had been open to the public and some productions like the entire season at Garsington Opera had not made it to rehearsal at the time of closure. So what was shared with listeners via our call centre varied from rehearsal recordings, recorded fragments and descriptions of ideas about what would have been, all the way to completed performance recordings.
Some of the opera’s were well known favourites such as the ones mentioned above and others were premieres like The Airport Society’s Symphony of Expectation, Staatsoper Hannover’s presentation of Ben Frost’s Muder of Halit Yozgat and Grand Theatre de Geneve’s Voyage to Hope. In the case of Teatro Real they were presenting Achille in Sciro by Corselli which had not been heard since the 1700s.
Having listened to a fragment the caller returned to a menu and could make new selections, connect again with the opera production they had been listening to or voyage on and explore something else.
BEHIND THE SCENES
We built a bespoke call centre to connect the audience to the ushers wherever they were. We populated the call centre with the audio files and trained up the amazing ushers to use the call centre tech.
In the image below you can see a schematic of how the call centre worked.