Last year I wrote about Grand Opera, the new opera competition on Russian Culture Channel (Kultura) based on the principles of reality TV talent shows running all over the world.
The presence of former director of Vienna State Opera Ioan Holender on the jury panel this year raises the question of whether the competition is indeed aiming for the international arena. Another proof of that is that this year contestants came from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and even Mongolia. One of the favourites to win the competition until recently was a hugely talented Mongolian baritone Badral Chuluunbaatar – a fearless young singer with tons of stage presence. Unfortunately his nervous uneven performance in the semi-final demonstrated that he is still ‘raw material’ and needs a lot of training and many hours of work with conductors that aren’t going to let him get away with musical murder. That is, of course, if he wants a truly international operatic career.
But Badral’s bad luck or lack or experience allowed another contestant, a more experienced baritone from Belarus Ilya Silchukov to finally come into the limelight. For the first time this week Ilya ended up in the top three, which means he may share the stage in the final with two sopranos very much loved by the public and the jury, 20-year-old ballsy redhead Vasilisa Berzhanskaya (Russia) and Saltanat Akhmetova (Kazakhstan).
But if I put on my digital marketer’s hat I immediately see that even if the intention to turn the competition into an international event is there the opportunities to promote it to a wider audience are being missed. Plus the declared intention of this competition was to find new younger audiences for the genre of opera. Some of the suggestion
1. Translate webpage dedicated to competition into English (perhaps also German/Italian/Spanish), so people in other countries could follow the contest. Winner of the first season Veronika Djioeva is now an international opera star, why not give emerging singers more publicity and a broader audience?
2. It’s all about storytelling! Singers’ biographies can be turned into exciting stories that should replace dry information available on the channel’s website.
3. Gossip is also publicity! The competition this year is plagued by withdrawals and threatened cancellations – much more could be made of all this drama. Also, we know nothing about relationships between contestants – is there conflict or rivalry? Romance? Friendship? Fun? The audience wants to know. And even if there’s nothing interesting going on behind the scenes some spice can be added creatively without telling lies.
4. Social media buzz! Contestants constantly mention their own social media accounts, but there should be social media pages dedicated to the show and run by the Culture TV (TV Kultura).
5. Presenters! Sudden death of musicologist and TV personality Svjatoslav Belza left the show without a trusted and experienced presenter. Belza was quietly replaced by a much less experienced and unexciting Alexey Begak. I hope it turns out to be a temporary measure or else the show’s producers risk putting their audience to sleep. (image: tvkultura.ru)