When it comes to audience-building, Opera Memphis' General Director Ned Canty knows exactly what he's up against. "How many of you would rather be beaten with bamboo rods?" he asked the audience assembled for his recent TEDx talk, and several people responded in the affirmative. "Yes!" Canty says, when the hands go up. "You are my people."
There was a time when Canty was also an unbeliever who'd take a beating with rods to avoid a bunch of Vikings screaming in German.
Canty tells a detailed and funny version of his conversion story in a presentation appropriately titled "Opera Doesn't Suck." His theory is that biases against opera are rooted in early childhood education when we're told the arts are good for us — like vegetables you're forced to eat if you want dessert. "Opera is a fantastic bacon cheeseburger that when you bite into it, it's an intense sensual experience, and the juices are dripping down and staining your shirt and you do not care because that's how good a burger is."
Canty won't have his backup singers with him when he visits the Brooks Museum Friday, October 7th, so he can't recreate his TEDx talk exactly, but he'll return once again to the topic, "Opera Doesn't Suck."
On Saturday, October 8th, you can check out what he's talking about when Opera Memphis and the Memphis Slim House present "Deep Like the Rivers," a concert of songs inspired by Langston Hughes' poetry. The company's 60th anniversary season launches November 9th with The Marriage of Figaro.
"Opera Doesn't Suck" at the Brooks Museum of Art, Fri., October 7th 10:45 a.m. Free with Museum admission. "Deep Like The Rivers: Songs of Langston Hughes" at the Memphis Slim House Saturday, October 8th, 7 p.m. Operamemphis.org