Monday, June 2, 2014

The $1.98 Opera Circuit Revisited: 21st Century Communications and Trending


Those of you who have known me for a lllllooooonnnnnnnggggg time may remember the series of articles I wrote in the late 1980s and early 1990s, called “Singing on the $1.98 Opera Circuit.” These articles were all about young opera singers starving for our art, as we built up our resum├ęs. Wacky things seemed to happen in every production (opera company sued by blind bass player, citing discrimination against the visually impaired; three conductors in a row come down with pneumonia before opening night of the show; rehearsal space burns down after volunteers throw linseed rags in a container on the hottest day of the year… stuff like that), and it seemed only right to document these happenings.

I may have those original articles somewhere, but here is a new one. And I mean NEW.

This is a story from a friend of a friend.

This friend of a friend sang for an event, and one of the other singers came up to her afterward. “I love your voice,” this lady enthused, “I would love to talk to you about this classical music group I am trying to put together.” The friend thanked the woman and said she would enjoy speaking to her about it, at some point; she didn’t have a business card handy. The woman said, “oh, that’s okay; I can get your email address from the conductor.”

My friend thought nothing more about it. Weeks passed, busy and full of adventure, heartache or whatever.

Suddenly, from out of the blue, a Doodle poll message appeared in this friend’s email inbox. The poll was requesting that people fill in dates to meet about a new Opera Company. My friend gazed at the many people who had been sent the email in utter bewilderment: reviewers, composers, directors, and singers were among the people whose names and email addresses she could identify. My friend, being rather busy at the time, decided not to respond; she and the woman organizing this new “classical music group” hadn’t actually had a conversation. If my friend had known the venture was an opera company, she would have declined immediately because of the huge amount of travel that would be involved, and the number of other projects she was involved with. She figured that if she did not respond to this unsolicited poll, the non-response would be understood as meaning “I’m not interested.”

Well, reminder messages started coming in. As well as messages from a messaging service that requested the information of the recipient in order to read the incoming message. My friend didn’t really want to be receiving ever more communications from yet another message service, and with the recent hacking incidents occurring across the entire spectrum of retail and other computer network services, she didn’t want to give her information out to one she had never heard of that had “terms of service” small print. So, she was never able to read the additional messages.

Finally, another email, addressed to slightly different huge group of people, arrived in her inbox. This message contained a rebuke to everyone because they had not answered the request for Doodle poll responses.

“‘If you do not fill out the doodle pool, I may have to start calling monthly mandatory meetings,’ was the officious threat.”

“You’re kidding! But,” I said, as we were talking about this over coffee, “you hadn’t agreed to do anything, had you?”

“No!” she said, “I never spoke to the woman prior to getting spammed.”

“Wow.”

“I am not the only one irritated. One of the reviewers who had been among the group emailed replied to everyone, asking how could they get off this list, as requests to be deleted from it had gone unanswered.”

The three of us had our heads together, but fell silent. There was quiet coffee sipping. The whole thing was just too ridiculous.

“So, finally, I did respond to one of the emails, saying I could not commit to anything, at this time. I figured it would all stop, after that.”

“I gather it didn’t?” I asked.

“Well, she wrote me back, telling me she would keep my name, and to let her know when I was available.”

“So, what are you going to do, now?” asked my friend.

“I was hoping you could give me some ideas… See, I just got another email with the ‘company roster’ attached. I am listed as a ‘comprimario.’”

“No way!”

“Yes!”

“But, you never, like, auditioned or signed a contract or anything…”

“Nothing. And now I don’t want to get near this thing with a ten-foot poll. If the gal running it is so pushy with all these unwanted communications, I cannot even imagine actually working with her.”

“I don’t get it…”

“Well, I think she is trying to validate her start-up by including the names of people who have a presence in the music community. I mean, I think I am being used…”

“Sort of a weird compliment. Geez…”

“I don’t think I can get off the list! And I am worried that being on it will come back to haunt me, at some point. I mean, what if this group is bad or a scam or something?”

“Crazy! Most of the time, we are trying to get on a list, somewhere… I don’t know what to tell you. This is really the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of.”

“Maybe I should fill out the Doodle poll, make myself unavailable for all the proposed dates?”

“That might just mean you’d be required to come to mandatory meetings.”

We laughed.

But really, although this is a joke, it isn’t funny.