A group of music school graduates, looking for opportunities in Indianapolis, decided to create an independent opera company in the city. Four years later, Intimate Opera is starting to make a big impact on the city’s arts scene. Executive Director Amy Elaine Hayes, one of the company’s co-founders, and Executive Producer Steven Linville, talked with 21CM about their experience as music entrepreneurs.
What’s your elevator speech?
Intimate Opera is a small opera company trying to make a big impact in Indianapolis. Our goal is to provide performance opportunities to local artists while providing the audiences of Indianapolis exposure to musical experiences that they would not have otherwise. We want people to understand what opera really is – not the fat lady with horns but art that anyone can enjoy. We are all real people who want to break down the opera stereotypes.
What’s your five-year plan for the company?
Become a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and continue to educate and entertain audiences in Indianapolis with new and underperformed works.
What are you most proud of?
We are proud to be presenting quality productions of new works, or rarely performed works, in a more intimate setting. Our goal is not to be a big opera company or to try to present the standard repertoire. We pride ourselves on being able to present material that we are interested in and that we believe will educate and entertain our audiences.
Talk about a mistake (or two) and the lessons you learned.
We have made plenty of mistakes, but there are two that we have learned from the most: First, trying to do too much too fast. We are a small company run by two people, and we nearly wrecked ourselves trying to create a full season of shows. By the time we got to December, we were totally exhausted and uninterested. However, this led to us re-envision what Intimate Opera is and can be. We now treat ourselves much more as a production company and less like a company with a performing arts series.
Our second mistake was not so much a mistake of our [own making] but one that we fell into because of how the company started. Intimate Opera began as part of the IndyFringe Theatre Festival in 2011. We felt, and still feel, a close tie to IndyFringe, and continued to be a part of the festival even after we branched out and did other performances. During our third year in the festival, it became quite clear that we were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – IndyFringe Festival was not the right vehicle for opera. We are still grateful to IndyFringe for our start and look forward to continuing to perform in their theater spaces while exploring other collaborations in other parts of Indianapolis. Once we find the right opera for the festival – one that we think will appeal the more theater-centric audience or perhaps one that we create on our own – we will surely get back into the festival circuit.
What are your top three tips for someone who wants to start an endeavor like yours?
1) Experiment to find out what you do well and how you are needed in your community.
2) Be flexible. Nothing will ever go how you plan.
3) Be patient. Nothing will ruin the organization faster than trying to outgrow your abilities.
Connect with Intimate Opera of Indianapolis on The Hub.