The merry month of May is a perfect time to celebrate new life. Just as Gilbert & Sullivan's Nanki-Poo found great joy in singing about "the flowers that bloom in the spring," we're delighted to inform you that the copy of Opera Monthly that you're now holding marks our magazine's first anniversary. We feel that this is an important milestone in a segment of the publishing industry where most start-up ventures bite the dust after their second issue. What is the secret of our success? Opera Monthly is an extremely well-targeted special interest magazine which made its debut at a fortuitous time in America's cultural development. And, as an independent publication which is not designed to support the marketing needs of any one opera company in particular, this magazine is in a perfect position to focus its attention on the achievements of the vast army of American artists who now dominate the international opera scene.
The editors of Opera Monthly are firmly convinced that there is a tremendous amount of excellent opera happening today and tomorrow in cities throughout North America. More than half of the professional opera companies in the Western hemisphere were started during the past two decades. Our readers are hungry for news, curious about opera's future, and eager to learn about any and all facets of the art form they love so much. Our mission, simply stated, is to cover as much of the operatic turf as possible.
From introducing you to the creative talents behind upcoming world premieres to exploring some of the thornier issues confronting the opera industry, we aim to produce a magazine that is exciting, entertaining, controversial, and informative. Most importantly, we understand that opera fans relish what's known in the trade as "a good read" because people who cultivate an interest in opera have already developed fairly complex minds. In addition to their intense passion for music, our readers exhibit strong interests in opera's subsidiary disciplines (history, theater, dance, literature, and the visual arts). Rather than being satisfied with encapsulated news items, television "sound-bites" or sensationalistic headlines, these people want substance. Their ongoing thirst for knowledge can hardly be satiated by the superficial arts coverage provided in today's mass media.
Although futurists claim that, as our society grows more affluent, people will become more sophisticated and therefore be drawn to opera (the educational background and buying power of our readers makes them the cream-of-the-market crop for potential advertisers) the sad truth is that we live in a society where one out of every five adults is functionally illiterate. A quick flip of the television dial reveals that more people are tuning in to Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue, David Letterman, Geraldo Rivera, and Morton Downey than are watching "Live from Lincoln Center." More people seem interested in soap opera than opera and TV shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and World Heavyweight Wrestling offer far more titillating rewards than any programs broadcast over the PBS network.
Despite the in¬roads made by live telecasts of operatic performances (as well as the bountiful side effects of the video revolution) the best way to build new audiences for opera is through intense, multi-disciplinary educational efforts which are part and parcel of a strongly-supported arts curriculum in our nation's schools. But adults also need education and, in an age when so many magazines have opted to publish shorter, slicker articles (on the false assumption that people lack sufficient attention spans to survive any article which requires them to keep reading for more than three minutes), we're convinced that our readers crave intellectual stimulation.
Why does a special interest magazine devoted to a complex subject like opera need to set its sights higher than the "fast-food news" style of journalism embraced by USA Today, People Magazine, and the National Enquirer? Because, whether we like it or not, the mass media tends to seek out a lower common denominator. And when Vanna White is hailed as one of the nation's leading cultural icons, you just know that there's trouble on the horizon. In a recent study, 21 percent of the people polled thought that the sun revolved around the earth. Is it any wonder, then, that Barbara Bush has made adult illiteracy one of her primary concerns?
To help ensure a brighter future for opera, we ask any and all opera lovers -- from our very first subscriber (Rose Elaine Solomon of Los Angeles) to those of you who are reading Opera Monthly for the first time to join us as we explore America's rapidly expanding operatic frontiers. As we celebrate our first anniversary, we invite you to toast all of the performers, artists, writers, photographers, adver¬tisers, and readers who have helped to make our publication a success.
Why are we so confident that you and your friends will want to become regular subscribers to Opera Monthly for years to come? Because we think you'll get as much of a thrill from picking up each issue of our opera magazine as we do from sending it to the printer.
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This article originally appeared in the May 1989 issue of Opera Monthly magazine.