The Dutch National Opera & Ballet shared its most precious treasures, old and new, with audiences around the world through an online platform they created. The organization still wanted people to enjoy opera and ballet at all costs, so the platform was realized in no time. Fragments, live streams, podcasts, games and much more were part of it. It took some hard work and a lot of creativity, but the organization has put in place an outstanding initiative. They reached people they could not reach before and after them more institutions followed with similar initiatives (Nationale Opera & Ballet n.d.).
Dutch National Opera & Ballet is a relatively young theater in Amsterdam. The theater first functioned as an opera house and as a town hall, later it also became the home of the Dutch National Ballet. Since 2013, it continues under the name Dutch National Opera & Ballet. The organization is the main provider of opera and ballet at a high level in the Netherlands. The organization wants to enrich people with the wonder, beauty and meaning of opera and ballet. They achieve this by offering their visitors an emotional, intellectual and sensory experience that transcends the everyday and can touch both the heart and the head. Outside of COVID-19, there are impressive performances to watch in the theater every day. The experience during these performances is enormous, partly due to the beautiful hall, the talented artists and the great atmosphere (Nationale Opera & Ballet n.d.). A reason for many visitors to return again. Ballet attracts people from young to old, slightly more often women. The opera mainly attracts an older, wealthy and intelligent visitor, often male. One goal of the organization is to attract more young people, and for opera is young already under the age of 40. The target groups that The Dutch National Opera & Ballet focuses on can be divided into 4 groups. At the top are the gourmets. A group that knows a lot about opera and/or ballet and often attends performances. Second and third are the enthusiasts and culture connoisseurs. Lastly there are the discoverers. They don’t really know opera and/or ballet yet, but they may be interested if they come into contact with it (Beemster 2021).
The Dutch National Opera & Ballet’s 2020 program was already established in 2019. It promised to be a spectacular year with many beautiful performances. The performances included new work, as well as old treasures and icons. The preservation of classical works makes The Dutch National Opera & Ballet an important carrier of cultural heritage. In addition, the organization also likes to experiment with new art forms, such as urban dance, virtual arts and new media (Nationale Opera & Ballet n.d.). When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, all plans seemed to fall through. Yet they did not give up and gathered around the table. It was soon decided that people should continue to enjoy singing and dancing. An online platform was therefore seen as the ideal solution. All eyes were suddenly on the content and media department. Despite the COVID situation, this meant a new bright spot in thelimelight for this department. Many plans that they had made before could now really be realized, because time and money were now finally directed toward the department. The online platform was realized in no time. The organization was one of the first in the cultural environment with an initiative such as this. There was plenty to find on the online platform itself, for young and old. There were many old fragments of ballet and opera performances to view. Later, live streams were also broadcast via the platform. Often for free, sometimes for reasonable price. There were also podcasts to listen to, interesting articles to read and fun games to play. It was also shown how things work behind the scenes, something you would not see quickly outside the online platform. In addition to the online platform, more focus was also placed on social media. A perfect example is the online ballet lessons that were offered via the YouTube channel of The Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Jaap Beemster, previous content manager is part of the big success. “This was an idea that the content department had had in mind for some time. The ballet classes were, and still are, a resounding success.” The organization’s YouTube subscribers increased by almost 400 percent. Lesson 1 of the online ballet lessons has been viewed more than a million times. The followers on Instagram also rose sharply. Content was posted daily, usually with a link to the online platform, for example a post about which live streams can be seen today, fun music and dance videos or short interviews with artists (Beemster 2021).
After the online platform was launched, the impact in many areas was present. The platform had a huge impact on the organization itself. Positive because many new insights were obtained in online content and media. In addition, the situation called for a close collaboration of people from different departments who came to assist the content department. Negative because they preferred to open the doors of their theater for performances, where opera and ballet really belong. The online platform also had an effect on other cultural institutions. They saw that it was possible to continue their art form despite being closed. The organization really inspired others.
The online platform also had an impact on the target group. The platform allowed people to enjoy dancing and singing from their own home. A bright spot for many in this dark time. Many people will have been grateful to the organization for still having some entertainment in the gloomy time. The expectation is that repeat visitors remained satisfied and potential visitors were made curious.
Opera particularly attracts an older group, the group that can usually be the loneliest. It has therefore dragged many people through a difficult time. Moreover, a long-cherished goal of the organization was also achieved. They wanted to reach a younger target group, and they succeeded through the online platform. By investing so much time and money in online content. For example, millennials looked online for interesting content during the lockdown. It remains to be seen whether this group will actually visit an offline performance, but at least they are triggered. The online platform has not generated as much money as in a normal, non-COVID times. This is because people pay for the theater experience. The experience from home is certainly there, but to a lesser extent. That is why the organization has chosen to offer the content, such as live streams, partly free of charge. There were also paid shows, but they were offered for a much cheaper price than usual. Opera in particular is one of the most expensive art forms. In addition, it has brought the organization so much attention online that in the future more people can be reached through online marketing. This will eventually increase the number of (new) visitors.
All in all, The Dutch National Opera & Ballet managed to deal with the COVID situation very well. A new audience has been reached and the old one has been more than satisfied, the reach online has grown enormously, and they have been an inspiration to many. Nevertheless, the organization hopes to be able to open its doors completely again soon, because “opera and ballet come into their own in the theater.” (Beemster 2021)
- Beemster, Jaap, geïnterviewd by Kim Hoefnagels. 2021. Interview National Dutch Opera & Ballet (23 December): 6.
- s.d., Nationale Opera & Ballet. December 27, 2021. https://www.operaballet.nl.
- Kim Hoefnagels, student at Inholland University of Applied Sciences
Ana Paula Hirama on Wikimedia Commons