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Michigan Opera Theatre reaches out to Latinos

Mar 6, 2015

The Michigan Opera Theatre is performing the opera “Frida” by American composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez. It's about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Catalina Cuervo plays Frida Kahlo in MOT's production of "Frida"
Credit Michigan Opera Theatre

Here’s why that’s a smart idea for an arts organization:

1. Tapping into Frida Kahlo’s broad appeal

Lots of people love Frida Kahlo. Latinos love her. Women love her.  Artists love her. Gay people love her.

It’s also a fact that classical music organizations, including symphonies, operas, and choral groups, are trying to find new ways to reach younger, more diverse crowds.

Kahlo’s broad appeal might encourage more “non-traditional opera fans” to come by and check out the show, which is a way for the opera theater to grow its audience.

2. There’s a natural connection for Latinos

Telenovelas, or soap operas from the Spanish-speaking world, are hugely popular. Their plots are over the top, their characters larger than life, and the stories are filled with drama and tragedy. Traditional operas are also filled with drama and tragedy. If American opera companies struggling to fill their seats can find a way to appeal to and connect with the world’s telenovelas fans, they could potentially hit pay dirt.

3. You can build cool outreach events around a “Frida” theme

The Michigan Opera Theatre has made a big effort to do all kinds of interesting events relating to Frida Kahlo. In fact, the original idea to bring the Frida opera to Detroit was inspired by an upcoming exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts highlighting the work of Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera, and the time they spent in Detroit while Rivera painted his famous mural at the DIA.

The opera theater has hosted dozens of events leading up to the performance, and even more are planned. It's created “opera clubs” that meet at schools and coffee shops and even people’s houses, where MOT officials give background about Kahlo and the opera.

It's partnered with several Latino chefs in southwest Detroit who will be cooking some of Kahlo’s recipes that people can taste.  (Kahlo was apparently a great chef.) And the Michigan Opera Theatre is taking its performance on the road, with shows booked in Clinton Township, West Bloomfield, Detroit Ann Arbor and Flint.