Morrison and Whitener — along with Kristin Marting, the Artistic Director of HERE, who was one of the founders of Prototypes and co-directs it today with Morrison, and Jecca Barry, a former director who was part of the curatorial team of the 2023 edition — discussed Prototype’s past and present in a group video phone call. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What impact have you seen on the Prototype industry over the last decade?
JECCA BARRY We’ve seen other opera companies around the country start their own festivals or explore the idea of second stages — other venues, such as black box theaters. The first collaborative show we did with Los Angeles Opera was “Dog Days,” and that was on Redcat [a 200-seat theater]. LA Opera told us that 70 percent of the viewing audience had never set foot in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion [the company’s much-larger home]. It’s really about creating a totally different audience, and it is So nowadays important for opera companies.
Kristen Martin This concerns both form and content. I feel that the festival encompasses this spectrum of work. There’s a crossover thing going on, and it’s because so many of the artists we work with don’t try to stay within the lines. Then the second thing about the content: I just feel like what we’re really interested in is socially relevant work that resonates with people — a whole bunch of people, told through a whole bunch of voices. I think that’s also something that the industry has thankfully taken up, after being monochromatic for so long.
How would you say New York’s cultural landscape has changed during Prototype’s history, and what has that meant for the festival’s mission?
BET MORISSON It is now almost impossible to get opera programs in any of the city’s venues. With Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Metropolitan Opera is finally doing new work, but a lot of work is being made for smaller stages and other types of stages that the big presenters don’t do here. And for a company like ours, which has no leeway, it is extremely difficult. Our stuff used to be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and that’s completely changed. Lincoln Center doesn’t do opera. The Shed doesn’t work. That means that we can only finish our stuff at our festival if we present it ourselves, and I think that’s a great pity.
BARRY The creative impulses are there. I mean, it’s amazing how many young composers want to write their first opera right out of the gate.