Monthly Archives: April 2019


AtG DORIS: Technology is shaping the future. How will it change the future of opera?

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Technology has affected nearly all aspects of our lives. We are more connected and have access to more information than ever before. It is the solution to many of our problems, and the cause of many others. The question we keep asking ourselves is: how does an opera company adjust to this current reality and use technology to serve our audiences better?

At Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), we believe that technology is key to reaching new audiences and enriching the experience for existing audiences. Our company was formed on the idea that opera can be produced anywhere, including a dimly-lit pub, a remote grotto and shiny TV studio. Presenting opera online is our next challenge.

Over the past several months, we’ve been serious about exploring livestreamed performances. We’ve been speaking with experts from around the world and, more importantly, asking opera audiences for their opinions on livestreams. With the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts, we’ve engaged digital consultant Michael Morreale to lead a comprehensive research project. The project is called the Digital Opera Research and Intelligence Study. We like to call it DORIS for short.

Download our free White Paper in English or French to read the complete results.

Our big takeaways:

  • 35.7% of respondents have watched a livestreamed performance; however, 72.8% say they are at least somewhat interested in doing so.
  • The majority of respondents say they would pay to watch a livestream. In fact, almost a quarter of respondents would pay $10 or more.
  • 31.9% of respondents say they are more likely to donate to an opera company after it has streamed an opera.
  • Only 55.2% of respondents report watching online video at least one per week. This is significantly lower than the Canadian video consumption rate of 85% across all demographics.*

Of course, it is impossible to generalise the views of all opera-goers. Some expressed complete disinterest toward experiencing opera in this way. It is clear that livestreaming isn’t for everyone. But others see livestreaming as the best way to get their opera fix between the performances they are able to attend in person. Time and money are the top barriers stopping opera fans from attending more performances, and free or cheap livestreaming is one solution to this problem. But neither group sees watching a livestream as a replacement for the live experience.

Download our free White Paper in English or French to read the complete results.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.

* IAB Canadian Media Usage Trends Study 2018

AtG DORIS: Q&A with Alex Olegnowicz of Symmetrica

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As part of Against the Grain’s Digital Opera Research and Intelligence Study (DORIS), we sat down with livestreaming experts to chat about the intersection between opera and technology. In the Q&A below, you’ll meet Alex Olegnowicz, founder and CEO of Symmetrica.

Symmetrica is a Toronto-based company specialising in webcasting solutions for orchestra, opera, ballet and jazz. With over 20 years of extensive experience in production, post-production, and live events, Alex has successfully developed and managed companies in media and entertainment and has worked with some of the most important producers and directors in Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. Alex was personally nominated in 2002 for the Emmy Award in a craft for CGI and Design.

How did Symmetrica come to be?

Symmetrica was founded in 2014 when we started looking at availability of concerts and media in new platforms. We noticed a lack of production outside traditional broadcasters and streaming services, so we started research on new ways of production and distribution using technology that was just starting to become available.

What is the best way of disseminating livestreams?

We suggest using as many platforms as possible and then routing viewers back to your website. Enabling multicasting to all platforms is the best way to make your stream accessible to the widest possible audience. We recommend using Facebook Live, Twitter, Livestream, YouTube and even non-traditional online video platforms.

What are some possible revenue streams to support recording and streaming projects?

I don’t believe that a paywall approach to streaming performances is a sustainable model. Even the most recognized organizations report a modest income if any, and the model keeps some audiences away. In our experience, the best model is direct sponsorship with non-traditional advertisers that can benefit from exposure to your audience.

Tell us about the current project you’re working on.

We are currently working on a series that takes an intimate look at the life of composers, conductors and soloists. We are also developing a semi-automated switching and camera control system specifically designed for live performances.


AtG DORIS: Q&A with Hervé Boissière of Medici

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As part of Against the Grain’s Digital Opera Research and Intelligence Study (DORIS), we sat down with livestreaming experts to chat about the intersection between opera and technology. In the Q&A below, you’ll meet Hervé Boissière, founder and CEO of is the world’s leading online classical music channel. It broadcasts over 150 live events each year from the world’s most prestigious stages. Based in Paris, Hervé Boissière worked in various executive positions in the recording industry before founding in 2008.

How did get started? What was the need?

As a music producer, my goal and responsibility has always been to efficiently connect the best artists with the biggest possible audience worldwide. When I saw YouTube in 2005, I immediately understood that a new phase of our industry was starting. In June 1999, Napster completely changed (or even destroyed) the CD business and it was clear that we needed a new format for promoting artists. The obvious solution was to create a new place where people could “attend” some fantastic concerts from their home. We had the intuition to set up a freemium model combining livestreaming for free and a collection of programs available on SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand), behind the paywall. The idea was to combine YouTube and Netflix.

How has the response to changed since the beginning?

The support and the response of the artists, without whom nothing is possible, has not changed since we started 10 years ago. It is amazing to see how they love to join our productions and how they appreciate the international reach we deliver to them.

The main change has been on the audience side. was the very first platform dedicated to classical music. It started in 2007 with full coverage of the Verbier Festival with 27 concerts webcasted live all around the world. Since then, newcomers have arrived including the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall, the Met Opera on Demand and public broadcasters like Arte, ORF and BBC switching to streaming. But we are still the only platform open to everyone and without any structural connection or influence from the partners.

Another challenge for us has been moving from a promo platform at the beginning, beloved by the users by definition because it’s free, to various forms of monetization which obviously secure our future financially and our independence. That is the reason why we created a diversified business model, combining B2C (about 20k individual subscribers YTD), B2B (strong distribution in the education market with over 200 universities and music schools in our client portfolio), and sponsorship (corporate partners like Rolex or private foundations) which help us cover part of the production costs of our free line-up of livestreaming.

But all together, we are quite proud to have maintained our objectives and values for the past 10 years. We are still the leading platform for the community and we have to reinvent ourselves each day to keep that number one market position.

What do we know about the online audience for performing arts content?

We are reaching a relatively similar audience compared to live performances, but the main differences are that they are younger (average on is 51 years) and coming from a more diversified social background. We of course see a strong proportion of high-earners but we are also very attractive to all the people who don’t have the money to travel or to buy tickets to the Salzburg Festival. There is clearly a democratization element to our work and we are very much inspired by that because we all know that it is urgent to welcome new and younger audiences to our musical genre.

Why should performing arts companies livestream their performances?

It is essential to develop the public of tomorrow. Your future ticket-buyers are already online but not yet in your concert halls and operas. That is why your responsibility is to connect with them today through livestreaming, social media and other innovative content formats. If you are not proactive online today, you will lose your existing audience as they get older, and you will not create your next generation of audience.

And the competition is very strong online. Digital has changed our entire life and classical music will not escape the revolution. It is of course not a danger but a fantastic opportunity. Nobody can ignore it.

A new chapter for AtG and Topher Mokrzewski

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When one door closes, another one opens. As AtG closes the door on a successful production of Kopernikus, we announce another door opening for our Music Director, Topher Mokrzewski.

After a stunning 10 years as a Founding Member and Music Director of AtG, Toph will be moving on to an exciting new opportunity as Associate Artist Manager at Dean Artists Management!

Toph has brought so much honest love, dedicated musicality, and excellent sportsmanship to AtG over the past decade (!) and we wish him every success with our pals at Dean.

Kopernikus could not have been a greater show to go out on.

AtG is so proud of him and lucky to have had him on our team for as long as we did.

Good luck Toph and look forward to working with you in new ways.