17/08/2018 - 14:09

Obscure venues provide opera diversity

17/08/2018 - 14:09

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From an asylum to a pool, Lost and Found Opera artistic director and co-founder Chris van Tuinen is bringing shows to unlikely Perth spaces.

Obscure venues provide opera diversity
Chris van Tuinen says audiences are looking for unique experiences. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Chris van Tuinen’s career pathway has been anything but linear.

The artistic director and co-founder of Lost and Found Opera holds an arts degree in philosophy and psychology, a law degree, and a masters in conducting, having worked with major arts companies in Victoria, Queensland and overseas for many years before settling in Perth.

During his time in Perth, Mr van Tuinen has been involved with the Perth Festival in a programming position, is the current chorus director with the WA Symphony Orchestra, and state manager of Musica Viva.

The varied strands of his experience initially landed him a job with the Department of Culture and the Arts, combining his arts experience and law degree.

“One of the things I do enjoy is strategic planning,” Mr van Tuinen told Business News.

“I quite enjoy spreadsheets, the logistical side, and the positioning of a company like Lost and Found.”

Lost and Found was established in 2014 with the aim to perform unknown operas in non-traditional spaces.

Its latest show, Actéon, opens on September 12 and runs for four days, with a venue capacity of 150.

In partnership with the UWA Aquatic Centre and Synchro WA, Actéon will be performed in and around an outdoor swimming pool – a setting Mr van Tuinen said had become central to the reimagining of the story.

The opera explores topical issues including gender politics, privacy and the nature of revenge.

More than 30 per cent of tickets were sold in the first three days, which Mr van Tuinen attributes to repeat patrons.

“(Audiences) have been to some weird and wonderful places, and we find that’s one of the great driving forces of the marketing,” he said.

The company has performed in spaces including a synagogue, a hotel room and a former asylum.

Mr van Tuinen said he saw Lost and Found as an opportunity to enhance the opera community and extend its offering to other audiences by providing an experience that wasn’t within the remit of mainstream opera companies.

“We’re not setting up to compete,” he said.

“We’re setting up to develop the sector, the landscape of Perth and the opera going community.”

The company currently receives around 50 per cent of its funding from state government, 25 per cent from private philanthropy, and 25 per cent from ticket sales.

“We don’t have the resources to insure a performance if it gets cancelled, but we know our audience is quite adventurous and flexible so we feel like we could manage those risks,” Mr van Tuinen said.

He hopes succession planning will allow the company to have a life of its own.

“I feel pretty confident that, in 10 years’ time, Lost and Found will still exist,” he said.

“It might be a different animal by then, but that’s a good thing.”

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