Opera House: Entrepreneurial Blending
by Piero Formica

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The coupling of manufacturing and culture shows how far we can advance along the road towards an entrepreneurial society.


Do manufacturing and culture live in two separate and irreconcilable worlds—manufacturing in the world of things and culture in the world of ideas? Is manufacturing called upon to solve production problems, with culture pronouncing on ‘chief systems’ as in Galileo’s ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’? This is a shared vision of those who identify manufacturing with making and culture with thinking: the manual labour of artisans and technicians as opposed to the intellectual work of professors and scientists. As a result, this fault line fails to recognize that the factory is a culture that can and should go hand in hand with academia and research centres: you will otherwise have two half-cultures that do not make a single, whole culture.


One need only look in detail at the staging of an opera —a seemingly extreme example of a cultural embrace— to see how much that vision is little more than a stereotype.


By setting aside their respective knowledge maps, manufacturers and lyricists prepare themselves for this ‘Grand Unification’ between manufacturing and culture, revealing interesting approaches for future growth influenced by path creators. Opera houses are a component of culture whose intangible assets—imagination, relational, reputational and entrepreneurial capital—are, invisible eye. These are assets that remain after the performance, when the theatre closes. These four assets have unique characteristics. They defy traditional accounting. Their value is realized when they are intertwined in complex relationships, such as with manufacturing. Unification between manufacturing expertise and the aesthetic demands of opera can lead to lyric opera productions enhanced by the application of complex digital technologies that connect people, processes, data and things. Equally, those in the audience could enrich their vision with augmented reality and communicate their emotions in real time. There is a digital innovation (MySmark, ‘Make your Smart mark’) developed by an Irish start-up company at the junction of psychology–marketing–computer science, which creates an ‘emotional tagging’. As such, customized profiles of members of the audience could allow theatres to investigate the personalities and subjectivities of those in the audience, assess their feelings and understand their priorities.


For the design and physical production of an opera, theatres could make use of 3-D printers. These and other new manufacturing technologies would offer experienced craftsmen, who create costumes, scenery, and lighting, opportunities to take their work further. Strong interaction with the world of manufacturing would enlarge the community of donors and investors in crowdfunding platforms. The eccentric profiles of ‘nerds’, who show a marked predisposition for science and technology, and ‘geeks’, who develop and enhance digital technologies using passion and experience, could complement the classic image of the opera connoisseur. Money of the many could give financial oxygen to theatres and shape an international community of opera lovers.


The opera, therefore, could become a non-elitist art form, with a very promising future. Current estimates by Bocconi, a private university in Milan, suggest that one Euro invested in La Scala Opera House generates two Euros in its supply chains and related industries. In the case of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, a survey by Deloitte showed that for each Euro the Comunale receives in grants the community of Bologna gains benefits estimated to be around ten Euros, benefits to entrepreneurship and employment.


The long chain of activities required to stage an opera is full of opportunities that could be exploited by innovative start-ups that combine technology with the intangibles. That is why it would be necessary to promote and facilitate the role of the artist-entrepreneur and the technology-based artist who first explores the frontier that separates humans from machines and then creates interactions between entertainment and manufacturing. Beethoven was an artist entrepreneur; and in our lifetime there are technology-artists like Heather Knight, who works on theatrical robot performances. Here is a task for music conservatories and music academies which, as already happens in conservatories in the United States, should launch entrepreneurship courses for their students. As exemplified by the French programme Dix mois d’école et d’Opera, opera traces educational paths thanks to its connections with history, philosophy, literature, graphic arts, music, drama, and dance. Crossing cultural and national borders, opera houses multiply the economic impact of their performances. The ‘Grand Unification’ would increase its value.


About the author:

Piero Formica is the founder of the International Entrepreneurship Academy and a Senior Research Fellow at the Innovation Value Institute. He is author of The Role of Creative Ignorance: Portraits of Path Finders and Path Creators and Grand Transformation Towards an Entrepreneurial Economy: Exploring the Void.

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