“Every company has a core product that they produce today, and if they are a smart company, they have to activate their R&D departments to come up with new products for future generations so that they connect with the customers of tomorrow”
Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera
In the fall of 2020, The Atlanta Opera resumed its live performance season. It was perhaps the only opera company in America to do so during Covid-19.
This was a remarkable achievement given how hard the global pandemic hit the performing arts and entertainment industries. In the spring of 2020, the novel coronavirus forced countless movie theaters, performance venues, and festivals to close. Faced with the same predicament, in March 2020, The Atlanta Opera cancelled all performances, bringing an abrupt end to their revenue from ticket purchases and sponsors. During the early days of the crisis, the Opera’s General and Artistic Director, Tomer Zvulun, turned to Change Logic to help him invent a new business model that was safe for patrons and commercially viable for the opera company.
15-minute conversation between Harvard University Professor Michael Tushman, Change Logic’s Managing Principal Andrew Binns, and The Atlanta Opera’s Director Tomer Zvulun.
Change Logic’s Role
Change Logic helped the company organize employees into a series of Sprint Teams, each charged with developing one aspect of the new model. They needed to find a safe location, identify operas that could be performed in slimmed down versions, and artists to star in the shows.
The concept that emerged became the Big Tent series on the Oglethorpe University campus. consisted of 18 outdoor performances. The performances adhered to the strictest safety protocols and procedures and had a capacity of up to 240 audience members.
Zvulun, though, was not content with reimagining opera for a live audience—he also reinvented it for digital audiences. As its live season unfolded, The Atlanta Opera invested heavily in digital engagement beginning with its ‘Love Letters to Atlanta’ campaign featuring iconic landmarks in Atlanta and members of the opera reminiscing about the city. More radical even, was the plan to make a movie from the two of the operas being performed–Pagliacci and Emperor of Atlantis. When released, the movie will be more than an opera on film; Zvulun promises it will be a ‘360 experience’ unlike any other digital opera.
This dual approach – reinventing live opera and reimagining digital engagement for pandemic times – is what Harvard Business School Professor Michael Tushman calls an Ambidextrous Organization. Having studied with Tushman, Tomer Zvulun had learned that it is possible for organizations, even artistic companies, to do two things at once. ‘Professor Tushman is my inspiration. It is very ambitious, and I chalk a lot of it up to the theories that I learned from him,’ says Zvulun.
- The Atlanta Opera had to prevent an outbreak. As part of this effort, the opera teamed with Emory University Epidemiologist, Carlos del Rio, and Risk Mitigation Coordinator, Kylie Sanders, to manage safety protocols during performances and rehearsals.
- Choosing the right location was critical for ensuring public safety and creating a sense of place for the audience. An outdoor tent with a roof brought whimsical circus-like character to a dark time.
- It was important for The Atlanta Opera to engage with the community. The outdoor performances were essential to helping people ‘get out of their bunkers, end their video conference calls and watch something live to inspire them’.
- The Atlanta Opera created an innovative and sustainable business model that drew interest and accolades from around the country.
- From the digital content that was created, a new style of opera film has emerged. It isn’t a live performance; instead, The Atlanta Opera will deliver a movie that includes segments from the live performances along with a behind-the-scenes look at the shows—a 360 degree experience of the opera.
Change Logic was honored in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards for 2021 for their innovative work with The Atlanta Opera in response to the pandemic. [Read more >>]