Wednesday 29 March 2023

The go-to place for information about opera performances across the globe: we chat to Operabase's new CEO, Ulrike Köstinger

Operabase CEO, Ulrike Köstinger
Operabase CEO, Ulrike Köstinger

Since its founding in 1996 by Mike Gibb, the Operabase website has become somewhat ubiquitous in the opera world, providing the go-to place for information about opera performances across the globe, both for audience members and professionals. In 2017, Operabase was bought by Arts Consolidated, a Danish company that also owns Cue TV. Operabase has a new CEO, Ulrike Köstinger, who took over at the beginning of this year though she has been with the company for over two years and was previously chief content officer.

She sees the company's role as supporting the industry, helping to make opera more efficient with the Operabase data and toolset providing tools for casting and more. Their stakeholders include not just arts organisations and opera companies, but orchestras, concert halls and agencies, as well as providing visibility for around 140,000 artists. In addition to the professional toolset, there is an audience perspective, used worldwide with over 300,000 users per month taking advantage of being able to search what to see and where.

The audience offering is free and the site's income comes from subscriptions from professionals, opera houses, casting professionals and agencies. This provides them with access to the database, which has data going back to the 1990s, and a casting tool that is Operabase's core product. All artists have a profile on the site, and they can take ownership of this via a subscription.

Since 2020, the opera world has changed and streaming has developed significantly. When performances stopped in 2020, around 2.5 million users resorted to video. As a result, Operbase has developed a library and search tool that link to streaming platforms, providing access to 3000 videos. Artists can upload their own videos, thus casting professionals can see what artists are like on stage.

Audience interest in streaming and video on demand continues and the intention is to make Operabase the go-to platform for questions regarding opera whether live or streamed. The company has developed its own video platform, Cue TV which shows events that are bought in and provides synergy with its link to Operabase.

Ulrike sees the company's expansion and development in terms of widening the pool of stakeholders, and moving towards the performing arts in general. They are getting more orchestral subscribers, providing information on singers in symphonic performances both for casting professionals and for conductors. They are also covering an increasing number of musical theatre events, after all, both opera and musical theatre use singers in stage performances. There has been growth in the general audience too, with Operabase becoming the leading platform on the audience side.

Whilst these figures suggest the possibility of enormous influence, the intention is for the platform to be neutral. It is decentralised, the information coming from theatres, artists and agencies. All can take ownership of their data on the platform, and all the information is verified by Operabase personnel.

The company is relatively lean, with the majority of its investment being in technology. There are around 40 employees, most working remotely from across Europe and beyond.

Explore further at the Operabase website.

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