Arizona Opera Pioneers a Novel Revenue Stream

by Joseph Specter 

The creation of Arizona Opera’s Carmen: The Graphic Novel hails back to 2019, when the company won a $150,000 Innovation Grant from the national service organization OPERA America — supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation — to launch the OnPitch Business Challenge.

OnPitch was a venture capital-inspired, national competition designed to seek out innovative business proposals, with a goal of reimagining dynamic, new income opportunities for Arizona Opera (AZO) and the cultural sector more broadly, thus supporting AZO and other organizations in their ability to deliver their missions for the communities they serve. It was the first competition of its kind in the field of opera.

Opera singer and director Alek Shrader’s OnPitch competition submission, calling for the creation of “an opera that can be held in one’s hands,” emerged as the most compelling finalist and won the competition, which was adjudicated by AZO’s Funding Innovations Task Force in summer 2020, when nontraditional revenue opportunities for opera companies were most needed because of the pandemic — and Carmen: The Graphic Novel was born.

While designed to stand on its own as a piece of art and entertainment, Carmen: The Graphic Novel also serves as a companion to attending a live performance, enhancing the transformative power of operatic storytelling. Given the multibillion dollar U.S. comic book market, there is also a remarkable opportunity for AZO to create awareness about opera among an incredible number of people who may never have experienced opera before, while also creating the potential for a new earned income stream.

Carmen: The Graphic Novel has overcome a slew of disruptions related to the pandemic to reach this moment, and Arizona Opera is thrilled to at last bring this stunning work to consumers nationwide this month via Barnes & Noble, Amazon and independent bookstores and comic shops.

Joseph Specter is president and general director of Arizona Opera.

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