It’s a first for Tacoma Opera: crowdfunding costumes. Facing a changing fundraising world, the 48-year-old professional opera company just launched an online Kickstarter.com campaign to fund $2,500 of the costumes for its upcoming production of Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème.” With around $355 raised so far, it’s still an experiment — but one that might be the future of opera.
“It’s still experimental. … It’s a brand-new world for us,” Tacoma Opera director Noel Koran said. “But as the fundraising world changes, so many people are using these crowdfunding programs to raise money. It’s changing the culture for fundraising.”
The Tacoma Opera Kickstarter launched in late August, and has an Oct. 7 deadline to raise the $2,500. Kickstarter doesn’t pay out funding unless the total is raised by the deadline.
The $2,500 only accounts for about half of the new costumes required for the opera, Koran said. But the company wanted to start small while they were learning the ropes.
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Already, they’ve learned that an introduction video helps campaigns, and are planning on adding some costume designs as soon as they’re decided. Rewards for contributions over $25 include signed production posters.
The Puccini tragedy about a group of friends living the bohemian life in Paris is a popular one, and Tacoma Opera last performed it in 2012. But that production was set in World War II, whereas this one (directed by Linda Kitchen) takes place in the original time period of the 1880s — a very different costume world. The company will make some of the costumes, buying or renting others.
Online crowdfunding isn’t new for Tacoma arts groups. The Hilltop Artists glass school broke Indiegogo.com records in 2014 with more than $38,000 raised for a new furnace. New Muses Theater, the Tacoma Symphony and other groups have used various platforms to boost funding. One bonus of a crowdfunding campaign for groups with a mainly older audience, such as an opera company, is that it expands reach to a younger audience. Around 60 percent of Tacoma Opera’s audience is older than 60, Koran said, but 35 percent to 40 percent is age 25-60 and more digitally savvy.
“That’s our target audience,” Koran said.