Planning a night out in Sarasota can be random, and hopes that a Verdi performance can be included in that spontaneity thanks to a new app.
Sarasota Opera launched a smartphone app in July that its leaders believe can offer added convenience for those new to the opera as well as longtime subscribers. Starting today, single tickets can be purchased for the 2012-2013 season both through the app and at the box office, too.
"I think in Sarasota, it will be helpful with the amount of visitors we have," said Greg Parry, director of marketing for the Sarasota Opera. "We may have visitors who are visiting for a couple of weeks or months and they probably don't bring their desktop computers with them, so they'll be traveling with their smartphone or tablet."
Parry got the idea from his days working with an opera company in San Diego that also used developer Instant Encore, which designed the Sarasota app.
The app couples with the launch of a mobile optimized site for users to navigate the info they want to find, Parry said.
Some of the features include:
• Play preview clips of videos and audio of performances
• View photos of the opera
• Buy tickets
• Receive push notifications of special performances
• Curated social media buzz about the opera
• Sign up for an e-newsletter
"If you never been to the opera before, you can visit the app and hear a sample of what Sarasota Opera does," said Samuel Lowry, communications officer for Sarasota Opera.
The video clips will typically be about a minute long or shorter due to copyright and union agreements, Parry explained. But live video holds a larger possibility.
"We do a lot of pre-show chats and meet the artists, and hopefully we'll be able to live stream it or put a video up on YouTube," Parry said. The YouTube video would then be pulled into the app.
One special tab promotes the Verdi Cycle. Sarasota Opera will be the first arts organization in the world to perform all of Verdi’s works by 2016, according to Parry.
Sarasota Opera is one of the first art entities to have such a robust app. The at this year's edition that allowed users to check the festival schedule, film synopsis and a chance to review movies and more.
While Sarasota Opera doesn't anticipate a youthful crowd to swarm to the opera due to the app, it hopes that the technology enables a younger crowd to discover opera and draw them into a performance.
"It will appeal to younger people because younger people expect they'll be able to access your site on an app," Parry said. "…I don't think it'll make us look super hip, but it'll be the new standard."
Opera officials imagine that a situation could play itself where a couple or friends might play out something like this,
"Hey, do you want to check out the opera?"
"I don't know. I don't think I ever heard opera music or seen a play?"
"You'll love it! Check out this clip of the "A King for a Day" performance."
"Hey, this is pretty cool. Let's get tickets for tonight."
If the opera chooses to do so, it could create a Twitter hashtag for a performance, perhaps something like #SORigoletto and have users engage in a conversation about the performance or a review and curate the tweets into the buzz section of the app.
So far, users in eight countries have downloaded the app, but Lowry admits he's not sure how many of those are robots and people, but Parry's sister in France downloaded it, so that's a least one, he jokes.
The only the iPhone/iPad app can't do is accept donations to the Sarasota Opera because of iTunes Store user agreement, but a workaround is accessing the mobile site using Safari on the phone/tablet, Parry explained. Android users are not affected, he said.