Where Opera meets Banking

By Danielle Pamela Neben, Editor of NFI and Marketing Director at ePassi in Iceland

Post our fantastic Nordic Finance Innovation event in Madrid on April 3rd 2019, Marisol Menendez, together with Startup Spain, held a lovely evening at the Royal Theatre of Spain. Chris Skinner interviewed Natalia Camacho, Audio Visual Director of the National Theatre. And then to our great surprise Paivi Jarvenpaa, Partnerships Lead at OP Financial Group, enchanted us by singing opera.

Marisol opened the evening by saying: “Let’s make the best of diversity, mix and match our different ingredients. This is the Royal Theatre of Spain. Tonight is magical as with the recent time change, we have a beautiful sunset behind us.

As we know, banking is a centuries old business as is the opera. Both businesses are being disrupted but have their strengths. This is an exercise of open innovation, creating new paths for innovation to flow I would like to introduce you to two of the best representatives this evening. Natalia Camacho is the Audio-Visual Director at the National Theatre. And we have our beloved Chris Skinner. They will talk about what banks and opera have in common.”

Chris: “In history, most great art has been created by great money. And of course being bankers, my first question is if you could tell us the funding mix for the National Theatre.”

“The funding comes 1/3 from government, 1/3 from the box office and 1/3 from private donations from major companies like Telefonica, Santander and Sabadell, to produce the art”, replied Nadia. “Art needs to grow and be created together with our sponsors.”

“And is opera only for the rich?” asked Chris.

“The theatre is very artisanal. There is a minimum of three weeks of rehearsal and much work create the costumes and scenery. For our audience, we try to focus on young people by providing last minute tickets to give everyone the opportunity to come to the opera. And we have special days for young people. But yes, it is an expensive activity”, replied Nadia. “Operas can have up to 200 people in them, as well as the orchestra. For that, we need big support. And for each opera, we have major sponsors. The model has also changed, where seven years ago, opera houses individually produced their own operas. Today, we are co-producing with five or seven opera houses.”

“As in banking, technology is also changing for the opera. Concerts can now be hosted simultaneously in the theatre and the cinema. Has this changed for you as well?”, asked Chris.

Nadia, “Yes, we are no longer limited to the auditorium. We now go live in 16 schools cross Spain in places like Galicia, Andalucía and smaller cities without regular access to opera. We can also do 3D. There are different ways to promote the culture, the arts and the music. Seven years ago it was hard to record. But today, our artists get paid to be recorded for distribution on the internet, DVDs, cinema and mass media.”.

“In the future, children need to learn what machines cannot learn. They cannot learn emotions, the heart of humanity. Can machines learn opera?”, asked Chris.

“There was an algorithm to learn Shubert. In my view, you cannot replace humans. You can use technology, but not replace humans.  We use technology for the new public, but we cannot replace the auditorium.  With technology, you cannot share the experience of being here” replied Nadia.

To that Chris said, “Technology can enhance the theatrical production, but I do not see how machines can replace that.”

Nadia, “For La Bohème, we streamed it on Facebook and we had great interactivity and exchange of emotions. We have also done visual content in virtual reality.  The narrative worked if you could not be here in person. But if you look into the future with onstage production, we will always keep the stage and the human connection. Technology must bring you closer, but in the end, you need to come to the theatre to awake the sensibility.”

“In closing, I would like to ask you about the relationship between financial firms and the arts. Could it be better? Are they providing enough support?”, asked Chris.

“I think they could be stronger. We do have a very good relationship with companies. But there also needs to be the balance and freedom for the artist” as per Nadia.

Marisol then invited our special guest opera singer, Paivi to the stage. It was magical and everyone just fell in love with her.

It is rare to find someone who crosses over between business and opera. To this, Marisol brought up the question, “What can business and the opera learn from each other?” And Paivi had the best answer: “Business can learn creativity from opera. And opera could definitely learn a thing or two about planning and organization from the business world”.

“Nurturing arts is important for our children and for our creativity”, responded Marisol. “And people create products and services for people. This is what you can bring from the arts”, said Paivi.

“On March 3rd, I was in Oslo. We were staying at the Opera Hotel. This is where Paivi told me about her background in opera. And we realised we could create a movement, an interaction to create this magic. The objective today was an experiment for us to think laterally. Chris’ latest book is Digital Human. And it is the human part that drives this.”, as per Marisol.

Paivi concluded, “I admire Marisol to turn this into a concept. I live between these worlds and we are now combining it.”