Atlanta Life and Culture

The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.

Despite confusion, shows go on for Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Shakespeare Company

It ain’t over for the Atlanta Opera, with or without a fat lady singing.

Similarly, the show must go on for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

This would hardly seem like earth-shattering news about these long-running Atlanta performing groups, except that some confused consumers erroneously think they’ve canceled performances, or worse, gone out of business.

Both companies, which are very much alive and kicking, are suffering from cases of oddly mistaken identity.

Some opera lovers think that members of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra have been locked out instead of the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, now in their seventh week without a contract and pay. Meanwhile a number of theater fans believe Atlanta Shakespeare is defunct, when it was Georgia Shakespeare that announced it was folding its tent earlier this month after a 29-year run.

This is troubling for the two troupes, which have shows to promote: Atlanta Opera opens its 36th season, and the first selected by new general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun, on Nov. 8 with “Madama Butterfly” at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. And Atlanta Shakespeare has a week left in its run of “Macbeth,” starring artistic director Jeff Watkins, at its New American Shakespeare Tavern in Midtown, with “Twelfth Night” set to open Nov. 7.

The opera has been receiving calls since Atlanta Symphony management locked out its musicians on Sept. 7 after the sides failed to agree to a collective bargaining agreement to replace the two-year one that expired at midnight Sept. 6.

In fact, the opera can boast of happier labor news, having ratified a three-year contract with its 42 musicians in August.

Opera interim marketing director David Paule said the confusion is something of a repeat of 2012, when the ASO musicians also were locked out. Then as now, most of the calls came from consumers wanting to purchase tickets for a single show or from recent arrivals to Atlanta not fully familiar with the city’s arts organizations.

“While we are able to answer any questions that people may have, we are most concerned about the potential ticket buyers who don’t call and simply make assumptions,” Paule said. “We don’t think this is much of an issue among our long-time patrons and season ticket subscribers.”

In response to ticket sales that Paule termed “a bit slower than we would like,” the company cranked up advertising in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WABE-FM and other media outlets and launched direct mail efforts two weeks earlier than normal. Starting the second week of this month, the opera has sent out more than 15,000 post cards, far more than in the past.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Shakespeare marketing manager Jeanette Meierhofer realized it had a problem of its own when in her travels around the city, people noticed her New American Shakespeare Tavern T-shirt and offered their condolences. She told at least 20 strangers in one week that Atlanta Shakespeare is the surviving troupe, but even some who have attended recent shows assumed that the company was preparing to cease operations.

Artistic director Watkins said he’s not totally surprised: There long has been some confusion about the companies, with, for instance, an Atlanta Shakespeare field trip client occasionally showing up at Georgia Shakespeare’s theater at Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center.

Watkins believes the best way for his group to address the situation is to keep doing what it does.

“Other than continuing to perform every week of the year as we have done for the past 20 years, we haven’t done anything special,” he said. “Most of our brand awareness and marketing is done online via Facebook, and our audience emails. So anyone who has been to the Tavern in the past and anyone finding us for the first time on Trip Advisor is getting up-to-date information that clearly indicates we are still in business.”


Atlanta Opera: “Madama Butterfly.” 8 p.m. Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 8 p.m. Nov. 14, 3 p.m. Nov. 16. $26-$137. “Opera With an Edge,” free season preview concert, 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 404-881-8885,

Atlanta Shakespeare Company: “Macbeth.” Through Nov. 2. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6:30 p.m. Sundays. $15-$36. 499 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-874-5299,

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.