Hannah Crown, a California native, began working as company manager for Virginia Opera in April 2021. She’s excited to be here and loves spreading the word about opera, especially to people who think it’s not for them. Let’s learn more about Hannah and what’s ahead for Virginia Opera.
What does the company manager do?
The company manager does many different things. Typically, my main duties at Virginia Opera involve the day-to-day lives of our visiting artists—finding housing for them, arranging travel, making sure they have what they need in their lives outside the opera house so that they feel taken care of while they are away from home. I also am known to drive a 12-passenger van to transport artists, and right now, hold large amounts of COVID tests in my office. Since Virginia Opera performs in three venues across the Commonwealth, I also manage the travel and housing for the tour in Richmond and Fairfax.
Tell us about your background. How has your upbringing influenced your interest in the arts?
I was raised in Palo Alto, California. My parents were all about exposing me to the arts at an early age. I sang in children’s choirs, took art classes, and tried (and failed) at ballet and other dance classes. Out of me and my two brothers, I was the one who took the arts bait most voraciously. Two people I credit most with truly fostering my love for music: my first voice teacher and my first church choir director (who was also my first and only piano teacher… another swing and miss there). Those two women gave me my first experiences with opera, church music, and musical theater. In high school I performed with a teen opera organization.
In college, I realized that my talents were better put to use backstage and in the admin office, so I dove in and tried a bit of everything. I took a few costume design courses, lighting design, graphic design. Right out of college I moved back to San Francisco and worked at a great theater company there. Since then, I’ve worked in marketing, venue management, front of house services, and company management.
I moved out to Virginia early this summer after working as a personal assistant in San Francisco for a couple of years. After a year of COVID, I was eager to be back in the arts world as it reopened.
What was the first opera you saw? Were you always a fan?
The very first opera I saw was Carmen, although that’s kind of cheating, since I was in the children’s chorus. I was the youngest kid in the chorus, and other members of the company would make a bed for me in the green room during the show so I could sleep during the late nights when I wasn’t onstage. Recently, while packing for moving out here, I found the program that I had (as a very precocious child) every artist sign.
I wouldn’t say I’ve always been an opera fan… it has come and gone in waves. Since college in Minnesota and Oregon, I’ve found myself all over the place, and somehow, life always leads back to opera. I don’t think I attended a single opera while I was in college. Up until the last few years, I hadn’t even considered a career in opera administration over other art disciplines.
Tell us about Virginia Opera’s upcoming shows.
We have two more mainstage shows this season. The next opera is Three Decembers, which performs in Norfolk the last weekend of January. It is not the opera that you typically think about—it’s in English; it also only has three singers in it: a mother, son, and daughter; and it takes place in the last 50 years! All things that, if you’re not an avid attender of the opera, might not be expected. After that, in March, we’re doing the Marriage of Figaro—another one I remember watching when I was little and realizing that opera can make an audience laugh and doesn’t always have to be a tragedy.
How can companies like Virginia Opera make their performances relevant to today’s society?
Opera is relevant! It tells human stories. It is emotionally relevant in that way. Our show that recently closed, La Bohème: Rodolfo Remembers, tells the story of love and losing love—something that I think many audiences can relate and find relevance to right now. I think the challenge is finding a way to communicate that to potential audiences.
What would you say to someone who says they don’t care for opera?
I would say that there is probably an opera for everyone. Our season this year is a great example. I would also challenge them to come and see an opera here at Virginia Opera! There is definitely a stigma surrounding opera that it is stuffy, and you need to own furs and a ball gown to attend. For the record, I do not own a ball gown. One of my favorite things to do is to take people to their first performance—whether it is at the opera, a straight play, the symphony—and hear them say, “This is not what I thought it would be!”
How can parents develop a love for the arts in their children?
Exposure, exposure, exposure. Exposure alone to a variety of arts, I think, makes a huge difference. Growing up with parents that not only appreciated the arts but also actively participated and encouraged my own participation and creative expression made a huge difference in my own appreciation of arts.
What advice do you have for artists and people who are considering pursuing art?
Do it! Try it! I would wholeheartedly encourage it. In March last year, when everything came to a standstill – there was this enormous outpouring of art. This was from companies, from professionals, from individuals (I know that I found myself singing more than I had in years). It was a form of understanding, and coping, and therapy, because all of this was new and scary. Now, just because we understand what’s going on a little bit more, doesn’t mean it should stop.
What are some of your artistic goals? Personal goals?
One of my personal career goals in the future is to create an arts organization for kids with special needs or different needs, for them to be able to create their own artistic space and be able to communicate through those forms, with people actively involved in the artistic community helping to facilitate. One of the most influential parts, I think, of my own arts education, was to meet artists who were actively creating and be taught by them. Helping to provide that opportunity is something I would love to do more of in the future.
For more information, visit vaopera.org.