What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Can This Man Save the Opera?

January 20, 2012, 7:40 PM

In the climactic final act of Verdi's opera La traviata, the heroine Violetta is on her deathbed, stricken with tuberculosis. Suddenly her estranged lover Alfredo returns to her side and the newly reunited lovers imagine a future together. Violetta experiences a great resurgence of strength only to collapse dead at Alfredo's feet.

George Steel, General Manager and Artistic Director of the New York City Opera, is hoping this scene is played out on stage, not in real life. The opera company's season premiere of La traviata on February 12 has been threatened by a labor dispute. Rehearsals for the production were cancelled as the orchestra union reacted to Steel's dramatic restructuring of the company that involved steep cuts in pay. This real-life melodrama threatens not only traviata but the entire season. This week, however, a tentative contract agreement was announced that could save the season, and the company. 

UPDATE, January 20: The deal is done!

A cancelled season would have amounted to a great reversal of fortune for the not-for-profit company. As New York Magazine wrote, "if the Metropolitan is opera’s global brand, City Opera is the local, high-risk alternative.” For nearly 70 years the City Opera has showcased up-and-coming talent performing works from an alternative repertoire. The company also racked up huge operating deficits due to mismanagement. Steel was brought on board to fix all of that. 

Steel told Big Think that in order to survive, the City Opera "must transition to the model that most opera companies use: paying people only for the work that they do.” Under the union's current contract, musicians have payment guarantees that Steel says have led to gigantic overhead costs for each production. In the video below, Steel describes how he was forced to rethink the way operas were produced in order to invest the most money possible into what actually goes onstage. 

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


Can This Man Save the Opera?

Newsletter: Share: