Opera is one of the most enduring performance art forms, but, also, it is probably the most exclusive. A ticket to the Met can set one back nearly a hundred dollars (that is if you’re fine with sitting far away). And, it’s quite challenging—unlike mainstream musical theater, operas do not take their musical cues from pop music. The founders of LoftOpera—Dean Buck, Daniel Ellis-Ferris, and Brianna Maury—want to flip the opera world on its head, bringing a woefully elite style of theater to the masses. They’re doing so by bringing it to places off the L or the G trains, where you won’t see many audience members in ball gowns or tails. Can they make Verdi cool again? That might be tough, but with $30 tickets, they’ll certainly get a lot more people into those seats, and they’ll also be a lot closer to the stage.
Brianna Maury
Where do you live and how old are you?
I’m 26 and I live in Bed-Stuy.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
My first interest in opera came from Dean and Dan when I was about 22. We talked over beers about the idea of dropping opera into the music scene in Brooklyn. I was taken in by the idea of making a traditionally elitist art form more accessible.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
Certainly! We are proof that you can’t wait for anyone to build the kind of company you want to work for, especially in a specialized field like opera, you have to build it for yourself. People in Brooklyn are better than most at trusting their instincts and not buying into old ideas about climbing the ladder at an established company.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I will be the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Many times! Starting and running a company is very stressful, and production management is more unpredictable than most lines of work! But the times I’ve wanted to quit and persevered have been the moments that make me proud. Each time I want to quit and push through, my capacity to do tough things grows.
What’s felt like you’re biggest professional accomplishment?
When we hired our first full-time employee, Sophia, to be our Director of Development. I worked to recruit her for eight months. It was proof that I was finally able to articulate our vision in a way that could convince another person to risk their livelihood in pursuit of a common goal. It’s an honor to have someone trust you with their career, and having her join the team was a huge accomplishment for me.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?
Trust your instincts and be selective about who you trust. There are so many people in the opera world who do things the way they’ve always done them; they are incredibly wary of change. You have to be very careful about who you trust in the early days of your career because every connection and decision sets you on a path that will dictate the following steps. Also, be useful in any way you can. Many of the people we hire for every production are people who started out as volunteers.
Who are your role models in your industry?
With the exception of Francesca Zambello, most of my role models are not in the opera world. One of my favorite role models is Isaac Oates, the CEO of Justworks, the HR software company. He took on an incredibly antiquated industry with a simple goal: make the experience better for everyone. I find inspiration in the way he’s stripped back the status quo and built a company that customers and employees love. That’s all I want for LoftOpera: to create a company where employees feel that their talent is valued, where everyone works hard, and the art we make reaches as many people as possible.
Daniel Ellis-Ferris
Where do you live and how old are you?
I’m 27and I live in Bed-Stuy.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened?
I grew up singing and continued through college. After school I began producing shows, and haven’t stopped yet!
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
I live here, don’t I? In all seriousness, I don’t think there’s any other place in the world LoftOpera could have succeeded.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
We’ll see where LoftOpera takes us in the next ten years!
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Yes. Is there anybody who hasn’t?
What’s felt like you’re biggest professional accomplishment?
My biggest professional accomplishment has been the one time Catherine Malfitano, one of the world’s most famous Tosca’s, kept kicking me in the back while I was sitting on the floor running supertitles from my laptop during our production of Tosca.
What’s some advice you’d give to people trying to get a foothold in your industry?
Make your own work with people you love.
Dean Buck
Where do you live and how old are you?
I live in Bed-Stuy and am 26 years old.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened? 
I was in college, and everything about it interested me. I fell in love with the art form.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career?
It’s possible but it’s getting harder each year. Especially in the arts. It’s turning very quickly into a place for young professionals.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
We all have doubts and I would be lying if I said I didn’t! There are days and weeks where you feel beaten down and really ask yourself if this is worth it. Fortunately for me, the ultimate answer has always been yes.
Who are your role models in your industry?
There are a lot but Claudio Abaddo, Pierre Boulez and Tullio Serafin come to mind right away.
To learn about 29 more sub-30 standouts, visit this year’s list of 30 Under 30
Image by Jane Bruce. 

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