An innovative partnership between Austin Opera and Four Seasons Hotel Austin will soon give the city’s opera lovers something to sing about.

Made possible through a grant from OPERA America, the first-of-its-kind public-private partnership aims to utilize the hotel brand’s legendary hospitality in an effort to improve the patron experience at the nationally acclaimed opera company.

“Traditionally we’ve contributed to local arts organizations through donations and discounted rooms or services,” said Rob Hagelberg, general manager at the 294-room hotel in downtown Austin since 2011. “Austin Opera’s request to tap into our hospitality expertise was an exciting proposition because it allows us to share one of our passions and, unlike money, there’s really no limit to how much we can give.”

The partnership’s first act was set in motion in Fall 2017 with the search for Austin Opera’s director of audience experience, a newly created role funded by the grant. Once candidates received the nod from a hiring committee, they were asked to interview with Hagelberg to determine if they fit the service aspect of the job.

“Hiring the right people is one of the keys to Four Seasons’ success,” said Hagelberg. “Tasks and responsibilities can be taught, but the best employees have an inherent desire to make others happy.”

In the end, Austin Opera’s Chief Executive Officer and General Director Annie Burridge chose Michael Solomon, a native Texan with more than 25 years of prestigious communications and industry positions in the Washington D.C. metro area, including six years with the Washington National Opera.

Starting in early 2018, Solomon will begin his role in earnest with a week onsite at Four Seasons Hotel Austin observing and shadowing a variety of positions, ranging from concierge to the hotel’s guest experience coordinator. Insights that will be shared include how Four Seasons gathers information about its guests and uses these preferences to customize each visit, as well as how the company employs guest feedback to improve future stays.

Throughout the 2018-2019 season, Solomon and his colleagues will continue to visit the hotel periodically to help shape Austin Opera’s own customer service standards and best practices in patron appreciation. In turn, Four Seasons employees will attend Austin Opera performances anonymously to complete secret shopping evaluations and ensure the roll-out of the new initiative is a success.

“Only in a city like Austin could this innovative partnership with the Four Seasons take off,” said Burridge. “We look forward to learning how to bring Four Seasons’ world-class culture of service to our audiences at the Long Center and beyond, and on pioneering a new commitment to the audience experience that is as unique as Austin itself.”

Hagelberg, whose personal interest in opera led him to join the organization’s Board of Trustees in 2012, is equally excited about the venture. “Austin Opera is already well respected in the fine arts world for presenting world-class performances,” he said. “It’s an honor to play even a small part in bringing that same level of excellence to their guest experience.”

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