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Bounces Back P. 6


First Opera P. 52

2018-2019 Vocal Roster

Michael Benchetrit MB 212.841.9559 mcjb@columbia-artists.com Damon Bristo DB 212.841.9685 djbristo@columbia-artists.com Elizabeth Crittenden EC 917.327.0400 Artistic Advisor & Consultant crittend@columbia-artists.com William G. Guerri WG 212.841.9680 guerri@columbia-artists.com Tim Fox TF 212.841.9571 timfox@columbia-artists.com Emily Threlfall Yoon EY 212.841.9509 emilyyoon@columbia-artists.com 5 Columbus Circle at 1790 Broadway, 16th Fl. New York, NY 10019-1412 columbia-artists.com




Keri Alkema DB Kathleen Battle TF/EY Michelle Bradley MB Ambur Braid DB Amy Burton WG Nicole Cabell MB Andrea Carroll WG Anna Christy DB Hailey Clark DB/WG Leah Crocetto WG Kiera Duffy DB Amanda Echalaz DB Joyce El-Khoury WG Ashley Emerson WG Raquel Gonzalez DB Ying Huang WG Alexandra Loutsion DB Amanda Majeski DB Karita Mattila MB Maureen McKay MB Heidi Melton DB Erin Morley MB Simone Osborne DB Marjorie Owens MB Heather Phillips DB Lori Phillips DB Brenda Rae MB Twyla Robinson WG Marina Shaguch MB Deborah Voigt TF/EY Erin Wall MB Tamara Wilson DB Corinne Winters DB Sally Wolf EC Jennifer Zetlan WG Vanessa Vasquez WG

Lindsay Ammann DB Jamie Barton MB J’Nai Bridges WG Judith Christin DB Elizabeth DeShong WG Emily Fons MB Cecelia Hall MB Daveda Karanas DB Isabel Leonard DB/TF Daniela Mack DB Michaela Martens WG Sarah Mesko DB Dolora Zajick EC Daryl Freedman DB

Phillip Addis MB Aleksey Bogdanov DB Russell Braun MB Mark Delavan DB Anthony Clark Evans WG Tom Fox MB Quinn Kelsey MB Mariusz Kwiecien WG Steven LaBrie MB Elliot Madore DB Johnathan McCullough DB Edward Nelson DB Zachary Nelson WG Hugh Russell WG Reginald Smith, Jr. MB Harry Greenleaf WG Luca Salsi WG

Contraltos Meredith Arwady DB

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Tenors Randall Bills DB David Blalock WG Steven Cole EC Clifton Forbis WG Joshua Guerrero DB Ben Heppner WG Keith Jameson WG Shawn Mathey MB Michael Myers EC Cooper Nolan DB Dimitri Pittas WG Alek Shrader MB Bruce Sledge MB Jack Swanson MB Russell Thomas MB Issachah Savage DB Derrek Stark WG

Bass-Baritones Gordon Bintner MB Nicholas Brownlee DB Jeongcheol Cha WG Evan Hughes MB Ryan McKinny DB James Morris DB Musa Ngqungwana WG Philippe Sly DB Alan Higgs WG

Basses Erik Anstine WG Önay Köse MB Andrea Silvestrelli WG Steven Humes DB

FA L L 2 O17

The magazine of OPERA America – the national service organization for opera, which leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera


Fred Cohn




Made Visible Studio A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R

Nicholas Wise

NWise@operaamerica.org A DV E R T I S I N G M A N AG E R

CHILD’S PLAY New Children’s Repertoire

Vincent Covatto

VCovatto@operaamerica.org DIRECTOR OF M A RKETING A N D C O M M U N I C AT I O N S

B y R AY M A R K R I N A L D I

Patricia Kiernan Johnson



O N T H E COV E R A young audience member at Lyric Opera of Chicago (photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Opera America (ISSN – 1062 – 7243) is published in September, December, March and June. Copyright © 2017 by OPERA America. All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. Editorial policy: The views expressed in this publication are those of the various authors for the purpose of encouraging discussion. Unless expressly noted, they do not reflect the formal policy, or necessarily the views, of OPERA America. To contact the editor, e-mail Editor@operaamerica.org. The deadline for advertising submissions is 45 days before publication date. The presence of advertising implies no endorsement of the products or services offered. For advertising rates, e-mail Advertising@operaamerica.org. OPERA America 330 Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10001 212.796.8620





STICKY NOTES Nine Tips For Making Development Staff Adhere







B y DA N C O O P E R M A N








B y M AT T H E W S I G M A N

OUT OF RUSSIA A Conversation with Lidiya Yankovskaya By M ARC A . SCORCA FA LL 2 017  1


Laura Kaminsky

Timothy O’Leary Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Carol Lazier Trustee, San Diego Opera


Barbara Leirvik

Frayda B. Lindemann, Ph.D. Trustee, The Metropolitan Opera

Charles MacKay The Santa Fe Opera


Perryn Leech Houston Grand Opera VICE - CHAI R MAN

Susan F. Morris Trustee, The Santa Fe Opera

Zizi Mueller Boosey & Hawkes Esther Nelson Boston Lyric Opera John F. Nesholm Trustee, Seattle Opera


Nicole Paiement Opera Parallèle

Kathryn Smith Madison Opera

Bill Palant Étude Arts


Jane DiRenzo Pigott Trustee, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Evan J. Hazell Trustee, Calgary Opera TREA S U R E R

William Florescu Florentine Opera Company SECR E TA RY

Marc A. Scorca PRES I DE N T/ CE O

BOARD OF DIRECTORS John E. Baumgardner Jr. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Daniel Biaggi Palm Beach Opera Wayne S. Brown Michigan Opera Theatre Ned Canty Opera Memphis

Yuval Sharon The Industry Matthew Shilvock San Francisco Opera Jill Steinberg Trustee, VisionIntoArt John Turner Trustee, Houston Grand Opera Dona D. Vaughn Opera Maine, Manhattan School of Music Francesca Zambello The Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera EX-OFFICIO MEMBERS Christina Loewen, Opera.ca

Rena M. De Sisto Bank of America

Nicholas Payne, Opera Europa

Larry Desrochers Manitoba Opera


David B. Devan Opera Philadelphia

Robert Tancer, CHAIRMAN James M. Barton John E. Baumgardner Jr. L. Henry Cox III Douglas Cuomo Elizabeth Eveillard Jeanne Goffi-Fynn, Ed.D. Jane A. Gross Karen Kriendler Nelson Frederick W. Peters Jane A. Robinson Anthony Rudel Michael Scimeca, M.D. Jeri Sedlar Thurmond Smithgall Brett Stover Gregory C. Swinehart Barbara Augusta Teichert Darren K. Woods Carole Yaley

Carol E. Domina Michael Egel Des Moines Metro Opera Robert Ellis Trustee, San Francisco Opera, Opera Parallèle James Feldman Trustee, Washington National Opera Barbara Glauber Trustee, New England Conservatory Denyce Graves-Montgomery Christopher Hahn Pittsburgh Opera

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46th summer festival June 22 - July 15, 2018

die fledermaus rusalka flight the tender land desmoinesmetroopera.org 515-961-6221

That’s Us


icky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s opera The Grapes of Wrath enjoyed great success this summer in a production of a new version of the piece mounted by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Ma Joad sings a stirring setting of Michael’s words in a first-act aria called “Us.” As she works with her family to pack their belongings for the uprooting move to California, she reminds them, “That’s us.” So we’ll take along the things we’ll need, and we’ll leave behind the things we won’t. But the unimportant things we pick up in our lives, they tell us who we are. Will spoons and forks and knives? Leaving our past behind us suddenly stamped “Surplus,” What will remind us our lives are us? Our lives are us. Our lives are us. This moving text connected me to a summer of traumatic damage to our homes and sense of belonging. Hurricane Harvey is us. Hurricane Irma is us. Charlottesville is us. As we read and watched images about these defining events, it could have been easy to disassociate from them because they occurred elsewhere, to other people. But we could have been the ones deciding in a flash what to bring with us at the point of mandatory evacuation from our homes. It happened to people we know and love in Houston and across Florida. They are us. When the waters recede and infrastructure is repaired, many of our fellow citizens will return home to places where they have a sense of belonging. The events of Charlottesville were tragic in a different way, though, as members of radical groups told other people that they don’t belong at all — in our cities or in our country. Confederate flags, Nazi symbols and Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia strike fear into all people who have been and are subject to bigotry and discrimination. If we are not their targets, their victims are colleagues in our offices, friends with whom we have dinner and family members we love. They are us. Charlottesville is us. While we were horrified to see the destruction in Houston and across Florida, we were inspired by the humanity that brought people together — sometimes in human chains — to rescue stranded children, elders, even pets. We heard the words of determination to recover from the crises, and we are offering assistance in all possible ways. Reflexive willingness to help our neighbors is a part of the American character that cannot be undermined by purveyors of hatred and division. Our opera community has a very long way to go to achieve equity and inclusivity among people who have not been represented in our work. Still, we can be an active agent of the healing that is needed. Through the stories we tell on stage, the artists we invite to tell these stories and the people we make feel welcome in our opera houses, we can strengthen the civic fabric — piece by piece — across the country. Our instinct for collaboration, our power to convene, our access to resources and our generosity of spirit should be deployed fully during these trying times to help the healing. Healing is us.

Marc A. Scorca President/CEO FA LL 2 017  3


Training Grounds

pera companies’ school education efforts most often seek to expose young people to the genre and its repertory, but an increasing number have another focus, immersing students in the art form’s most basic element: singing. Company-run initiatives across the country offer vocal training to students at the high school level and below. But their missions vary as widely as the programs themselves. Houston Grand Opera positions its High School Voice Studio as a precursor to its university-level Young Artists Vocal Academy and even to HGO Studio, its prestigious young artist program. (Think of it as a young young artist program.) Twelve students are enrolled at this year’s High School Voice Studio. Each receives weekly lessons from one of the three university-level teachers on the faculty; on top of that, they get monthly masterclasses with visiting artists and HGO staff. A special benefit this year is that some students will sing in the chorus of the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s The House Without a Christmas Tree. “We’re modeling it after our studio program and our vocal academy,” says Carleen Graham, director of Denyce Graves coaches high school senior Dennis Barber in a master class at OTSL’s Artists-in-Training Program

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HGOco. “In a few years, we could conceivably identify a student who is a sophomore or junior and monitor that person through high school, college and post-college, all the way into their professional life. That’s a great commitment.” [At press time, the Houston area was struggling with the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey. But — reached by phone five days after the storm hit — Graham said the 2017–2018 High School Voice Studio would proceed as planned.] Tulsa Opera’s vocal education programs, on the other hand, don’t seek to mold the DiDonatos and Flemings of the next generation, but instead to help students develop a love of music in general — and opera in particular. The 20-year-old Tulsa Youth Opera program trains students, grades 3–12, to perform in children’s operas and as choristers in mainstage works like Tosca. The company’s Raise Your Voice! program, recently launched with funding from an OPERA America Innovation Grant, brings after-school vocal instruction to students at six middle schools in underserved neighborhoods. Tulsa Opera has designed the program explicitly to compensate for cuts to school music programs. “By getting

these kids interested in singing,” says Aaron Beck, the company’s music and education administrator, “we’re trying to keep from losing another generation of music lovers.” This summer, Florida Grand Opera staged its second Young Artist Learning Academy (YALA), an “opera boot camp” that gives students ages 15–19 a twoweek immersion not just in singing, but in production and repertoire, as well. Although not as focused on a professional path as HGO’s high school vocal program, it nonetheless gives its young participants a sense of what a career in opera might entail. “It shows them ‘Yes, you can have a life in this business,’” says Rebekah DiazFandrei, FGO’s director of education and community outreach. “Before I fell in love with opera, I was more of a gospel singer,” says Johna Denis, a high school senior and a participant in this summer’s YALA. “But the camp opened my eyes to opera and the drama behind it. I would love be able to use my voice and movements to make drama onstage.” The benefits these programs provide to young people can be immense. Take the experience of St. Louis native Mark Kent, who 26 years ago joined Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Artistsin-Training Program (AIT), which since 1990 has provided weekly voice lessons to talented high schoolers throughout the St. Louis region. The young baritone hadn’t intended to go to college, but his vocal training paved the way to a full scholarship at American University. After getting his master’s degree from DePaul University, he launched a career as a singer. In 2008, detecting dwindling professional opportunities, Kent cut his singing career short. He is now president of the Biome Foundation, the fundraising arm of a St. Louis charter school. But he sees his current business prowess as an outgrowth of his lifechanging experience in AIT. “What’s amazing is that the relationships I formed 26 years ago at OTSL are still intact,” he says. “Ninety-five percent of the kids in AIT won’t go on to be opera singers. But the most important thing about it is that it broadens people’s worldviews. I didn’t make it to the Met, but I’m successful in other ways.”  — Fred Cohn & Nicholas Wise

Eric Woolsey



Washington National Opera has announced that Philippe Auguin, who has served as its music director Auguin for the past eight seasons, will relinquish his post after this season. Jecca Barry has been promoted from general manager to executive director at Beth Morrison Barry Projects. In her new role, she will also serve as a director of the Prototype Festival.


Lisa Bullard, formerly of the Philadelphia Orchestra, is the new director of marketing at San Francisco Opera, succeeding Marcia Lazer.

Austin Opera has brought on Cina Crisara as its new chorus master and assistant conductor. She was Crisara previously chorus master of both Opera Omaha and the Omaha Symphony. Houston Grand Opera has hired Molly Dill for the newly created position of technical director. Dale Edwards has also joined HGO as its marketing director. Fort Worth Opera has named Tuomas Hiltunen, formerly an administrator at the Barenboim-Said Hiltunen Foundation USA, as its new general director. Joe Illick, the company’s music director since 2002, has been named artistic director. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has announced that Roberto Kalb, currently head of music, will additionally take on the role of resident conductor, beginning in the 2018 season. Erich Keil has joined Tulsa Opera as its new director of production and lighting designer.


Charlottesville Opera has announced that its artistic director, Michelle Krisel, has retired. Before joining the company in 2010,

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Krisel spent 14 years at Washington National Opera, where she was founding director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Townsend Opera has appointed Charla Jeanne Lawson as managing director and Ryan Murray as artistic director. Daniel Lipton, who has served as artistic director of Opera Tampa for the past five years, has resigned from his post. Stephen Lord has become music director of Opera Maine, adding to his roles as principal conductor of Lord Michigan Opera Theatre and music director emeritus of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Charles MacKay, general director of The Santa Fe Opera since 2008, has announced that he intends McKaey to leave the company after its 2018 season. MacKay is a board member of OPERA America and previously served as its chairman. Nickel City Opera has named Matthias Manasi as its new music director. Tim McKeough, formerly public relations director for the Sydney Theatre Company, has been named the Metropolitan Opera’s new press director. Eugene Opera has appointed Erika Rauer to the newly created post of executive director. Rauer Rauer was previously program director of the Community Arts Collaborative at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and director of education at New York City Opera. Andrew Bisantz, formerly the company’s music director, has been named artistic director. (See “A Second Act,” page 6.) Nigel Redden has stepped down from his post as director of the Lincoln Center Festival after nearly 20 years in the position. He continues as general director of the Spoleto Festival USA. Hawaii Opera Theatre has hired Rob Reynolds, formerly associate technical director for Seattle Opera, as its new director of production.


Opera Memphis has appointed Michael Sakir as its new music director, replacing Benjamin Makino.

Mary Ladish Selander has moved from director of development at Lyric Opera of Chicago to senior philanthropic advisor. Michael Solomon, formerly senior press representative at Washington National Opera, has joined Austin Opera as director of audience experience. The newly created position is funded in part by an Innovation Grant from OPERA America. Chad Whittington has been named president and CEO of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, which comprises Opera Columbus and six other cultural organizations. Lidiya Yankovskaya has been appointed music director of Chicago Opera Theater and will begin Yankovskaya conducting regularly for the company in its 2018–2019 season. (See “Out of Russia,” page 14.)

KUDOS Annie Burridge, general director and CEO Austin Opera, was selected as one of 15 nonprofit leaders Burridge to take part in the Aspen Institute’s American Express Leadership Academy, a weeklong program that focuses on the broad values — such as freedom, equality, justice and community — that inform an effective leader’s work. Burridge previously participated in OPERA America’s 2012 Leadership Intensive. The Dallas Opera named soprano Marina CostaJackson, Adalgisa in the company’s Norma last Costa-Jackson spring¸ as its Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year. John Estacio, composer of the operas Lillian Alling, Frobisher and Filumena, received a Distinguished Estacio Artist Award from the lieutenant governor of Alberta, Canada.

Dario Acosta (Auguin), Tarja Tupparainen (Hiltunen), John Robinson (Krisel), Larynx Photography (Lord), Chris Corrie (MacKay), Joanne Bouknight (Rauer), Joey Miller (Sakir), Kate Lemmon (Yankovskaya), Paul Sirochman (Burridge), Suzanne Vinnik (Costa-Jackson), Wade Kelly (Estacio)


OUT of RUSSIA A Conversation With


Lidiya Yankovskaya, the newly named music director of Chicago Opera Theater, has built an imposing reputation in opera and new music. Her schedule includes symphonic and opera assignments across the country. She serves as artistic director of the Juventas New Music Ensemble and music director of Commonwealth Lyric Theater. Born in Russia and raised in the U.S., Yankovskaya took part in the 2015 inaugural residency program of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors. Here she chats with OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca about her life and career, and the challenge of developing new audiences for opera.

SCORCA: Let’s start at the beginning: Who brought you to your first opera? YANKOVSKAYA: My mother. She took me to operas and ballets from before I can remember. She absolutely loves the opera, and she studied music seriously as a pianist and a singer when she was a child herself. Now when I conduct Mozart or Puccini, my mother will sing all of the arias at me in Russian, which is hilarious. The first opera that I remember is Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, which I saw at the Mariinsky when I was maybe four or five. I remember very vividly the singers and the crazy costumes, and going down toward the pit and seeing all of the instrumentalists, and just how exciting that was.

Kate Lemmon

How old were you when you came to the U.S.? We came here when I was nine, as refugees. Russia was falling apart economically and politically in the 1990s and there was an incredible amount of anti-Semitism. Fortunately, we already had some family in the States and were able to immigrate. There’s been a lot of musical variety in your life — piano, violin, voice. I started out as a pianist and also sang in the St. Petersburg Children’s Choir of Radio and Television. We went to twohour rehearsals three times a week. I started when I was five, and even at that

age, you had to sight-read just to get in. When we moved to the States, I added the violin to the piano so that I could regularly perform in orchestras. When I was 17, I won my high school’s concerto competition with a Mozart piano concerto. The conductor encouraged me to lead rehearsals from the piano, and later invited me to conduct a movement of one of Dvořák’s symphonies. Of course, I did not yet really know what I was doing, but I absolutely fell in love with conducting. What did you study at Vassar College? I devoted most of my time to piano, voice and conducting. I also played violin, but not that seriously: I wanted to focus on other things. The wonderful thing about Vassar is that, while it has an amazing music faculty, it’s also a liberal arts institution that gave me a really wellrounded education. I was able to study languages, philosophy, psychology — all the things that go into conducting — in addition to music. I never pursued singing professionally but I felt it was very important to study it if I wanted to go into opera. And I ran my own ensemble, of about 55 instrumentalists and 30 singers, that would do performances of contemporary works several times a year. You’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak.

Yes, I don’t like to be idle! I love to always be working on new and exciting projects, and if they don’t come my way then I make them happen. How can we grow as artists if we don’t create something interesting and new? Was opera a goal for you from the very beginning? I have always loved opera, but when I started out in college, I still thought that I might end up becoming a pianist. In my junior year, though, I learned the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto, and it took so many endless hours, alone in a practice room, that I realized this wasn’t for me. But opera is the most collaborative of the musical art forms. It was exciting for me to be with other people — not just instrumentalists and singers, but also set designers and directors and stage managers and producers. Tell me about your work with the Juventas New Music Ensemble in Boston. I joined the organization about five years into its existence as an associate conductor, and then became music director. At the time, it was a conglomerate of emerging composers and performers coming together to play chamber concerts of new work. It’s difficult to find an audience for those kinds of performances: The early audiences were generally people with personal connections to the composers. When I became artistic director, I started changing the format and focusing on really collaborative presentations. We’ve done concerts that feature robotic instruments. We’ve had puppeteers and circus artists — a recent performance featured aerialists. It has brought people from all walks of life into our performances, and it’s gotten them excited. At OPERA America’s annual conference last May, you talked about opera becoming truly universal, about it being exciting and relevant. To me, opera is a living art form, and in a sense, it’s already universal, but not everyone realizes this. I think it’s very important for us to break preconceptions that people have about opera, and to make sure that they understand opera can be relevant to our world and our society and to everything around us. At Juventas, we did a piece where the audience downloaded a program onto their cellphones that allowed them to F A L L 2 0 1 7   15

C H I L D ’ P L

A BU M PE R C ROP OF N E W WOR K br ings grow nup c reat iv it y to OPE R A S FOR C H I LDR E N .



The Little Prince at Houston Grand Opera in 2015

Lynn Lane


peras commissioned for children have long lived in a kind of ghetto. However well-suited they may have been for in-school performances, they have seldom been seen as part of the operatic mainstream. A handful of well-received entries, like Tobias Picker’s 1998 Fantastic Mr. Fox and Rachel Portman’s 2003 The Little Prince, may have demonstrated the value of making serious works for children, but companies and creators have seemed reluctant to follow suit. “There’s a lot of opera for children, but there’s certainly not enough good opera,” says Kip Cranna, dramaturg at San Francisco Opera. That is, until recently. Some of opera’s most prominent composers are now applying their skills toward children’s opera. Among the six projects recently awarded Commissioning Grants from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers (see page 36), two of them — Paola Prestini and Mark Campbell’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Rachel J. Peters’ Rootabaga Country — fall into the category. Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat’s Jason and the Argonauts premiered last year under the aegis of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited initiative, garnering solid reviews and enough eager ticket buyers to fuel 30 performances at various area venues. In May, seven American companies, led by The Santa Fe Opera, announced the consortium Opera for All Voices, with the specific aim of commissioning composers and librettists, associated with adult music, to create new material aimed at audiences of all ages. (The consortium is funded, in part, by an Innovation Grant from OPERA America.) The first two commissions went to Grammywinning composer Augusta Read Thomas, working with librettist Jason Kim; and to composer Laura Kaminsky, who is paired with librettist Kimberly Reed. (Kaminsky and Reed are part of the creative team behind As One, possibly the most-produced chamber opera of the last decade.) Andrea Fellows Walters, Santa Fe Opera’s director of education programming, says that the initiative aims to offer opera-going children “magnificent art-making” that stands on its own, rather than being “a diluted or diffused experience.” The “diluted experience” she cites is the practice of introducing young audiences to opera through potted versions of standard-rep blockbusters. The limitations of the ploy are obvious: It carries a tinge of classical culture foisted on unsuspecting charges. Moreover, young audiences won’t necessarily have the tools to interpret

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Nine Tips for Making BY DAN COOPERMAN

It happens all too frequently. A highprospect donor calls in with a question for her giving officer — a development staffer or the department director herself. But the person on the other end of the phone is forced to say: “I’m afraid she’s no longer working for us. How can we help?” Staff turnover in opera fundraising is real, and it’s alarming. The skills of development professionals, as much as they may be valued by opera companies, are also highly transferrable: not just in the performing arts, but also across the nonprofit spectrum. The U.S. nonprofit sector has ballooned in recent decades — from 300,000 organizations in 1970 22  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Development Staff Adhere to 1.6 million in 2013 — but the pool of skilled fundraisers has not kept pace. “The need for fundraisers far outstrips the supply,” says nonprofit consultant Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Leadership. “It puts a lot of power in the hands of the practitioner.” In other words, development people are highly poachable. But keeping them on board is a matter of critical importance. Considering the role that contributed revenue plays in opera — in some cases, as high as 78 percent of the budget — the relationships that a company forges with its donors are crucial to its survival. Frequent shifts in development staff can strain those ties to the breaking point. The figures can be discouraging. In OPERA America’s 2016 Development Benchmarking Study, companies reported an annual turnover rate in fundraising departments of 30 percent.

Hiring a replacement took, on average, two or three months, with some positions remaining unfilled for six months or more. Another complication is that opera development staffers skew young: A full 30 percent of them are under 30. According to Burk, the average fundraiser stays two and a half years in a position, and the average tenure drops to a mere 16 months among the under-30 set. Those short stays are especially disheartening when you take into account the learning curve for development jobs: It generally takes from 10 months to a year for a development person to feel confident in her position. This means that opera companies are getting on average just four to six months of full-capacity work from the younger members of their development teams. Turnover is costly; in fact, Burk





estimates the cost of a nonmanagement staff departure as 120 percent of the person’s salary. That figure includes vacation payout, fees for posting the position or hiring a recruiter, potential head-hunting expenses and, most significantly, the “productivity gap”: Throughout the whole period in which the departing staff member winds down her efforts, the manager concentrates on making a new hire; subsequently, while the new team member begins training, the development department loses out on valuable donor-interface time. Worse still: When their relationships with their giving officers are severed, roughly 25 percent of donors make smaller gifts, delay their contributions or stop giving altogether. But although the issue of staff retention can be fraught, it isn’t hopeless. Successful development officers have uncovered key tactics that promote staff retention. Here are some key recommendations for keeping staffers in place.




It’s perhaps not surprising that salary is often a leading reason why development staff move on. Factors like student loans and the rising costs of living in metropolitan areas only add to the appeal that a larger paycheck offers. An opera company will almost definitely not have the resources to compete with the salaries offered by deep-pocketed hospitals or universities, but it should certainly try to maintain parity with other local arts organizations. “If you look at the Association of Fundraising Professionals [AFP] salary grid, you’ve got a high, medium and low range,” says Burk. “If you’re below that range, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.” Greg Robertson, chief advancement officer at Houston Grand Opera, recommends open conversations with colleagues at other local arts institutions to gauge the going rates for development personnel. Meanwhile, both the AFP and OPERA America offer salary analysis. Even though it may not seem possible to add money to a tight budget for the purpose of raising salaries, Robertson argues that it’s an essential step toward good financial health. “As a field, we underinvest in fundraising staff,” he says, “but the only way to grow these days is through contributed support. And that requires staff.”

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2 3

LET THEM SUCCEED In order to hold on to staffers, you have to set them up for success. When HGO’s Robertson welcomes new staff members into his department, he makes sure they know their worth. “I tell them, ‘You never have to interview for your job again,’” he says. “‘If we could have raised all of the money we needed without you, we would have. But we can’t.’” A big part of the battle is managing expectations: your own, and your organization’s. Emma Dunch, an artsmanagement consultant and recruiter, notes that no single hire will act as a “magic wand.” Instead of waiting for the magic to happen, a manager has to keep goals and priorities well-defined. Are the tasks reasonable and pragmatic, given the time and resources available? Are expectations clear and shared?

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MANAGE WELL An employee’s relationship with her management can be as critical as salary in the decision about whether to stay or go. A development director (or a one-person development department) needs to feel the support of her superiors. If leadership and trustees seem to be continually wondering whether someone else could do the job better, they are in effect pushing the present director out the revolving door. When it comes to managing staffers, a key consideration is respecting their time — which may be the scarcest commodity of all. “None of us has more than 24 hours in a day,” Burk says. She notes a study of fundraisers reporting that nearly a third of their working hours were taken up with meetings. “Most people would be hard-pressed to identify a positive result from a meeting, like a decision that led to something important,” she says. “Managers call meetings as a way to supervise the people who work for them, but it’s a poor way to supervise. When you call five people into a meeting for an hour, you’ve lost five work hours.” That wasted time not only affects productivity, but it can take a toll on employee morale.

4 BE A MENTOR Like professionals in any category, development staffers are looking to build the skills that will enable them to sustain a career. It’s one thing to tell a staff member what he needs to do to accomplish the company’s goals; it’s another to help him achieve his own goals in the process. But a manager who acknowledges this basic professional need will build loyalty among his staffers. Mentorship at HGO’s development department starts the first week on the job. Robertson sends his staffers out on donor

visits almost immediately, coaching them through the whole process — and allowing them to make mistakes. “Donors understand when mistakes are made,” says Sneja Tomassian, Cincinnati Opera’s director of development. “Most of the time they laugh and say, ‘Yeah, that’s necessary to grow.’” The mentorship role may well include an acknowledgment that the employee isn’t bound to the company for life. “We tell people, ‘We’re going to make an investment in your professional skills,’” Robertson says. “‘We’re going to invest in your training. We’re going to do one-on-one work with you. We’re going to do whatever we think we can do to make you a successful development professional. And hopefully that will be here at HGO.’” As much as you want to minimize turnover, it also pays to acknowledge that your staffers’ professional paths may one day lead them out the door. In fact, furthering their long-term career goals may be a good way of avoiding too-hasty departures. Lisa Bury, development director at Seattle Opera, encourages employees to discuss their next steps with her. “But you have to be willing to hear me say that I believe it’s too soon,” she says. “I may say, ‘These are things you still need to work on, and this is how you can do it here.’”


Don’t look at professional development as a perk, but as an essential tool — one that will benefit the company as much as the staffer himself. Conferences — like OPERA America’s Opera Conference, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ International Fundraising Conference and the Tessitura Learning and Community Conference — offer some of the most all-encompassing chances for staffers to expand their professional horizons, exposing them to best practices in areas like major gifts, planned giving, special events and grantwriting. True, when you figure in the costs involved — conference fees, airfare, hotels and meals, not to mention lost time at the office — they’re expensive propositions. But as learning opportunities, they’re hard to beat. Meanwhile, sending a staffer to a conference is an unmistakable vote of confidence. For this reason, Cincinnati Opera’s Tomassian gives one or two staff members a chance to attend the Opera Conference before she herself takes a spot. “We give them opportunities to improve their lives and professional growth,” she says. “When companies make people sit in front of their computers all the time, they lose staff.” Regional AFP chapters and other service organizations may provide less expensive learning opportunities, as well as let staffers build networks with local peers. Meanwhile, some companies offer their own professionaldevelopment sessions. Seattle Opera’s Bury brings in local speakers to lead sessions that help staffers identify their core strengths. Robertson heads up his own group sessions in fundraising skills — how to get an appointment, how to lead into an “ask” — augmenting them with one-on-one coachings.


MAKE IT A TEAM SPORT Fundraising should be a full-company effort. When a box-office manager facilitates a gift, a production team member leads a backstage tour or a trustee asks a major donor out to dinner, it’s a sign to development personnel that the entire company takes responsibility for cultivating donations. But if fundraisers feel like the entire duty is on their shoulders, it will lead to stress and burnout. Needless to say, a company-wide commitment to philanthropy needs allout support from above. Seattle Opera has gone so far as to issue an official “Culture of Philanthropy” statement, requiring “everyone — board members, volunteers and staff in all departments at all levels” to “act as ambassadors for the company.” Meanwhile, fundraisers can have a huge impact by learning to “manage up”: keeping the lines of communication open to board members, general directors and colleagues in other departments, letting them know the ways that they are needed to support development efforts.

LOYALT Y BUIL DERS Long-term development staffers list the elements that keep them on board

89% 68% 67% 64% 56% 55%

Commitment to the mission

Inclusion in decision-making

A highperformance team

A boss who values employees’ decisions

A workplace culture of support for fundraising

Ability to balance work with personal and family needs

Figures courtesy of Cygnus Applied Research F A L L 2 0 1 7   25



MEET Marketers from seven American compa nies e xch a nge ide a s on at t r a c t i n g n e w o p e r a g o e r s . 28  O P E R A A M E R I C A




tudies of web-browsing habits. Surveys that not only measure satisfaction, but predict future behavior. Analyses of credit card transactions for demographics and spending habits. These market research techniques, traditionally employed by consumer goods companies, are increasingly making their way into the marketing arsenals of opera companies. This past March, when marketing executives from seven major American opera companies gathered to share findings at a meeting at OPERA America’s National Opera Center, they brought with them statistics generated through the same techniques that for-profit corporations use to gauge their markets. Four of these companies are part of the Wallace Foundation’s national initiative Building Audiences for Sustainability, while the other three have elected to build their research capacity independently. This kind of data mining is becoming increasingly essential as the very structure of opera marketing changes. At one time, full-season subscriptions were the foundation of companies’ earned revenue. Audience growth and retention were perennial challenges, but advertising and direct-mail marketing reliably recruited new season-ticket buyers. Demographic and social changes — along with increased competition for time, attention and money — have led marketers to put increasing focus on single-ticket sales. Using sophisticated yield-management software, they have maximized revenue for each seat through targeted marketing and select discounts. It remains imperative, though, to recruit new audiences — not just in the short term, but over the next generation. It’s a task that requires new tools and techniques.

While the companies at the marketing summit — convened by OPERA America with support from the Wallace Foundation — are all nationally and internationally prominent, the fundamentals of their histories, demographics, venue capacities, season structures, pricing, number of productions and performances, and budgets vary widely. So, too, do their methodologies for collecting and analyzing marketing data. Some use in-house resources; others partner with outside market research firms. But their confidential sharing of information revealed a multitude of commonalities. A chief concern shared by all is what one company called the “audience spiral.” As subscription sales decline and companies reallocate marketing dollars and special promotions toward single-ticket sales, the value proposition of subscriptions can erode. (Why commit in advance if I may get better seats, potentially at a lower price, if I wait?) But even when you factor in mini-subscriptions and single-ticket sales, the simple fact remains that people aren’t attending as often.


t the same time, there are encouraging signs. Some participants reported record numbers of firsttime attendees in recent seasons. Others are serving more households than ever before. These figures indicate that focused investments in new-audience development can pay off in the long run. Nonetheless, prospective audiences require a committed and constant process of identification, communication, cultivation and, most of all, patience. Data presented at the marketing gathering consistently showed that the faster a company can get first-time buyers back for a second performance, the more likely it is to achieve long-term retention. Although only about 20 percent of these attendees return in the following year, the decrease slows in successive years, resulting in a cumulative long-term retention rate approaching 15 percent. Some of this contingent remain single ticket-buyers; others convert to subscriptions. Marketers regularly analyze the mix of repertoire in each season in an attempt to decipher what attracts first-timers and what promotes retention. Core repertoire pieces like Tosca, La bohème and Carmen remain the strongest draw for newcomers, followed by Broadway classics like Oklahoma! and Carousel. An overreliance on the standard repertoire, however, can alienate subscribers, who may migrate PA R T I C I PAT I N G to single-ticket purchases in COM PAN I ES order to select less familiar LA Opera titles or productions of new Lyric Opera of and contemporary works. Chicago Meanwhile, one company, The Metropolitan polling audience members Opera about their intention to return, Opera Philadelphia found a lower rate (52 percent) at musical-theater offerings Opera Theatre of Saint Louis than at operas (82 percent). Companies collect data on San Francisco Opera age, sex and geography through Seattle Opera both voluntary surveys and F A L L 2 0 1 7   29




Hub of Activity

Marc A. Scorca Hall during and after construction

building once abuzz with the hum of sewing machines now reverberates with singers in rehearsals, at auditions and in coaching sessions. Five years ago, OPERA America opened the National Opera Center in a Midtown Manhattan neighborhood that was once part of the city’s garment district. When the building at 330 Seventh Avenue was constructed in the 1920s, it was designed as a center for fur merchants. Its reinforced floors — built to bear the weight of sewing machinery and piles of mink pelts — allowed OPERA America to carve out a custom-built space for the opera industry, including a central rehearsal hall that spans two floors. Originally created to address the acute need for rehearsal and performance space among New York City’s performing arts community, the National Opera Center has expanded its scope to become the site of professional development programs for opera administrators, HD video recordings sessions for young artists, board meetings of New York’s independent opera companies, and much more. In celebration of this five-year anniversary, OPERA America has gathered video testimony from people who have made the Opera Center a creative home. Look for them on the OA YouTube channel. OPERA CENTER


75,000 visitors

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35,000 venue rentals


auditions and rehearsals by member organizations


audio recordings


OPER A America public events

Jessica Osber (Media Suite, Studio, Service Desk), Noah Stern Weber (Creators in Concert), Jeff McCrum (Marc A. Scorca Hall)

The National Opera Center (clockwise from top left): the David Gockley and Nicola Luisotti Media Suite Control Room; the Charles MacKay Studio; a Creators in Concert event with Jake Heggie, Talise Trevigne and Stephen Costello in Marc A. Scorca Hall; the Lloyd and Mary Ann Gerlach Service Desk.



School Days for Tomorrow’s Leaders


he 13 opera professionals who gathered in August at the National Opera Center for OPERA America’s 2017 Leadership Intensive went through a week of concentrated sessions and seminars geared toward preparing them for career advancement. The annual professional development program, founded in 2012 and supported by American Express, focuses not just on the practical skills tomorrow’s leaders need for their careers, but the personal qualities that make up true leadership. It also introduces them to a network of peers they can turn to for guidance and support in years ahead. This year, for the first time, OPERA America invited its sister organization Ópera Latinoamérica, based in Santiago, Chile, to send a participant. Alejandra Martí, the organization’s executive director, joined 10 administrators from the U.S. and two from Canada to learn about topics ranging from finance management to storytelling, from public speaking to dining etiquette. Participants will come together again at Opera Conference 2018, from June 20 to 23 in Saint Louis, where they will join alumni of past Intensives in roundtable discussions.


“Let a mistake ruin your breakfast, but not your lunch. True achievement comes from resiliency as much as your skills and strengths.”

“Make sure your board is continuously engaged in learning about the organization — and the industry.”

“We have bosses. We don’t have superiors.” “You can change behavior, but not personality.”

“Define your core values. Use them when you are prioritizing your time or deciding between two ‘right’ options.”

“It’s important to treat the board as artists. They require coaching and rehearsal, too.”

“When introducing two people whose names you don’t know, ‘You two know each other, don’t you?’ works 90 percent of the time.” 34  O P E R A A M E R I C A

T H E C L A S S O F 2 017 Alejandra Valarino Boyer Director of Community Programs, Lyric Opera of Chicago Jennifer Dubin Chief Development Officer, Austin Opera Julia Gallagher Assistant Production Director, Minnesota Opera Jason Hardy Director of Development, Opera Memphis Steven Humes Education Manager, Opera Philadelphia Caroline Koelker Managing Director, Opera Maine Rhanda Luna Director of Administration and Education, OPERA San Antonio Alisa Magallón Teaching Artist, Minnesota Opera Nicole Malcolm Development Manager, Pacific Opera Victoria Alejandra Martí Executive Director, Ópera Latinoamérica Courtney Rizzo Budget Manager, LA Opera Michael Sakir Music Director, Opera Memphis Robin Whiffen Manager of Artistic Operations, Opera on the Avalon




n a few short years, the Opera Grants for Female Composers (OGFC) program has gone a long way toward addressing gender parity in opera composition. In 2013, when the program was established, OPERA America in its decades-long history of support for new American opera had bestowed merely five percent of its grant funding to works by women. But OGFC, founded with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, has to date awarded an impressive $700,000 toward repertoire by female composers. “We’re seeing works by women gain traction on stages across North America,” says Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “This year, we received more applications for Commissioning Grants than ever before, which is a testament to our members’

investment in operas by female composers.” The Commissioning Grants arm of OGFC has provided a total of $100,000 this year for commissions from six companies. Three of the composers represented are first-time OGFC grantees: Missy Mazzoli, Rachel J. Peters and Paola Prestini, all fixtures of New York’s new-music scene. The other three are former recipients of OGFC Discovery Grants: Laura Kaminsky, for As One in 2014; Sheila Silver, for A Thousand Splendid Suns in 2014; and Nkeiru Okoye, for We’ve Got Our Eye on You in 2016. (While Commissioning Grants of up to $50,000 are awarded to the producing organizations in support of commissions, Discovery Grants of up to $15,000, adjudicated separately, are awarded to the composers themselves.)

2 017 O G FC : CO M M I S S I O N I N G G R A N T S

HOUSTON GR AND OPER A Home of My Ancestors Nkeiru Okoye, composer Anita Gonzalez, librettist

M I N N E S O TA O P E R A The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Paola Prestini, composer Mark Campbell, librettist

O P E R A PA R A L L È L E Today It Rains Laura Kaminsky, composer Mark Campbell/Kimberly Reed, librettists

Taking place during a present-day celebration of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the 1865 abolishment of slavery in Texas, Home of My Ancestors centers on Olivia, an African-American doctor living in Chicago. She returns to her childhood home in Houston’s Third Ward for her grandmother’s memorial service, dreams of her ancestors, and awakens with a revived understanding of home and heritage.

Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, this family-friendly opera follows the adventures of toy rabbit named Edward whose comfortable life in a loving household abruptly ends when he is thrown into the sea from the Queen Mary.

Today it Rains dramatizes the moment in 1929 when Georgia O’Keeffe left New York City and her tumultuous marriage with Alfred Stieglitz to move to Santa Fe, where the New Mexican landscape would inspire her artistic output for decades to come.

S A R A S O TA O P E R A Rootabaga Country Rachel J. Peters, composer and librettist

S E AT T L E O P E R A A Thousand Splendid Suns Sheila Silver, composer Stephen Kitsakos, librettist

Adapted from Carl Sandburg’s whimsical 1922 Rootabaga Stories, the opera tells the story of Gimme the Ax and his two children, Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, who travel to Rootabaga Country, a land in the sky.

36  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on two Afghan women from different backgrounds who form a bond when they are forced to share a physically and psychologically abusive husband.

WA S H I N G T O N N AT I O N A L O P E R A Proving Up* Missy Mazzoli, composer Royce Vavrek, librettist

Based on a coming-of-age short story by Karen Russell, Proving Up depicts a group of Nebraska families that struggle to claim their land under the Homestead Act of 1862. *A co-commission with Opera Omaha and the Miller Theatre at Columbia University

Phil Marino (Okoye), Erika Harrsch (Prestini), Rebecca Allan (Kaminsky), Luke Redmond (Peters), Roy Volkmann (Silver), Marylene Mey (Mazzoli)



Jacques Offenbach and the Making of Modern Culture By Laurence Senelick Cambridge University Press

History Is Our Mother: Three Libretti By Alice Goodman New York Review of Books

The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung By Roger Scruton The Overlook Press

Offenbach’s lighter-than-air theater works are often seen as more style than substance. But Senelick, a Tufts drama professor, argues that they had a profound impact on 19thcentury culture — not only in France, but around the world — and also introduced cutting-edge innovations in stagecraft and scenic design.

Alice Goodman has not written a libretto since 1991, when The Death of Klinghoffer set off a storm of controversy. The present volume includes her Klinghoffer libretto along with Nixon in China, her other John Adams opera, as well as her translation of Die Zauberflöte.

Experiencing Carl Maria von Weber: A Listener’s Companion

“O Ma Carmen”: Bizet’s Fateful Gypsy in Portrayal from 1875 to the Present

The Romantic Overture and Musical Form from Rossini to Wagner

The soprano Geraldine Farrar wrote of Carmen, “Each one of us probably sees something that the others have not seen — or thinks she does — and that ‘something’ is her individual Carmen.” This book takes to heart Farrar’s thesis, exploring the history of operatic portrayals of Bizet’s elusive heroine.

This musicological survey offers a comprehensive account of operatic and concert overtures in continental Europe from 1815 to 1850, investigating a broad range of German, French and Italian works.

By Joseph E. Morgan Rowman & Littlefield

The author examines the biographical, aesthetic and political currents that inform Weber’s greatest works — including Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon — with special attention to Germany’s Romantic and nationalist movements.

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By Victoria Etnier Villamil McFarland

English philosopher Roger Scruton takes on the meaning of Wagner’s monumental masterpiece, detailing its drama, music, symbolism and philosophy, while considering its major themes — love, death, sacrifice and liberation. He demonstrates how Wagner, through text and (especially) music, expressed essential truths about the human condition

By Steven Vande Moortele Cambridge University Press

with eclectic and new programming. I conceived a festival meant to play out over 10 years, called “A Century of Change,” where each season we’d honor a different decade of the 20th century. In 1991, we covered the years 1910–1919, so I decided to produce Scott Joplin’s 1911 Treemonisha. It’s a piece with links to African-American music and African rhythms, the new sound of ragtime, Viennese operetta and early American musical theater. I invited Betty Allen, the executive director of Harlem School of the Arts, to join as a partner with Town Hall. My good friend Tania León was the conductor. Wayne Sanders of Opera Ebony assisted Betty and Tania in finding the cast. It was an incredibly fraught experience — so many moving pieces, and never enough resources — and I was learning how to produce an opera as I was doing it. But it was joy-filled. Everyone was so committed, and so supportive of each other. We knew we were making something special. And we were doing it as a team. It was like chamber music writ large. I realized the semi-staged production would look pretty plain with everyone in concert clothes, but I didn’t have enough money for costumes. I talked it over with my mother, Eva, who had trained as a fashion designer at St. Martin’s School of Art in her native London, and she said, “Maybe I can M Y F I R S T O P E R A help.” She designed costumes, put together a team to make them and got a friend who was a fabric collector to donate all these beautiful cotton prints. All the performers with major roles went to my mom’s apartment for fittings. The costumes were beautiful, and they brought the production to life. As a composer, I’ve mostly written instrumental music. ’ve always found the making of art to be fascinating. When I I’ve always thought of myself as a storyteller, but in the was a kid, growing up in Manhattan, my younger sisters and past I perhaps didn’t have the courage to use words; my I would incorporate what we were learning at our various narratives were abstract. But when I got the notion to lessons — piano, guitar, dance — and weave them into a tell the story of a transgender person’s journey to self“variety show” that we’d put on for my parents on Saturday actualization, I knew I had to do it as an opera. I had just nights. What I liked most about produced a project at Symphony these evenings was the producing, Space with Sasha Cooke and Kelly not the performing. I would stage a Markgraf, and I started thinking, scene from Fiddler on the Roof or West “What if they were this person?” Side Story, and my poor sisters would That was the genesis of As One. have no choice but to participate. Mark Campbell and Kimberly Even my first “Oh my God” moment Reed were the librettists, and the with opera wasn’t in the audience, three of us are now working on our but backstage. One of my closest third opera together: Today It Rains, friends in elementary school was about Georgia O’Keeffe. All of our in the Met children’s chorus, and he operas have been chamber pieces. brought me backstage for Boris The things opera has been charged Godunov. The music pulsated and with — that it’s grand and old and the voices were huge and the colors elitist — aren’t so true any longer, were extraordinary. I watched them and largely because so much of Eva Deborah Sarna’s costume sketches for Treemonisha pushing the big sets around and the contemporary opera is on a more cast coming in and out. I was amazed intimate level, and more about the at seeing all this seemingly random activity crystalize and stories of our time and the people we know. I’m really excited become exact, and I thought, “How does this get put together?” about the state of contemporary opera, and that’s why I’m As a young composer, I found my niche in the chamber working so happily in this field. music world. Opera was this big, faraway thing; I preferred the intimacy of chamber music — the sense of dialogue. But Laura Kaminsky is a composer, teacher and producer. She is head then in 1988, I became artistic director of Town Hall. It’s a of composition at Purchase College Conservatory of Music and glorious space, with amazing acoustics and great sight lines, composer-in-residence at American Opera Projects. Her 2014 but it had been more or less dormant in the years since Lincoln opera As One has been performed in 10 cities since its premiere Center opened. I wanted to put it back on the cultural map and has 11 new productions in the works for the upcoming season.

Laura Kaminsky

52  O P E R A A M E R I C A

Rebecca Allan (headshot)







20, 22, 24, 26, 28




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Onstage at the Opera Center is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by grants from the Amphion Foundation and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. 4  OPERA AMERICA

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