Since 1978, Utah Opera has cultivated and entertained a growing audience of more than 150,000 annually around the intermountain area. We produce opera with artistic standards of distinction and with a fresh vibrancy – new works for our area as well as the classics.
Commitment to the contemporary vitality of opera has focused Utah Opera’s energy into projects which animate the art form for non-traditional audiences, and broaden its conventional horizon for dedicated opera-goers. Our achievements on the modern operatic scene include the 1996 world premiere of Dreamkeepers, a major new operatic work hailed as “an incontrovertible success story” by Rodney Milnes in The Times of London (January 24, 1996), the co-commissioning and western states premiere of Michael Korie and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath in 2007, and shadow-interpreted mainstage and school productions for both hearing and hearing-impaired audiences.
Utah Opera strives to live up to its name in serving all the people of Utah, regardless of age and geographic location. Each year, Utah Opera performs for more than 80,000 students in Salt Lake City’s Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, and in schools throughout Utah. This amounts to approximately 10% of all school opera audiences nationwide, according to annual surveys by OPERA America. Not only are these young people developing a greater appreciation of opera, but they will also ensure Utah Opera’s audience base in the years to come. Young people and adults alike enjoy opera more when they understand the lyrics. In 1985, Utah Opera became the youngest company in the nation to implement the innovative technique of Supertitles – the English translation of the sung language projected above the stage.
In 1978, the Opera presented its first production of Puccini’s La bohème. Founding General Director, the late Glade Peterson, refined the vocal and dramatic skills of Utah Opera artists during the initial twelve seasons. Under his leadership, the number of performances for each opera was set at five – an outstanding achievement among the majority of regional companies, which only present one to three performances of each production. New dimensions, such as symposia, lectures, concerts and educational programs, were added to enhance the public’s experience of opera. Fresh energy and artistic direction came to Utah Opera in 1991 with the appointment of General Director Anne Ewers. Ms. Ewers continued to visualize the future of opera in rising young stars including singers, composers, directors, lighting and costume designers. It is the dynamic collaboration of all these talents which produces great opera and sells tickets. The growing popularity of Utah Opera’s performances prompted the company to expand in 1996-97 from a three-production to a four-production season. Then in 2002, the fiscal success of Utah Opera prompted the merging of the company with Utah Symphony, which had performed as part of Utah Opera’s productions since its founding in 1978, creating a new paradigm in arts administration with Ms. Ewers as President & CEO.
Utah Opera’s current Artistic Director, Christopher McBeth, joined the company in the fall of 2000 and took over primary artistic leadership in 2003. Under his leadership, Utah Opera productions have received acclaim for introducing audiences to the next generation of fine singing actors. Mr. McBeth strives to provide distinguished quality productions that showcase emerging and established artists, celebrate traditional works, and champion the American operatic tradition. The most-recent notable achievement being the creation and premiere in January 2018 of the second production of Jake Heggie’s and Gene Scheer’s “Moby-Dick,” featuring a versatile set designed to adapt to a wide range of theater stages, which will appear in co-producing companies throughout the United States and Europe.
To contribute toward the excellence of the next performing generation, Utah Opera has created the Resident Artist Program, a training program for aspiring professional singers. The Resident Artists spend ten intensive months at Utah Opera in coaching, workshop and master class sessions, perform in our educational and community outreach programs, and also perform comprimario roles in Utah Opera’s mainstage productions. These Resident Artists are selected by national audition at selected locations throughout the U.S.
The continuing artistic distinction of Utah Opera’s mainstage and educational presentations was secured in the 1995 purchase of its Production Studios. For the first time in Utah Opera’s history, music, education and all facets of production, including the design and construction of sets, costumes and properties, are housed under one roof. And with the expansion of this facility in 2002, production capabilities, communications, and efficiency among staff involved in these vital activities have increased exponentially, and spurred a further expansion of Utah Opera’s already lucrative set and costume rental enterprises.