Opera Colorado

Opera Colorado enriches the quality of life through the presentation of opera performances that inspire our audience, and serves the community through education and cultural programs.

Organizational Overview

Opera Colorado
695 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80246
Opera Colorado enriches the quality of life through the presentation of opera performances that inspire our audience, and serves the community through education and cultural programs.

Impact Statement

The goal of Opera Colorado for the 2014 performance season will be to continue its mission of enriching the quality of life through the presentation of opera performances that inspire our audience and serve the community through education and cultural programs. This will be accomplished by presenting four mainstage performances of Verdi's Rigoletto and Bizet's iconic Carmen. Additionally, Opera Colorado will continue to inspire thousands of school age youth throughout Colorado by offering several essential education and outreach programs during the season.

Needs Statement

Most people do not realize that gifts from individuals comprise the single largest source of Opera Colorado's income. Ticket sales and other earned income only cover approximately 40% of our total annual operating budget. We rely on the support of generous donors to provide the funds we need to bring opera programs to our schools, to offer free or reduced cost programs to children who otherwise could not participate, and to sustain and nourish one of Denver's finest cultural institutions.

Executive Director Statement

During the past season you often heard me speaking about Opera Colorado's financial challenges, the importance of our work in the community and the gravity of our need for your support. I would like to take a moment to simply say, thank you for listening.

In response to our 2012 year-end financial challenge we redefined our 2013 and subsequent year budgets to become more fiscally conservative and to continue bringing world-class opera to the community. We accomplished this by tightening production expenses, reducing staff and aggressively raising funds through our Annual Fund Campaign and our special Stories That Sing Campaign - which focused on raising $1.2 million by June 30, 2013. We accomplished our goal to financially stabilize Opera Colorado, allowing us to maintain our commitment to artistically inspired productions and innovative education and community engagement programs.

Thanks to your generous support, we have made significant progress in our efforts. Our 2013 Fiscal Year ended on June 31 and we balanced our budget with a $98,000 surplus! Our fundraising efforts in the first six months of 2013 brought in an astounding $1.9 million - an all-time record for Opera Colorado. We certainly could not have accomplished this ambitious effort without your confidence and support.

Other accomplishments included redefining several administrative and artistic positions. You will see new professionals working for us and we welcome Artistic Advisor, Maestro Ari Pelto to our family. As a result of our tremendous progress, we have begun planning innovative productions, outstanding singing and excellent programs for the next three seasons. The dedication and generosity of our Board of Directors, volunteers, staff and patrons like you gave us the strength to plot a course of action that effectively began stabilizing Opera Colorado. We have miles to go before we claim victory, and your continued support will be essential to our future progress.


Greg Carpenter

Background Statement

Opera Colorado was founded in 1981 by Nathaniel Merrill, a distinguished name in the world of opera, with the goal of establishing a grand opera company in Denver. Before coming to Denver where he led Opera Colorado until 1998, Merrill spent 28 years as the resident stage director at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Opera Colorado has grown consistently over many years of exceptional leadership and vision, presenting a mix of traditional and contemporary staging of standard repertoire, and engages young talent as well as attracting major international superstars. In 2005, the Opera relocated its performances to the magnificent Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Downtown Denver. Gregory Carpenter was named General Director in 2007 and the company continues to grow its national reputation and strategically carry on the tradition of presenting world-class opera performances in Colorado.

Board Chair/President Statement

How does a new leader express a vision for an organization that has been as successful as Opera Colorado? When ticket sales, donor support, and audience surveys overwhelmingly confirm our past artistic choices, how do we grow as an opera company to continue to challenge and reward our audience? My answer in a word: engage!
Opera Colorado strives to present a variety of opera productions on our main stage that will connect with our audience at multiple levels. First and foremost are the soaring vocal lines that distinguish opera from all other cultural endeavors. A great voice can transmit the full range of emotion captured in the human experience when words alone are not enough. Then there is the beautiful music of illustrious composers performed grandly for us by the Colorado Symphony. Finally, the visual feast of sumptuous sets and costumes and a compelling story brought to life by actors who create a unique experience at every performance. Each member of the audience values each of these aspects of opera differently, a judgment informed by that individual's taste, experience, and mood. Reasonably, therefore, we at Opera Colorado should expect a variety of opinion to follow any performance.
Therefore I invite each of you members of the audience and the community - armed with your opinions - to engage us, Opera Colorado, and each other in discussion about our productions. We will not get defensive when you scold us, "your Rigoletto was worse than New Coke." Rather we will accept your criticism and endeavor to serve you better next time. When we make you happy, "I loved your Tosca; it was so much better than the Met's," we will share your excitement but not lose sight of the hard work and, not infrequently, the bit of luck that lurk behind the scenes of success.
As far as engaging our performers as an audience, let's just show the cast our appreciation. When the performers, musicians, sets, or costumes move you, give a shout (or at least a round of applause). The most rewarding performances are interactive experiences between the stage and the audience. The singers will stretch, take risks, and let loose when they hear the audience engage.
To my fellow board members and other donors, I invite you to engage the broader audience. We often tend to cluster together, deconstructing the production or performances with learned commentary. I have resolved to spend my time before and after performances and at intermissions meeting people and sharing my passion for opera and Opera Colorado. Because I am a very poor music critic, I promise to do most of the listening.
Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the debt I owe to Sheila Bisenius, outgoing Board Chair and my mentor for the last year. Sheila has navigated us through some challenging times and we stand now artistically and financially stronger than ever because of her leadership. When you see Sheila at the Ellie, please stop and thank her for all she has done and continues to do for Opera Colorado. If I may pull an analogy from (once) popular television: Sheila was Opera Colorado's James T. Kirk; I hope to become its Jean-Luc Picard.

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