Central City Opera

Central City Opera's mission is to present innovative opera productions meeting the highest artistic standards of new, rarely performed and classic works in the intimacy of the historic Opera House; to educate, train and provide performance experience for tomorrow's opera and music theater artists; to create passion and interest in live music, theater and opera through audience and educational outreach efforts; and to maintain and protect over 30 historic properties located in Central City.

Organizational Overview

Central City Opera
400 S Colorado Blvd
Denver, CO 80246
Central City Opera's mission is to present innovative opera productions meeting the highest artistic standards of new, rarely performed and classic works in the intimacy of the historic Opera House; to educate, train and provide performance experience for tomorrow's opera and music theater artists; to create passion and interest in live music, theater and opera through audience and educational outreach efforts; and to maintain and preserve over 30 Victorian-era properties in the City of Central.

Background Statement

The lure of GOLD drew prospectors to the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1850s. Over the next several decades, some $85 million in gold was scooped up, and later extracted from the surrounding hillsides. Central City, the main town in Gregory Gulch, became known as "the richest square mile on earth." In 1878, at the height of the gold mining boom, Welsh and Cornish miners, along with the town, built an opera house, a universally recognized symbol of achievement and cosmopolitan culture. But eventually the gold boom ended, the miners moved on, and the town, along with its beautiful theatre, lapsed into a slow decline, decaying a little more with each year that passed. Then, in 1932, two strong-willed, determined women came to the rescue. Ann Evans and Ida Kruse McFarlane weren't about to let go of this treasure in Colorado's history. Along with their friends and against many odds, they formed the Central City Opera House Association (CCOHA), restored the theatre, and launched a summer music festival that thrives to this day.

Summer Opera Festival: The Festival has established a widespread reputation for excellence and innovation with imaginative productions of classic works along with provocative stagings of rarely done and new operas including eighteen regional premieres, one North American premiere, and six world premieres, four of them commissioned by the Central City Opera. Critics locally, nationally, and internationally join audiences each year in raving about the quality of the performances that, in 2012, attracted over 17,000 patrons from Denver, all parts of Colorado, 47 states, and 8 foreign countries.

Artists Training Program: CCO has been nurturing young artists since the earliest days of the festival. Apprentice mentoring was formalized in the mid-70s to become a comprehensive training program serving as a model for other companies throughout the country. In 2011-2012 alone, there were almost 1,000 applications for 31 apprentice positions, a truly remarkable testimonial to the vitality of the program. Many alumni have gone on to major operatic careers including, among others, Sam Ramey and Denyce Graves.

Education and Community Outreach: For more than 31 years, CCO has taken its artistry out of the opera house and into schools and communities throughout the Denver Metro area, Colorado statewide, and, more recently, Wyoming. Outreach brings living opera experiences to children and young adults, for whom engagement in the excitement of live musical theatre and opera broadens horizons, enhances and enriches general education, and promotes discovery and improvement of individual talents (K-12 audiences). For adults, it brings opera to individuals and families for whom the art form may be otherwise geographically or financially inaccessible (under-served and low-income audiences).

Historic Preservation: CCO works tirelessly to maintain the historic authenticity of the Opera House while at the same time discreetly modernizing the theatre as a showcase venue for opera. Care is also given to maintaining and repairing the 30 additional properties used for artist training (the Foundry and the Stables), entertaining and administration (the Teller House, Johnson House, and Festival Hall), and housing during the Festival season (26 Victorian houses of various sizes located throughout the town of Central).

Executive Director Statement

As the company celebrates its 82nd year, we continue to look for innovative ways to produce world-class performances in our intimate Central City Opera House and to more deeply connect with communities throughout the Front Range.

In preparation for the 2014 Festival production of Dead Man Walking, we entered new territory with the Prisons, Compassion and Redemption Project that you can learn more about on page 28 of the Program. This series of thought provoking events ranged from book signings to school visits to death penalty discussions. We invited a wide variety of participants including Sister Helen Prejean, District Attorney George Brauchler and Denver's religious leaders.

As we look to broaden our community engagement, we will continue to create incredible productions in the Opera House and bring the magic of songs and storytelling to communities throughout Colorado. With wide appeal to families, musical theatre lovers, and the greater Front Range, Denver will come alive in August with the beloved classic, The Sound of Music, featuring Colorado Children's Chorale members as the von Trapp children. After the Festival, you can still experience Central City Opera year-round through events and performances throughout the state including the premiere of the new musical theatre piece, How Green Was My Valley, this August in Colorado Springs, as well as a very special production of Amahl and the Night Visitors in early December at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch.

The 2015 Summer Festival will offer five productions including Verdi's La Traviata, Leigh's Man of La Mancha, Auerbach's The Blind, Britten's The Prodigal Son and Don Quixote and the Duchess by Boismortier. You can experience them in Central City and also find them in unexpected spaces beyond the Opera House.

The 2014 Festival promises to continue the tradition of delivering an experience like no other, while at the same time surprising you with a rich cross-section of stories told through song.


Pelham "Pat" Pearce
General & Artistic Director

Board Chair/President Statement

On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you for your interest in Central City Opera! CCO is very near and dear to us all, and it is my pleasure and privilege to serve as the Chair of this wonderful and worthy organization.

Despite the difficulties many arts organizations have encountered in the past few years, we are facing these challenges head-on and are continually changing the way we do things to reflect what we have learned in recent years through new and innovative projects. While these changes can be difficult, the Board and staff have gladly accepted the challenge and are working tirelessly to ensure that we are making the best use of our resources. Charged with overseeing sound management practices and assuring fiscal stability, the Central City Opera Board of Directors functions as stewards of the organization's mission and programs. It is actively engaged in ongoing strategic planning, both short and long-term, and it continually collaborates with staff to develop an Innovation Plan designed to rebuild and sustain audiences, keep the budget balanced, ensure that CCO provides useful and relevant entertainment options in a rapidly changing environment, and manage and protect the thirty-one Victorian-era properties owned by CCO.

Hundreds of patrons and donors year after year continue to support the company, investing in the future of the organization through their donations of time and dollars. We are especially thankful to the generous people who provide us with this critical support to keep our mission viable, and we invite you to join us as we continue to sing extraordinary stories that spark imagination, inspire creativity, and open minds to the breadth of human experience.

I hope to see you "on the hill!"


Nancy Parker
Chair, Board of Directors

Impact Statement

Central City Opera brings to Colorado and the nation the excitement of fully-produced, professional opera and musical theatre. It is singular among the country's premiere summer opera festivals. As the fifth oldest opera company in the United States, CCO is located in the historic gold mining town of Central City, approximately one hour west of Denver. The company serves over 100,000 people annually through its six-week summer festival, apprentice artists program, seasonal live radio broadcast, and year-round education and community program.

Needs Statement

The Central City Opera House is a "jewel box." It is elegant and unique; it is also very small, with a maximum capacity of 550 seats. Consequently, there is a cap on earned revenue potential, even with fully sold-out houses. Earned revenue, primarily in the form of ticket sales, provides approximately 25% of CCO's annual budget. The rest comes primarily from contributed support with a modest amount of federal and state revenue (about 6%). Regular, generous donors are cherished; they are fundamental to CCO's survival. The following are some of the areas needing financial support:

Production Funding - revivals, new productions, commissions; Technical Equipment; Artists' Professional Development; Rehearsal Hall Funding; Sponsor-a-Singer, Fund a Song; Historic Properties Maintenance; Orchestra/Ensemble/Individual Musician's Funding; General Operating Support; Supertitle Funding; Capital Improvements; Education Programs for Students and Teachers; Endowment Fund; Housing and Transportation

Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.

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