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.

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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 attracts thousands of 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 2016 , there were over 600 applications for 32 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 nearly 40 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

Hello! Thank you for being a part of Central City Opera. We are very happy to be nestled back in our home of 84 years in Central City for the 2016 Festival Season.

We have been experimenting over the past few seasons with the way we deliver our product, which resulted in creating one of our offerings in Denver in both 2013 and 2014. While we met thousands of new friends at the Buell and at the Ellie, we determined that the most important thing Central City Opera can provide to you (in addition to a great production) is this truly unique experience here in Central City.

However, there continues to be a nagging problem. And it is one that we have devised most of our experiments to try to address. The audience for opera/musical theater is slowly shrinking. It is a problem that we share with all of the performing arts around the world. Consequently, while all of our shows for the 2016 season originated here in Central City, two of them traveled to other cities in Colorado. It was a pleasure to present John Musto's Later the Same Evening in Colorado Springs at the Pikes Peak Center Sudio Bee as well as a performance at the Denver Art Museum. This year, we also collaborated with Nomad Playhouse in Boulder to present Mozart's The Impresario. These two productions were 1) short - about an hour, 2) given in non-traditional spaces, 3) performed in English, and 4) had a low admission fee. Our goal is that 50% of these audiences will be new to the art form and benefit all of the collaborators.

We need your help with this effort. If you like what you see and hear, tell somebody! Let them know this is truly an experience like none other. Assist us in creating the next wave of support for this great art form!


Pelham G. Pearce
General/Artistic Director

Board Chair/President Statement

An organization of any kind doesn't reach the distinguished age of 84 without doing some "soul searching" from time to time. That's exactly where we, the Board of Directors of Central City Opera (CCO), find ourselves in 2016. After a few years of innovation and experimentation, we're taking stock of what we've learned, what worked, what didn't and where we can position this company to be 84 years from now. It's not easy work, but it has provided us the opportunity to ask the question, "Who is Central City Opera today and who should we be in the future in order to best serve our patrons and engage with our communities?"

Through this process, I've been asking myself what Central City Opera has meant to me personally. Since I attended my first performance in the summer of 1984, CCO has grown to be an important part of my life. I've come to regard it as a dear companion. As with most relationships, there are highs and lows, but we've grown together along the way. Through CCO, I've deepened my understanding of opera and been introduced to other lifelong friends with whom I've worked to support the company through challenges and celebrated its successes.

As we close the books on Central City Opera's 84th Festival, I extend a toast to you, our loyal patrons. Together, with your support and our hard work, we will chart our course for the future, continuing to build on the vision of our founders to enrich the lives of those in our community and to sing stories like no other!
Warm regards,

Nancy Parker
Chairman of the Board

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 20% 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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