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; and to create passion and interest in live music, theater and opera through audience and educational outreach efforts.

Organizational Overview

Central City Opera
400 S Colorado Blvd
Denver, CO 80246
Central City Opera (CCO) is committed to bringing the beauty and power of opera to Colorado, the region, and nation through innovative and adventuresome productions of classic, rarely performed, and new operatic and musical theater works reflecting the highest artistic standards; to training and providing performance opportunities for emerging young artists through its apprentice programs; to creating an interest in and passion for live music, theatre, and opera through its education and community outreach programs; and to preserving and showcasing the thirty-one historic properties owned by the company.

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

Central City Opera faces challenges which are shared by most for- and non-profit companies in this country and around the world. How do we adapt to the new world in which we live? How do we change our approach to attract broader/newer audiences in order to fulfill our mission to provide this art form to future generations? Big questions, right? Well, we are moving ahead with our experimentation in order to discover the answer(s) to our particular question.

Over the next year, you will have the opportunity to experience the kind of art we have been producing only in Central City down along the Front Range. Our intention, along with our 2013 performance of Show Boat at the Buell Theatre and ongoing Education and Community Engagement offerings, is to create a new immersive experience somewhere in the Denver area. Our hope is that in addition to our loyal audiences in Central City and our expanded musical theater audiences at the Buell Theatre, we can provide a new audience with a unique and exciting entrance point to the high level of art for which we are known all over the world.

We have chosen an "immersive" experience as our place to start because it already has proven to be appealing to this new audience of 30 to 60 year olds. It obliterates the line between the audience and performers, providing a stronger, more visceral experience. We are very excited about this approach and have engaged some of the most influential and successful people in this field as our advisers.

We have always guaranteed you an experience that you can get nowhere else. Those words will ring even more true over the next few years. The other thing that you can always count on is our ability to beautifully sing you an engaging story.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the ride!

Pelham G. "Pat" Pearce, Jr.
General/Artistic Director

Board Chair/President Statement

"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold."

This little song sung when I was a girl continues to resonate through the years. It applies especially to our beloved treasure, the Central City Opera. It is my great honor to serve as the President/Chair of this truly magical organization. And, with that honor, comes the burden of responsibility, one gladly borne.

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. Currently, it is management's principal partner in delivering an Innovation Plan designed to do the following: rebuild and sustain audiences after the economic calamity of the last several years; keep the budget balanced, retiring quickly any deficits that may occur from time-to-time; ensure that the CCO provides useful and relevant entertainment options in a rapidly changing, high-tech, competitive environment; and retain and manage the thirty-one 130+ year-old historic properties owned by the CCOHA.

It's a big investment of time and, more immediately, of dollars to succeed. That's where the old and new friends come in. Our gold nuggets are the hundreds of donors who, year after year, continue to support the company, partnering for success with each artist, administrator, and volunteer. Our shiny silver coins are those new friends who we hope to know soon and welcome into the CCO family, sharing the celebration of 80 years of "music in the mountains," and moving forward with us to 100 years and beyond.


Nancy Parker
Chairman of the 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

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