Central City Opera

We sing extraordinary stories to spark imagination, inspire creativity and open minds. With ticket revenue accounting for only 15% of our annual budget, we rely on the generosity of patrons like YOU! Donations support our Summer Festival, young artists training and educational programs around CO.

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Education & Community Engagement Program


Arts, Culture & Humanities 


Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Children (4-12 years)
Infants/Young Children (birth - 3 years)


For nearly 40 years, the Education Program has taken Central City Opera's artistry out of the opera house and into schools and communities through the Denver Metro region and the state of Colorado, bringing programming:

- to children and young adults, for whom engagement in the beauty and creativity of musical theater and opera broadens horizons, enhances and enriches general education, and promotes discovery or improvement of individual talents and creative thinking (K-12 audiences);
- to families and adults for whom live musical performances may otherwise be geographically or financially inaccessible (low-income and under-served audiences); and
- to the aged and disabled in care facilities who cannot attend performance venues (accessibility-issue audiences).

Of these activities, the highest priority is given to schools and community-based services for children and youth. Most children's first introduction to literacy is through song (e.g. ABCs), and for storytelling it is through dramatic play, but as one advances through the school system the creative use of song, music and drama often evaporates. Study of the arts is quietly disappearing from our schools, as the result of shifting priorities and budget cuts. In many of Colorado's elementary and middle schools, full-time specialized arts instruction has been replaced by part-time teachers or classroom generalists, limiting the benefits for children at the most receptive and responsive ages. Demand and need for arts education programs remains, but the resources are minimal, especially in communities that have little or no access to broad artistic offerings. Visiting artists and performers provided by cultural organization such as Central City Opera help to fill an ever growing void in these communities.

For young audiences, "the arts do matter - not only as worthwhile experiences in their own right...but also as instruments of cognitive growth and development and as agents of motivation for school success." Researchers have noted significant correlations between students immersed in "high-arts" schools, and their performance on 'measures of creativity, fluency, originality, [and]...their abilities to express thoughts and ideas, exercise their imaginations and take risks in learning." Learning in and through the arts can help 'level the playing field' for youngsters from disadvantaged circumstances, unfortunately, "...access to the arts is inequitably distributed in our society. Students from poor and less educated families are much more likely to record low levels of participation in the arts...."

Programs for student audiences include, but are not limited to:

How the West Was Sung
No Wii? No iPod? No reality TV? What did the pioneers and miners of the frontier West do for fun? Surprise! They liked opera (among other activities). And the adventurous lives of Colorado historical figures Molly Brown, Horace and Baby Doe Tabor and Clara Brown make great opera stories for today! Included is a study resource with the opportunity for students to write "his-story" or "her-story" and many more relevant activities.

En Mis Palabras - In My Own Words
En Mis Palabras is a classic story that every student, no matter what his or her cultural background, can relate to - the adolescent dilemma of finding your own voice, learning who you are - and the adult dilemma of knowing when and how much to let go so that a young adult may safely develop that sense of self. Fully staged with scenery and costumes, En Mis Palabras is scored for four singers, classical guitar and piano and sung in both English and Spanish. A bilingual study resource is provided which explores cultural and family traditions, immigration, and Latino history in Colorado and includes language arts and social studies exercises.

Workshops and Master Classes
Students gain confidence and technique in workshops or master classes in singing, stage craft, movement or any other related activity presented by experienced teaching artists. Master classes can include a short performance by artists followed by individual or group coaching.

For families:
Family Series
Public performances of Central City Opera's school performances that introduce children and families to opera. The interactive performances include a Q & A with the performers and family activities after the show.

For all educators:
Music! Words! Opera! Workshop - Professional Development for Educators
Spend five days discovering a great array of practical teaching methods while sparking your own creativity. Master teaching artists guide participants in the study and creation of musical stories. 3 Graduate credits available through the University of Colorado.

The Music! Words! Opera! curriculum was developed by respected educators who believe that all people are inherently creative and that students deserve the opportunity to experience creative learning. Opera is an art of collaboration from inception through production; an excellent model for collaborative teaching and learning that also lends itself to creating a balance between academic and experiential learning. Interdisciplinary links can be forged among subject areas such as history, literature, social sciences, arts and math; inspiring creative and critical thinking. Students are also challenged to think beyond speaking and writing to discover new and larger ways of expressing themselves - through words, music, dramatic expression and visual arts.

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Evidence of Program's Success

In 2018, the number of schools and students reached exceeded totals from previous years: 95 programs were provided for 17,287 students and youth; 49 programs were provided for family audiences of 10,923; and 19 programs were provided for 10,372 adults/seniors. The company also continued with the third season of the Central City Opera Podcast. From 2016 through 2018, the podcast produced 62 episodes with a total of 8,463 downloads worldwide. 2019 saw 10 more episodes of the podcast and brought the total number of downloads up to 11,416 as of August 22, 2019.

Recent surveys administered to 5th grade students that participated in Central City Opera's Music! Words! Opera! Residency Project: "Sacajawea" at Southmoor Elementary indicate the following impact:
• 85% of student participants responded that the program gave them freedom to express themselves in class.
• 89% of student participants responded that the program gave them experience working in groups.
• 88% of student participants responded that the program made them feel better about their abilities.
• 71% of student participants responded that the program helped them to be more successful in their other classes.
• 75% of student participants responded that the program made it easier for them to participate in class.
• 94% of student participants responded that they learned a lot from the program.

Additionally, according to a recent poll conducted by the Education Program, 100% of educators responded that the program benefited their students; 100% of educators responded that they would recommend the program to other schools or groups; 100% of educators responded that they "highly enjoyed" the performance.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program


Arts, Culture & Humanities 


Young Adults (20-25 years)


Central City Opera stands out for reasons beyond its altitude, history and beauty - it's also ground zero for one of the nation's premier professional development programs in opera, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program. For ten weeks every summer, gifted young singers are selected through a rigorous audition process and descend upon the town for top of the line coaching and training in diction, movement, acting, stage technique and career preparation. The streets of Central City come alive with the rousing sounds of the 30 trainees, who live side by side with locals and professional performers as they rehearse and soak in the lessons offered in this rare setting.

Provided the chance for exposure in secondary roles, understudy positions and chorus, the Program categorizes trainees into two tiers: Apprentice Artist and Studio Artist. Apprentice Artists have solid educational and professional performance backgrounds and are continuing to develop the vocal and acting skills necessary for a lasting career in opera. Studio Artists are younger singers, often in the process of completing degrees in performance, who have demonstrated potential and are seeking professional experience beyond their college or university. Trainees earn a salary with benefits, the possibility of additional performance compensation and above all else, the experience of a lifetime. Over 800 applications are received each year for the prestigious program, which has trained many of America's most notable young opera professionals, including: Denyce Graves, Alan Held, Cynthia Lawrence, Margaret Lattimore, Mary Mills, Emily Pulley, Greg Turay, Latonia Moore, Matthew Polenzani, Jesus Garcia, Chad Shelton, Daniel Belcher and Celena Shafer.

The 2019 season marks the inauguration of Michael Baitzer as the Director of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program. A fixture of the Central City Opera music staff since 1999, Michael has been the Festival's Principal Coach since 2012 and is the Head of Music Staff at Washington National Opera. An active coach and collaborative pianist, Michael has served on the faculties of many other premier programs, most recently Wolf Trap Opera Company, The Juilliard School, Spoleto Festival USA and Aspen Music Festival and School.

Combined with the expertise of Stage Director/Acting Instructor KenCazan, Movement Instructor/Choreographer Melinda Sullivan and Stage Combat Instructor Erick Wolfe, the Training Program remains committed to the vision enacted by Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty in 1978.

When audiences attend performances at Central City Opera, they get an exclusive glimpse into the future of opera and a sneak peek at its rising stars.


Evidence of Program's Success

Competition to participate in the program reflects its strong reputation. In 2016, there were more than 600 applications for 32 available apprentice positions. Additionally, the alumni of CCO's Artist Training Program regularly perform in opera houses worldwide.

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