Opera Memphis was established in 1956 as the premiere opera company in the Mid-South region. Our founding supporters included noted Memphians Philip Belz and Walter Chandler. Over the last 50-plus years, we’ve staged nearly 200 productions of more than 75 operas – including numerous regional premieres and several world premieres.
Today, we’re upholding that legacy by producing operas that entertain, educate, and inspire the people of the Mid-South. We currently deliver four to six mainstage shows per season, featuring world-class singers, and accompanied by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. These productions attract thousands of local patrons, along with opera-lovers from St. Louis, Atlanta, New York, and elsewhere. We perform at venues including the Germantown Performing Arts Center, the Orpheum, and Playhouse on the Square.
In addition to our mainstage operas, we host a variety of year-round educational programs for young people ranging from pre-K all the way through high school. Our efforts include: original children’s operas; a “Beginners Guide to Opera”; a youth conservatory camp; and a touring series that celebrates famous black opera singers. We offer these programs at over 100 local schools, hospitals, and community organizations, and we reach more than 17,000 young people each year. The majority of our audience members for these programs are from low-income and historically underserved populations.
In spring of 2004, we celebrated the opening of the Clark Opera Memphis Center, a 19,000 square-foot facility that serves as our administrative headquarters. In addition to office space, the building houses an event hall, a costume shop, and a props shop. It also serves the local community as a popular venue for special events. We currently rent out the facility for more than 40 weddings, conferences, and parties every year.
General Director Ned Canty joined Opera Memphis in 2011 and the company is thriving under his leadership. One of Mr. Canty’s first projects was an effort called the “New Audience Initiative.” It involved the distribution of free opera tickets to first-time patrons, in exchange for their participation in structured surveys and focus groups to record their feelings about opera. This initiative helped draw over 1,000 local residents to their very first opera.
In fall 2012, we launched another ambitious program called “30 Days of Opera Presented by Evolve Bank & Trust” – the country’s first-ever month-long opera extravaganza. During the course of 30 consecutive days, we present over 50 “sample-sized” performances at more than 40 different locations all over the Memphis region. In its first two years, the “30 Days” program has introduced opera to more than 50,000 children and adults. In this way, we are leaving a “trail of breadcrumbs” all over our community – leading people of every age, race, and background to the opera house.
Our Mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire the people of Memphis and the Mid-South through the art of opera.
Our Vision is to be a nationally recognized model of artistic integrity, musical excellence and community involvement.
Our Values are three-fold…
…respect the music: Opera is a union of words and music, but in this instance, the music gets pride of place. Great singers, great conductors, and a great orchestra are the prerequisites for a truly transcendent artistic experience. Every resource we have will be aimed towards ensuring the highest possible musical standards.
…respect the story: While the music defines an opera, its raw material is plot and character. We believe there is an inherent value in a community coming together to experience stories that show them their connection to the audience around them, to the creators of the piece, and to the shared experience and history of humankind. Clarity of storytelling will be the bedrock of every production.
…respect the audience: Of our three tenets, this is the most vital. Without an audience, there is no opera. They are the keystone of every performance. We believe that the experience of the audience is the only true barometer of success. Furthermore, we believe that opera is an art form that is accessible to ALL audiences, and that part of showing respect is a commitment to finding ways to provide exposure and access to as many as possible.