What we've been up to


What we've been up to

We at Opera Memphis spend most of the season thinking that the summer will bring some down-time, and then - every summer - we realize that it doesn't. Because of all the great things we have planned for the season ahead, our summers are full of preparation, planning, and reflecting on last season's successes and things to improve. In that spirit, we wanted to share a few things that we are pretty proud of.


  • In 2012, we launched 30 Days of Opera - the country's first month-long opera extravaganza. Every September, we present a full month of completely free opera – performed in dozens of neighborhoods across Memphis. In its first three years, the program has reached more than 60,000 people, with over 150 free performances at more than 100 locations. More than 90% of the “30 Days” attendees we’ve surveyed agreed that the performance they attended made them want to see more opera. What’s more, nearly all of the surveyed attendees reported that the performance they saw made them feel better about their community. 
  • Our year-round educational programs reached over 30,000 children and adults in the past two seasons alone. And over the past five years we’ve performed at more than 100 local schools, hospitals, and community organizations. 


  • Over the past three years, our ticket sales have averaged close to 95%, and we’ve had numerous sell-outs. 
  • We inaugurated the Midtown Opera Festival in spring 2013. Since that time, we’ve presented nine operas, two regional premieres, one world premiere, an Elizabethan tragedy, free family opera, a ballet, a chamber music concert, an opera-themed burlesque show, and scores of recitals, master classes, and late-night cabaret events. This year alone, the Festival involved partnerships with nearly a dozen different arts organizations, including the Curb Institute for Music, New Ballet Ensemble, Threepenny Theatre Co., PRIZM Ensemble, and others. 
  •  Spring 2013 featured the Opera Memphis debut of mezzo Jamie Barton in The Mikado. She went on to win the BBC Singer of the World Competition, and she’s in hot demand by top opera companies across the globe – most recently at the Met, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand, and Carnegie Hall. She’s also been earning rave reviews in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune.
  • In spring 2014 we presented the world premiere of Ghosts of Crosstown– a brand new cycle of four short operas and three monologues – inspired by the stories of people who worked at or lived near the Sears Crosstown Building. The premiere, staged on-site at the Crosstown Building, drew a standing-room-only crowd – including visitors from NYC and San Francisco, along with dozens of former Sears employees. 
  •  Opera companies from around the country have expressed interest in licensing our our original children’s operas, The Christmas List and The Playground King – both created by our Director of Operations, Sarah Squire. 


  • Here’s what Jamie Barton said about performing in Memphis: “I had an absolute blast when I sang my first role with Opera Memphis… That’s why I went out of my way to make sure I could go back again … even though it meant flying to New York and back between shows to fulfill my commitments at Carnegie Hall.” 
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell attended Ghosts of Crosstown, and he emailed the following note to OPERA America CEO Marc Scorca: “I am thrilled to report that this production was a success in every way… If we are going to make opera relevant to our times, draw in a younger audience, and break down the (often understandable) prejudice the public has against [opera], we have to … have more people at the helm like Ned Canty.” 
  • Opera Memphis recently received glowing recognition in The Huffington Post for our innovative approach to marketing; we’ve also been featured prominently in publications such as Memphis Daily News,The Memphis Flyer, and The Commercial Appeal, along with local TV and radio stations.
  • Within the past 18 months, Opera America Magazine has published three separate articles that showcase Opera Memphis as an example of artistic innovation community outreach.


  • At the 2013 and 2014 National Opera Conferences, Opera Memphis was invited to participate in more sessions than nearly any other American opera company. 
  • Earlier this spring, the National Endowment for the Arts asked Ned Canty to give a presentation in Washington, DC for the National Council on the Arts. Ned was one of only three arts leaders who addressed the Council on the topic of civic engagement. 
  • A panel of distinguished opera leaders recently selected Nat Stookey's heartrending mini-opera, Ivonne – part of 2014's Ghosts of Crosstown – as one of the works to be featured at the 2015 New Works Forum in Washington, DC. This marks the second year in a row that a submission from Opera Memphis has been chosen for this prestigious honor


  • Fiscal year 2014 marked the third consecutive year in which Opera Memphis generated record-high levels of total giving. And our year-end projections for fiscal year 2015 follow this trend.
  • We’ve generated a host of national and international grants from prestigious funders such as the Britten-Pears Foundation, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund, OPERA America, New Music USA, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Posted by Tierney Bamrick at 12:30 PM
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