Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis was founded in the spring of 1976 by Richard Gaddes, with a small group of opera lovers who were determined to bring festival-quality opera to the St. Louis area. With a budget of $135,000 they presented an 11-performance season of familiar and unconventional operas sung in English by outstanding artists. The company has grown enormously since then, but its dedication to high-quality productions of a varied repertory accompanied by members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra continues to this day. From 1985 through 2008, the company was led by General Director Charles MacKay, along with OTSL's famed, late Artistic Director Colin Graham, and Music Director Stephen Lord. In October 2008, Timothy O'Leary was named General Director following MacKay's departure to lead the Santa Fe Opera, and acclaimed stage director James Robinson was appointed to succeed Colin Graham. Under the leadership of O'Leary, Lord, and Robinson, Opera Theatre continues its commitment to the following company hallmarks:
Adventurous Repertory: As of 2010 Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres (almost all commissioned by OTSL) and 22 American premieres – which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.
Outstanding Artists: Opera Theatre has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation. Each year the roster of the Metropolitan Opera includes more than 60 artists who have recently appeared in St. Louis. Among the artists who had important opportunities at Opera Theatre are well-known directors Graham Vick, Jonathan Miller, and Mark Lamos making their U.S. operatic debuts, and Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, and Lawrence Brownlee.
Intimacy: 94% of the seats in our 987-seat theater are closer to the center of the stage than the front row at the Metropolitan Opera, so the audience is close to the action.
Drama: This scale, combined with an emphasis on text – OTSL's commitment to singing in the language of the audience with titles projected at the sides of the stage – help make beautiful music into powerful theater.
An International Following: Each season, Opera Theatre's audience includes visitors from as many as 47 states and 10 foreign counties, with critics from the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, Opera News, London's Financial Times, London's Opera magazine, and more.
An International Profile: Opera Theatre regularly originates co-productions that travel to companies around the United States and abroad. Our world premiere production of The Golden Ticket is a co-production with the famed Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland. In 2009, Salome went on to San Francisco Opera and The Ghosts of Versailles to Vancouver Opera and Wexford. Our 2004 production of Nixon in China has gone on to the Canadian Opera Company, Chicago Opera Theatre, Opera Colorado, Minnesota Opera, and others. OTSL was the first U.S. company ever to appear at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival. We took Joruri to Japan in 1988 after its world premiere in St. Louis (the first performance of a Japanese opera by a U.S. company in Japan) and our world premiere production of The Tale of Genji to Tokyo in 2001.
Reaching the Next Generation: OTSL reaches a year-round audience of 14,000 young people and adults with programs like Monsanto Artists-in-Training, Opera on the GO!, Music!Words!Opera!, Emerson Behind the Curtain, and many more.
Contributing to the St. Louis Economy: We employ 30 people year-round and nearly 500 at the height of the spring opera season.
Financial Stability: Because our theater is so small we earn only 26% of our budget at the box office, but even with an unconventional repertory, OTSL has never accumulated a deficit in 34 years. The Sally S. Levy Opera Center, OTSL's rehearsal and office space, was completed in 2006 without debt.
Affordable Performances: Tickets cost as little as $25, and the whole audience is welcome to join the artists in the popular, summery tent on the lawn after performances in a relaxed atmosphere that is essential to the style of the company.