Opera Memphis

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An exterior view of the Clark Opera Memphis Center
An interior view of the Clark Opera Memphis Center

Opera Memphis is a Memphis, Tennessee non-profit arts organization chartered in 1956 by a group of Memphians interested in producing regional opera. Charter signatories included noted Memphians Philip Belz and Walter Chandler. Early productions consisted mainly of local singers and local directors. During this initial period the Metropolitan Opera Company toured regularly through the area and performed in Memphis two to three times per year. As the company grew, the performers and directors became more regional and the sets and costumes more professional. By the mid-1970s, Opera Memphis began bringing in well-known singers like Leontyne Price, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Sherrill Milnes, and Birgit Nilsson to perform in lead roles.

Opera Memphis is widely respected for its education and outreach programs, which currently reach over 25,000 children and adults per season. From 1993-95, Opera Memphis was the recipient of an Arts Plus Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which resulted in student written and produced operas at three Memphis City high schools. Current program offerings include the Artist-in-Residence Tour, Opera 101, Black Roots of Opera, Student Dress Rehearsals and Summer Conservatory.

In March 2004, Opera Memphis completed a very successful $7.3 million capital drive for the creation and construction of the Clark Opera Memphis Center in East Memphis, a 19,000 square foot administrative center, which includes a rehearsal hall, small performance space, costume shop and small props shop. The Clark Opera Memphis Center is a cultural center for the community, a meeting place for corporate leaders, and a facility that speaks for the arts through both our function and our architecture.

In December 2010, the Opera Memphis Board of Trust announced Ned Canty as the new Opera Memphis General Director. Since his arrival Canty has made many significant changes including the creation of 30 Days of Opera and a restructuring of the regular season. 30 Days of Opera is a September/October series of pop-up opera presentations in public spaces throughout the region that offer free exposure to opera in what Canty has described as an effort to "create a trail of breadcrumbs" to opera. [1]

Creation of a festival

The restructuring of the season shifted the company from three mainstage productions a year to two mainstage shows a year and the addition of the Midtown Opera Festival in the spring. The opera festival is organized as two additional smaller scale mainstage productions designed for intimate spaces or as chamber operas, as well as academic panels and pay-what-you-can shows and activities.



  1. ^ Christopher Blank, "Opera Memphis plans to rock the streets with its classic hits", The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), September 5, 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2013


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