Opera Omaha is a major regional opera company in Omaha, Nebraska. Begun in 1958, the professional company is widely known for the Fall Festival events it held in the 1980s and 1990s, which garnered international attention and served as the U.S. and world premieres for a number of notable works. One of these performances, the 1990 U.S. premiere of the 1841 work Maria Padilla, was among the primary debuts for noted soprano Renee Fleming. "I’ve been calling all my singer friends and saying, 'You’ve got to sing for this company.'" Fleming said at the time. It has "a lot of vision."
After attending the 1992 Fall Festival, Denver Post critic Jeff Bradley wrote that "this quiet prairie city on the Missouri River is becoming one of the most exciting operatic meccas in the country." Similarly, in 1988, the Christian Science Monitor said of Opera Omaha: The company "demonstrated that 'regional opera' is no longer a pejorative term, that companies such as Opera/Omaha offer a real service to their communities as well as the opera world." 
The company's beginnings were decidedly more humble, with its 1958 bill composed of four performances: Madama Butterfly, Hansel and Gretel, Oklahoma! and Tosca. Since its founding, singers such as Beverly Sills, Tatiana Troyanos and Richard Tucker have performed in this company's productions. Sills in 1975 performed the title role in Opera Omaha's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, which was the first production to grace the stage of the then-newly renovated Creighton Orpheum Theater, still the home of the company's main-stage productions.
The Omaha Symphony Orchestra provides the symphonic accompaniment for opera productions, sometimes under the direction of the opera's resident music director, sometimes under the baton of a guest conductor and sometimes under the baton of the orchestra's own music director.
Opera Omaha is known for commissioning a number of modern American works:
Eric Hermannson's Soul, based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. The work was performed in 1998 under the direction of then-Music Director Hal France. The opera was composed by Libby Larsen with a libretto by Chas Rader-Shieber.
Wakonda's Dream in 2003, a work that had its premiere in 2007 and was inspired by events that took place in Nebraska in the late 19th Century, including the trial of Ponca Chief Standing Bear. Anthony Davis (composer) composed the opera, with the libretto written by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Rhoda Levine served as director.
Blizzard Voices in 2008, based on a work by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser, who also served as the work's librettist. Pulitzer-prize winning musician Paul Moravec composed the work, which was performed under the direction of then-Opera Omaha Music Director Stewart Robertson.
The company, along with the New Jersey State Opera, the Rochester Opera and the Celebrity Series of Boston commissioned the 1997 work Many Moons, which is based on the children's book of the same name.
World and U.S. Premieres
Opera Omaha is internationally known for its productions of world and U.S. premieres of a number of classical and modern works:
1990: The opera staged the U.S. premiere of the 1841 Gaetano Donizetti melodrama, Maria Padilla. The production was considered a breakout performance of then-young soprano Renee Fleming. John Pascoe was director and designer of the U.S. premiere in Omaha.
1992: The opera staged the world premiere of "Autumn Valentine: Dorothy Parker's General Review of the Sex Situation."  The New York Times called it "an unclassifiable collaboration by Angelina Reaux and Michael Sokol, singers; Ricky Ian Gordon, composer and pianist; and Keith Warner as director." 
1992: The opera presented the world premiere of the 1959 Hugo Weisgall work The Gardens of Adonis, based on the eponymous poem by William Shakespeare. It was staged by Opera Omaha's associate artistic director at the time, Keith Warner. Soprano Melanie Helton originated the "fiendishly difficult role of Venus." 
1994: The opera staged the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem Variations under the baton of Lionel Friend, who for 13 years was chief conductor of the English National Opera. Lloyd Webber attended the final performance; the production ran for 10 performances at the Creighton Orpheum Theater and drew a total of 21,546 people, according to an August 1994 Omaha World-Herald article. "It certainly seems that I'd like to come to Omaha and have another show again if they like me," Weber told The World-Herald.
The company's main productions are staged at the 3,000-seat Creighton Orpheum Theater in downtown Omaha. Other venues include the 1,000-seat Witherspoon Concert Hall at the Joslyn Art Museum, the 2,500-seat Music Hall at the Omaha Civic Auditorium and the 500-seat performance hall in the Scottish Rite Center. Its administrative offices are in downtown Omaha.
Opera Omaha maintains an extensive education and outreach program that annually reaches thousands from elementary school through adulthood.
- Opera Omaha website.
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