By Classical Music/Opera Editor Daniel J. Kushner
No art form is more all-encompassing, more multidisciplinary, or more spectacle-driven than opera. And when encountering opera in America, New York City is the inevitable first stop. In addition to the Metropolitan Opera, the city is home to numerous opera companies, including New York City Opera, Dicapo Opera Theatre, and Gotham Chamber Opera. In particular, New York’s contribution to the performance of new operas—specifically American operas—is astounding. American Opera Projects, Beth Morrison Projects, New York City Opera’s VOX series, and more, all maintain a commitment to the development and presentation of new works.
While NYC is very much the nexus of opera in the United States, vital opera companies abound throughout the country, including LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Seattle Opera. Cities such as Boston, Houston, and Philadelphia each boast multiple opera companies, making for a vibrant scene. The success of American singers such as Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Lauren Flanigan, Thomas Hampson, Anthony Dean Griffey, Denyce Graves, Neil Schicoff, Samuel Ramey, Patricia Racette, Richard Tucker, and Deborah Voigt have done much to galvanize interest not only in opera performance in America, but in the development of young American singers.
For aficionados who need operatic sustenance beyond the fall-to-spring season, summer brings such acclaimed festivals as the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York and the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico. There is also the Metropolitan Opera’s annual 10-day HD Summer Festival, featuring screenings from the Live in HD Series in the Lincoln Center Plaza in New York.
Recently, opera has benefited from increased visibility and greater accessibility through such outreach ventures as the MET broadcasts in movie theaters throughout the country, which is emblematic of opera as a source for timeless storytelling. Indeed, before there were movies, there was opera. Whether you’re a longtime lover of opera or a curious newcomer, the American opera scene will go a long way to satiate your interests. And while attending a live performance is the best way to experience opera, there are the resources listed below at your disposal, in addition to countless CD and DVD recordings available online. Georges Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La bohème and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte are great introductions to the art form, while Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Leoš Janácek’s From the House of the Dead, and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes are excellent deep cuts from the vast operatic repertoire.
Top Ten American Opera Towns
Top Opera Festivals
Central City Opera Summer Festival, Central City, CO
Cincinnati Opera Summer Festival, Cincinnati, OH
Fort Worth Opera, Fort Worth, TX
Glimmerglass Festival, Cooperstown, NY
Opera Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, NM
Wolf Trap Opera Company, Vienna, VA