When you’re an opera company nearly 1,500 miles from any other major cultural center and draw from a population base of barely 250,000 people, how do you build an audience?
For starters, Anchorage Opera breezily advertises itself as “the finest opera in America north of the 48th parallel.” It cautions operagoers to “turn off all beeping devices. Remember our divas carry spears…and they’re not afraid to use them.” General manager Torrie Allen notes, “I really disagree with the elitist approach to programming. Opera in its day had the same audience as the people who go to big time wrestling.” And its blog cheerfully maintains that country music and opera are joined at the hip – “Country (classic country) music is nothing if [it] ain’t dang good stories set to great tunes” – and offers a suggested playlist that sandwiches “La donna e mobile” between Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” and Hank Williams’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
Another essential is producing a quality product during its three-production season. Founded in 1962 and recognized two decades later by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of the country’s most promising arts organizations, Anchorage Opera maintains a Resident Artist program to provide top-flight singers for a variety of roles. It also partners with the University of Alaska’s vocal music department in an apprenticeship program to nurture burgeoning talent. Participants supplement the regular season with a production of their own in May.
You have to admire the outreach program, which takes opera to many isolated communities in the nation’s largest state. AO also offers a variety of programs for all ages, which include lectures, classroom appearances, and admitting students free to dress rehearsals. Special events such as supper on the set of one of the operas serve as highlights of the Anchorage social scene.
Anchorage Opera Information
- Public Transportation: Very Good (easily accessible by buses 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 36, 45, 60, 75, and 102)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Three operas per season
- Ticket Prices: $35–$105, with prices varying by date and seat selection
- Group Discounts: Groups of 6 or more receive a 40% discount
- Subscriptions: Season subscriptions are $75–$230 depending on date and seating selection
- Membership: Friend ($25–$249); Donor ($250–$499); Sponsor ($500–$999); Patron ($1,000–$2,499); Benefactor ($2,500–$4,999); Producer ($5,000–$9,999); President’s Council ($10,000+). Depending on level, member benefits include recognition in concert programs; invitations to previews and special events; a 50% discount on companion tickets; a private backstage tour; private tours of the Opera Center, production, and scenery shops; invitations to parties with the cast/artists; invitations to Dress Rehearsals; opportunity to host an Opera Party at your home or business; a private dinner with the Board of Directors and General Manager; invitations to Cast Parties; and more.