When longtime opera administrators Parvan Bakardiev (who was also an acclaimed singer in Europe) and Margaret Ann Pent sought a new challenge in 2000, their eyes fell on Kansas. The Sunflower State was just one of two states without a major opera company. Bakardiev became general director and Pent the artistic director of the newly formed Wichita Grand Opera.
The couple drew on their vast network of connections to put their fledgling company on the map, with appearances by Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo within eight months of each other in 2002. The star power has continued, with Kansas natives Samuel Ramey and Joanne DiDonato making appearances in recent years.
The season includes four or five operas—with one or two performances of each opera—plus a full-length ballet and additional offerings such as vocal galas and visiting dance troupes. An annual highlight is Opera on the Lake, a free concert that includes familiar operatic excerpts plus jazz and big band favorites and open dancing, at Bradley Fair.
The company has a regionally-based resident artist program and a young artists program, which helps Kansas-based singers begin their professional careers. To help nurture future audiences, students gain free admission to selected dress rehearsals.
Wichita Grand Opera Information
- Public Transportation: Good
- Handicapped Accessibility: Yes
- Hours: Performance schedule varies
- Admissions: Single tickets are $35 – $85. “Early bird” ticket buyers save 10%
- Seniors (60+), military, and students with ID all get a 10% discount on tickets. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more.
- Membership/Subscriptions: Subscriptions: 4-show ($120 – $292), 5-show ($145 – $373), and 6-show ($168 – $408). Subscriber benefits include exchange privileges, priority upgrades, invitations to cast parties, and 10% discount on additional tickets