Anchorage Opera is the center of artistic creation, innovation, and education through the presentation of opera and related events encouraging public collaboration and community engagement for the people of the State of Alaska.
To Enrich. Inspire. Educate. Collaborate. Build Community…one note at a time.
Anchorage Opera (AO) was one of the first major performing arts institutions established by Americans in the Circumpolar North. The company has its roots in the vision of opera singer Marita Farrell and philanthropist Evangeline Atwood. Farrell and Atwood worked together to produce grand opera in Anchorage. They secured financing, assembled performers, and coordinated with the Anchorage Symphony for an orchestra. The company was officially incorporated as Anchorage Civic Opera in 1962.
In the early 1960s, the company put on a series of cameo presentations including Rigoletto and Faust, and several full-length operas including Cosi fan tutte, The Elixir of Love, and Carmen. During the mid-1960s, the directors of AO recruited Elvera Voth (then director of the Anchorage Community Chorus) to take the helm. Voth was a tireless advocate not only for AO but for all the performing arts organizations in Anchorage. During Voth’s time with the company, several prominent Alaskans such as Jan Ingram (the company’s first full-time professional manager) and Gloria Allen (opera singer, producer, and administrator who moved to Anchorage from New York City in the mid-1970s) helped make the company successful.
In 1979, the company, still under Voth’s leadership, recruited Michael More, a 3rd generation Alaskan and trained operatic tenor with a burgeoning career, to help guide the company through its next phase of growth. By 1985, AO had become recognized as one of the nation’s leading regional opera companies and was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of the six most promising opera companies in the United States.
Today, AO stands as one of Alaska’s most vigorous arts institutions. The AO Board of Directors selected Reed W. Smith as General Director to lead the company forward starting in September 2014. Since Smith’s arrival, the company has produced the Alaskan premiere of 5 operas 3 of which were composed in the 21st century by American composers. AO, being recognized for its civic engagement, was one of seven professional opera companies chosen by OPERA America to form a Civic Action Group in 2017. The Civic Action Group has provided guidance to other opera companies wishing to enhance civic practice.
Anchorage Opera has been commended for its collaborative work with other arts and cultural organizations in Alaska including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Alaska Dance Theater, Anchorage Concert Chorus, and the Alaska Children’s Choir. Other partners include the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, Anchorage Public Library, Alaska World Affairs Council, Anchorage School District, Identity, Inc., Alaska Veterans Museum, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage Concert Association, TBA Theater, and the Perseverance Theater. Anchorage Opera also has a strong relationship with UAA and provides opportunities for aspiring vocal and instrumental students to work alongside professionals.
Each year, the company serves thousands of adults and youth, residents, and visitors through multiple community and education partnerships, mainstage performances, and related events. From educational partnerships with the Anchorage School District that includes free student dress rehearsals and school lunch Flash MOBperas to active partnerships with a wide variety of Alaskan organizations and an ever-expanding list of patrons and supporters, all of Alaska reaps the benefits of AO’s operations. As it was in the beginning, generous individuals and institutions from all parts of the community including the members of AO’s Board of Directors, a dedicated core of volunteers, and many others give of themselves and their resources to ensure that AO’s grand tradition of enriching Alaskan life continues undiminished.