Atlanta Opera opens its 2012-13 season with Bizet’s “Carmen” on Nov. 10, 13, 16 and 18.

The Atlanta Opera has experienced more change in the past 10 years than at any other time in its its 33-year existence. The changes were not subtle, but rather monumental shifts. No, in 2012, the Atlanta Opera is poised to re-envision its mission of  “enriching lives through the power of opera”


In the first decade of this millennium, the Atlanta Opera called three Atlanta venues its performance home – the Fox Theatre, the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center and, beginning in 2007, the magnificent Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. When the opera became the Centre’s first resident company, it finally found a permanent performance home that was ideal for opera, with its intimate, acoustically excellent theater, stunning architecture and easy access.

Now in its sixth season at the Cobb Energy Centre, the Atlanta Opera presents three productions each season to ever-increasing artistic acclaim.  Though hard to name only a few, highlights have included the inaugural Turandot performance; Orfeo and Euridice with famed countertenor David Daniels; Porgy and Bess, which played to four sold-out houses; and last fall’s stunning Lucia di Lammermoor.


During its meandering path to a permanent performance home, the Atlanta Opera worked its way through some significant financial challenges. The opera had some good luck right before moving to the Cobb Energy Centre when it sold its West Peachtree building at the height of the market.

The resulting windfall provided a modicum of financial security until the economic crisis hit and ticket sales and donations foundered. With its future again uncertain, the opera was unbelievably fortunate to receive a transformational planned gift. A $9 million bequest from longtime board member Barbara D. Stewart provided the Atlanta Opera with a $6 million endowment and enough reserves to weather economic storms. Shortly after receiving the bequest, board chairman William E. Tucker launched a comprehensive strategic planning process.


The opera’s new strategic plan was unanimously approved by the board of directors on June 25. It calls for initiatives to enhance revenue, increase awareness in the community and improve the business model. With the resignation of General Director Dennis Hanthorn this past summer, the Atlanta Opera is searching for a new general director. When in place, the new leader will be instrumental in implementing the strategic plan and providing the vision for the opera to enlarge its civic footprint within the Atlanta community.


The Atlanta Opera has myriad opportunities for the community to engage with opera — mainstage opera at the Cobb Energy Centre, educational activities for school-age children as well as adults and more.

Looking ahead, the Atlanta Opera is putting a priority on creating innovative community engagement experiences to help boost awareness for opera, in general, and for the Atlanta Opera, in particular. Activities such as Rabbit Tales, the children’s opera commissioned in 2011; the 24-Hour Opera Project, in which teams of composers, librettists, directors and singers create and perform an opera in just 24 hours; and the unique High School Opera Institute are helping the opera deepen the pool of potential audience members.


The next 10 years promise to bring more change to the Atlanta Opera.  Through it all, however, our commitment to artistic excellence will be unwavering.


Cristina Vásconez Herrera is director of marketing and communications for the Atlanta Opera.

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

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