In 1982, Louis Burkot, the new glee club director and voice teacher at Dartmouth College, was looking for an avenue for his students to gain operatic stage experience. He asked David Strohmier who directed the Parish Players, a theatre group based in Thetford, Vermont, to direct his students and community singers in a program of opera scenes. The success of that performance led to subsequent collaborations, and by 1984, Opera North formally established itself as an organization committed to professional standards.
The community, delighted by the chance to hear opera in the Upper Valley, stepped forward to support the new company. A board of trustees was put together to guide Opera North and the company grew steadily in reputation and audience. It because a true regional opera company, attracting patrons from beyond northern New England.
In the late 1980s, Florence Klausner and Ron Luchsinger joined Artistic Director Louis Burkot as Executive Producer and Director of Productions, respectively. This triumvirate was instrumental in taking Opera North to the next stage.
In 1996, Patricia Compton joined the trio as the organization’s first Executive Director, a position she held until her retirement in 2006. Paralleling the growth of Opera North, the Lebanon Opera House, where Opera North stages productions, underwent extensive renovations in 1999 and emerged as an important regional arts presenter.
By the early 1990s, Opera North had thrown itself headlong into grand opera. Meanwhile, interest in Opera North’s Resident Artist Program began to spread. From auditions held in a dozen or more cities around the country, promising young singers were chosen to participate in extensive training over the summer season. Much of Opera North’s national reputation is due to the rigourous program.
Around this time, Opera North’s Education & Outreach program began to take shape. Through visits to local schools, “lunch & learn” talks at local employers, and casual presentations at private homes, Opera North was able to introduce opera to new audiences.
In 2009, Pamela A. Pantos joined Opera North as Executive Director. Pamela had both artistic experience (as a former opera mezzo soprano) and business experience (with W.R. Grace and Company in Boston) and she led the company for the next six seasons. A new strategic plan was put into place the following year to foster growth for the company.
When Hurrican Irene tore through the New England in 2011, the company’s stored costumes and props were destroyed. Supporters and the local community stepped in to help restore the enormous loss of inventory in time for the next season.
In 2015, Evans Haile, came on board as General Director. He brings unparalleled experience as a producer in musical theatre and as a concert pianist and impressario.
Looking forward the its 35th anniversary, in 2017, Opera North continues to look for ways to expand its artistic reach and to produce great music and entertaining theatre.
Opera North • Lebanon, New Hampshire • email@example.com
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