In late 1963, Glynn Ross was asked to run the newly formed Seattle Opera. This, he did. A position he held for 20 years. The “P.T. Barnum of Opera,” Ross put the Seattle Opera on the map. Within four years it was ranked third amongst U.S. companies in the number of performances per season. Only the opera companies in New York had more. By 1975, the Seattle Opera was one of the world’s finest operas, becoming the first American opera company other than the Metropolitan Opera to stage Richard Wagner’s four-part cycle of Der Ring Des Nibelung (the Ring Cycle) as Wagner had intended: with all four operas in sequence within a week. The event grabbed headlines around the world. They continue the tradition of performing the Ring Cycle every four years.
Now, under the long-reign of Artistic Director Speight Jenkins (who took the role Ross vacated in 1983), Seattle Opera is internationally recognized for the quality of its productions and as the pre-eminent presenter of Wagner’s opera in the United States. The organization does more than simply Wagner operas. Indeed – the Seattle Opera is known for its world premiere and cutting edge productions. Carlisle Floyd’s opera Of Mice and Men had its world premiere in 1970, Thomas Pasatieri’s Black Widow in 1972, Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas in 1998, Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003 and Daron Hagen’s Amelia in 2010 all had lavish productions. Recent operas showcased at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall include Fidelio, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, and The Barber of Seville.
It’s not all mainstage splendor the Seattle Opera focuses on. No – they also have their eye on the future of the operatic art form with their Young Artist Program. Since 1998, the have trained 116 artists. Alumni have won nearly every major operatic competition in the country, and many can now be see on opera stages all over the world.
Indeed – opera is alive and well in Seattle and will be for years to come.
For more information about the organization, its season and its programs, please visit www.seattleopera.org.