About AO

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Our Mission

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.

Our Vision

To preserve the opera’s organic beauty and illustrious history, while bringing innovation and creative culture to Alaska.

Our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Statement

The Anchorage Opera Company (AO) believes that we have an obligation to be reflective of our community, and that everyone gains from diversity, equity and inclusion. One third of our yearly programming has traditionally been dedicated to new works that bring new voices and stories to our stage.

Equity
AO is committed to creating an equitable culture among its staff and board, and across all its operations. AO works to implement fair policies and practices that create working environments free of prejudice, discrimination and misogyny, and that respect and inspire all people equally. Equity means fairness and opportunity for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, age or disability status.

Diversity
Different perspectives, cultural histories, life experiences and personal stories enrich the style, scale and subject of new works and the interpretations of the inherited repertoire, as well as stimulate innovation at the organizational level. Diversity and gender parity recognize the richness of our varied identities and experiences and affirm their contribution to our art form and the community we serve.

Inclusion
AO has begun to examine the attitudes, behaviors and barriers that underlie certain operatic traditions, while exploring ways to weave new connections into the mosaic of contemporary American life. As AO strives to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other arts and non-arts organizations in our community, newcomers to opera will be introduced to the art form in a variety of settings and will be welcomed and valued as contributors to programming and organizational decision-making. Expanding inclusion is not merely quantitative, but qualitative, to ensure diverse representation, empowered participation and a true sense of belonging.

Anchorage Opera acknowledges that we gather and are performing on the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Athabascans. For thousands of years the Dena’ina have been and continue to be the stewards of this land. It is with gratefulness and respect that we recognize the contributions, innovations, and contemporary perspectives of the upper Cook Inlet Dena’ina.

Our History

Officially formed in 1962, Anchorage Opera (AO) is the largest producer of the performing arts in Alaska and one of America’s leading regional opera companies. AO was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of the six most promising opera companies in the United States. As a company that prides itself on rich culture and local talent, AO has adopted the well-fitting motto, “made in Alaska.”

Founded by opera singer Marita Farrell and philanthropist Evangeline Atwood, Anchorage Opera began with the trailblazing work of this dynamic duo. The pair quickly secured financing, performers, and the Anchorage Symphony as their orchestra to produce a series of cameo performances, including Rigoletto and Faust. The company also recruited Willard Straight to direct and lead many full-length operas, including Carmen, Cosi Fan Tutti, and The Elixir of Love.

In the mid-1960s, Elvera Voth, a determined advocate for the performing arts in Anchorage, inherited the company. Under her direction, Anchorage Opera began to blossom. Several new faces joined the organization, including Jan Ingram, the company’s first full-time professional manager; Gloria Allen, an opera singer, producer, and administrator; and Michael More, a third generation Alaskan and trained operatic tenor with a limitless talent.

Since Voth’s direction, AO has had a succession of committed leaders, including Jim Wright who now serves as General Director of Vancouver Opera in British Colombia, Torrie Allen, and the current General Director, Reed Smith.

Today, AO has expounded on the concept of an operatic experience, encouraging community outreach, volunteerism, artistic development, and educational growth. As a self-maintained organization, AO produces handcrafted sets, costumes, furniture, and lighting arrangements all within their establishment. Anchorage Opera is a company and an experience truly “made in Alaska.”

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