Our Beginning »
Amarillo Opera was founded in April 1988 by Mila Gibson, Opera Workshop and Vocal Professor at Amarillo College from 1982-2000. The company’s first production, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, starred Gibson who also served as producer, director, costumer and publicist. The success of that initial production led to the incorporation of Amarillo Opera with Dr. Merrill and Catherine Winsett, H.R. and Thelma Fulton and Gibson as Founding Directors and Gibson as General Director, with complete administrative and artistic responsibility for the company. BRAVO, the Amarillo Opera membership support group, was established one year later with 75 charter members under the leadership of Founding President, Dr. Bill Byrd.
Our Mission »
The company’s mission is three-fold:
1. To provide live, community-based opera to the Texas Panhandle
2. To nurture and encourage local talent
3. To help build community.
Relationship with Amarillo College »
Since the beginning, a strong working relationship with Amarillo College has enabled the company to grow artistically, financially, and administratively. Today, Amarillo College continues to provide administrative facilities, rehearsal and performing spaces, and a line item budget to assist with production expenses.
Our Growth »
Under Gibson’s leadership, the company grew to become a force in the international world of opera. In 1995, Amarillo Opera was accepted as a professional member of OPERA America, the national service organization for opera. That same year, main stage performances moved from the 240 seat Amarillo College Concert Hall Theater to the 2300 seat Civic Center Auditorium. Since spring 2006, the Opera has been a resident company of the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.
Amarillo Opera has received the prestigious Success Award from OPERA America for its internationally acclaimed Education/Community Engagement Programs. The State of Texas Senate and House, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Texas Parent Teacher Associations, the Texas Regulatory and Protective System, the NAACP, the Amarillo Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce are among the local, statewide and national organizations that have recognized the company for its work. OPERA America selected Amarillo Opera to be one of the first companies to receive its highly competitive Opera Fund grant in 2004.
Populace Served »
Amarillo Opera serves up to 500,000 people annually through its comprehensive outreach programs and educational services. The company has a history of adventurous programming – more than ten original works by former Composer-in-Residence Gene Murray have been seen throughout the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, Eastern New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Murray’s The Wage of Sin was co-produced with KACV-TV as a special television opera in 2005 and his Legend of Columbus was performed in the Palo Duro Canyon Amphitheater.
The Present »
In September 2009, David O’Dell succeeded Gibson as Amarillo Opera’s General Director, with the 2010-2011 Season marking the first season entirely planned and executed under his leadership. An advocate for developing the next generation of American operatic artists, Mr. O’Dell is fiercely committed to making sure that the Texas Panhandle plays an important role in the future of opera in America – developing a style of production committed to the development of regional artistry, representative of regional sensibilities and of the highest international standards that can be produced on a regional budget.
In December 2010, Amarillo Opera’s production of Rigoletto was voted one of the top three fine arts performances of the year by readers of the Amarillo Globe-News. The following January, our redesigned 2010-2011 season brochure and our 2010-2011 season program won ADDY® awards for creative excellence in print – the only Amarillo arts organization to win the Arts, Brochure category.
The company routinely participates in The Santa Fe Opera apprentice artist auditions, where selected company General Directors have an opportunity to hear some of the country’s most promising singers. Young singers annualy audition for the company in Amarillo, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Agents regularly submit singers from around the world to sing in Amarillo Opera productions. In December 2011 the company telecast its critically acclaimed production of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème on KACV-TV and it now resides in the permanent online archive at pbs.org where it can be streamed to audiences around the world free of charge.
The company recently reintroduced Nino Rota’s 1955 opera The Italian Straw Hat into the North American opera repertoire after a thirty-four year absence in the Western Hemisphere – gaining a reputation for programming unusual repertoire.
In September 2011, the company added a Sunday matinee performance and attendance doubled for the second production a row. A December broadcast of the production on KACV brought the production to thousands more throughout the Texas Panhandle.
In the fall of 2012 more people attended our production of Madama Butterfly (scheduled for broadcast on KACV-TV on December 21, 2012) than have ever attended a performance by Amarillo Opera.
Our annual spring performances in English and our fall telecasts help build an audience for opera in the Texas Panhandle by removing the perceived barrier of theatrical works in foreign languages and/or producing artistically excellent productions with open captioning. Audiences that experience these works are much more likely to experience live opera at our home, the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Amarillo.
Push for Education »
Since September 2009 and the beginning of the tenure of new General Director David O’Dell, the company has made it a priority to restructure, codify and expand the educational programs offered by Amarillo Opera. Educational opportunities now weave through every program of Amarillo Opera, making it, at times, difficult to distinguish whether the company is an educational institution or professional regional opera company.
Those programs, now bolstered by major funding from the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation, the Mary E. Bivins Foundation and the Brumley Foundation, have enabled us to expand our existing season – offering a new Chamber Family Opera Series with performances of She Never Lost a Passenger at the Globe-News Center and Amahl and the Night Visitors in collaboration with Chamber Music Amarillo at the Fibonacci Building on historic Route 66.
The company is committed to offering educational opportunities to all people – regardless of socioeconomic circumstances. Amarillo Opera youth programs are open to all who are interested in participating – at no cost. The Sunday Sessions program is the only program the company offers that charges tuition, and the company routinely scholarships any student selected for the program that cannot afford the minimal tuition. Participation in the Summer Youth Musical is free and open to all, but does not pay a scholarship stipend. In all other instances, young artists are paid scholarship stipends for their participation in educational programming. Additionally, adults without the means to attend performances are routinely given free or greatly reduced tickets through the company’s highly successful Feed the Spirit program which distributed more than $26,000 worth of tickets to children, senior citizens and social organizations to this fall’s Madama Butterfly alone.
The company is rapidly becoming a leader in arts in education as well as Arts as education. This dual pronged strategy of arts education prepares the next generation of young artists from the Texas Panhandle and uses the arts as a catalyst to explore important regional topics, making the arts a relevant and contemporary form of self-expression in the region.
The Future »
In September of 2012 the Board of Trustees of Amarillo Opera unanimously and enthusiastically extended the contract of current General Director David O’Dell through the 2014-2015 season.