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Opera Conference 2020 has moved online! OPERA America’s 50th annual conference brings together the field’s administrators, artists and trustees to focus on four key themes that are essential to the future of the art form. Originally informed by pre-pandemic discussions, these themes take on new meaning and new relevance as the field charts its course forward.

Each week will focus on a key theme with a lead presentation and interactive panel discussion via live stream. These general sessions will be followed later in the week by roundtable discussions for each network. We also invite you to join us for a special toast to the field.

Conference Schedule


Wednesday, May 13
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT
Opening Session
The progress of opera in America has always been spurred by bold vision and daring leadership, dating from well before OPERA America’s creation in 1970. Some of the most dynamic leaders in the field will reflect on the words of OPERA America’s founder, Glynn Ross, and focus on their meaning for the current challenges and years ahead.

Ann Meier Baker, Director of Music and Opera, National Endowment for the Arts

David Gockley, Former General Director, Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera
Peggy Kriha Dye, General Director and CEO, Opera Columbus
Jimmy López, Composer
Nadege Souvenir, Senior Vice President of Operations and Learning, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation; Incoming Board Chair, Minnesota Opera
Tazewell Thompson, Stage Director, Playwright, and Librettist
Francesca Zambello, General and Artistic Director, The Glimmerglass Festival; Artistic Director, Washington National Opera

Friday, May 15
4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EDT
A Toast to 50 Years
Join sopranos Angel Blue and Christine Goerke, bass Morris Robinson, and OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca in raising a glass to opera's progress over the past 50 years.

Sponsored by Threshold Acoustics
Opera has a history of theatrical innovation stretching back centuries. Over the last 50 years alone, translation systems, new lighting and projection techniques, HD transmissions — and even holographs — have changed the way audiences experience the art form. More recently, companies have pivoted to social media and other virtual connections to remain in contact with stakeholders, but only a few artists and producers have begun to create work specifically for the digital medium. Panelists will discuss the potential for broadening the art form for 21st century technology, and the need to make digital media a central part of new business models.

Monday, May 18
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Lead Presentation

Douglas McLennan, Editor, ArtsJournal

Wednesday, May 20
1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. EDT
Live Replay of Monday’s Lead Presentation

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT
Panel Discussion and Q&A

Ed Harsh, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Kurt Weill Foundation for Music

Anne Hiatt, General Managing Diva, Opera on Tap
Carleen Graham, Director, HGOco, Houston Grand Opera
Joe Kluger, Principal, WolfBrown
Douglas McLennan, Editor, ArtsJournal
Kamala Sankaram, Composer
L. Michelle Smith, Executive and Business Coach, Author, and Principal of no silos communications group

Sponsored by Fisher Dachs Associates
Color-blind casting has defined the field’s commitment to diversity for decades, but it is an insufficient standard by which to include people of color in opera. Opera lags behind other art forms and industries in reflecting the world around us — onstage, backstage, in administrative offices and around the board table — reinforcing negative stereotypes that keep people away from the opera house. Transforming opera’s culture requires change in the attitudes and practices that have defined the field for generations. Panelists will suggest ways to create a space that embraces audiences, staff and artists of color, and invites them to engage fully in the creation, production and enjoyment of an art form that will be enriched and expanded through their participation.

Tuesday, May 26
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Lead Presentation

Nina Simon, Spacemaker and CEO, OF/BY/FOR ALL

Wednesday, May 27
1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. EDT
Live Replay of Tuesday’s Lead Presentation

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT
Panel Discussion and Q&A

Alejandra Boyer, Director of Programs and Partnerships, Seattle Opera

Quo Johnson, Education and Company Culture Manager at The Dallas Opera
Huang Ruo, Composer and Conductor
Nina Simon, Spacemaker and CEO, OF/BY/FOR ALL
Ryan Taylor, President and General Director, Minnesota Opera
Theresa Ruth Howard, dancer, teacher, writer, blogger
Mark Valdez, Director, Writer, and Producer

To thrive, opera companies must adapt business practices in response to cultural, economic and technological changes. But this can be challenging in an industry that is rooted in conserving the best traditions from the past. How can opera leaders learn to anticipate change? How can they overcome resistance to change from within and outside their organizations? How has the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the need to and ability to adapt? Learn from experts about creating personal and organizational readiness for the accelerating rate of change that lies ahead.

Monday, June 1
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Lead Presentation

Adrian Ellis, Director, AEA Consulting

Wednesday, June 3
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT
Panel Discussion and Q&A
Recent occurrences of racial violence across the country call on all of us to focus on ways opera companies and the entire field can change to become more equitable. This conference session will focus on the dynamics of organizational change and how they can be applied to achieving racial justice in opera.

Timothy O’Leary, General Director, Washington National Opera; Board Chair, OPERA America

Derrell Acon, Director of Engagement and Equity, Long Beach Opera
Aubrey Bergauer, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Innovative Leadership and Vice President of Strategic Communications, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Annie Burridge, General Director and CEO, Austin Opera
Khori Dastoor, General Director, Opera San Jose
Adrian Ellis, Director, AEA Consulting
Quodesia Johnson, Education and Company Culture Manager, The Dallas Opera
Michael Mori, General Director, Tapestry Opera
Tomer Zvulun, General and Artistic Director, The Atlanta Opera
Tracy Wilson, Director of Community Engagement and Education, Cincinnati Opera

Conference Sponsors and Institutional Funders

Additional sponsorship opportunities available. For details, contact Vincent Covatto at or 646.699.5237.
Registration Info

Registration is free and open to all.
Once registered, you will receive an email reminder on the morning of each session. All sessions will stream live at the scheduled time at Sessions can be viewed on a computer, tablet or phone browser.

For questions or assistance, email
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All OPERA America facilities are handicapped accessible. The National Opera Center features ground-level entry with elevators to the venue. All spaces are wheelchair accessible, and modular seating can be arranged to accommodate wheelchair users for all programs and performances. Handicapped accessible restrooms are available on all floors.
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