Education | Empowerment | Excellence
The mission of Tacoma Opera is to produce quality grand opera and to provide equitable access and education to the arts. We believe that classical music has the power to engage our community in meaningful and important ways. As such, we will:
Promote and Include all voices and perspectives in this important art form. This includes special attention and consideration of traditionally marginalized, under-served or under-represented members of our community.
Promote and engage in education. Tacoma Opera will forge inroads for young school-aged students to experience live performances in the theaters at no cost.
Promote the next generation of young singers. Our emerging artist program will create the first professional steps for new young singers into the world of opera.
In the 50 years of its existence, Tacoma Opera has grown from a small, amateur-based company, little-known outside of the city of Tacoma, into a vibrant regional opera company attracting audiences from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The company has solidified its position as a cultural icon for the South Puget Sound region and has exciting plans for the future. The company has discovered over the years that there is great value in presenting opera in an intimate performance environment so that audiences can connect more directly with the music, the story and the performers in the operas we present. For centuries, opera has been associated with grandiose, large scale and expensive productions that focus on spectacle, but opera today in its grandiose form has become increasingly inaccessible financially to many in the everyday general population as presented in the larger opera houses around the world.
Tacoma Opera is intent on redefining opera in this country with excellence as an accessible art form that allows audiences to experience opera in a uniquely personal way, touching the heart and stimulating the mind. This is our philosophy and with this philosophy as our guiding light, we will continue into our next 50 years presenting opera Up Close and Personal. It’s been a great journey so far and we, at Tacoma Opera, look forward to the next 50 years of serving Tacoma and the South Sound region with exciting and accessible opera productions.
Finally: Opera should be accessible to everyone and we are proud that our audiences come from every walk of life. So no worries if you don’t own a tux or an evening gown. Jeans and tee shirts are just fine. But dressing up is fun too! So if you want to paint the town red, go for it! Whatever makes the evening special for you, that’s what counts.
Tacoma Opera was founded in 1968 as the Tacoma Opera Society and presented its first production, Die Fledermaus at the Eastvold Auditorium on the Pacific Lutheran University campus. In 1981, with the help of Dr. Hans Wolf, then director of community outreach for Seattle Opera, the company turned professional and changed its name to the Tacoma Opera Association. Wolf became the new director of the company and another production of Die Fledermaus was successfully staged that year. Under Dr. Wolf’s leadership and along with the organizational guidance of the long-time executive director, Anne Farrell, the company produced many operettas and grand operas over the next several years. The company also produced numerous premieres, including the West Coast premiere of Offenbach’s Christopher Columbus and the world premiere of a brand-new opera, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, by Seattle composer Carol Sams.
In the late 1990s, Both Wolf and Farrell retired from their positions and Rod Gideons became the executive director of the company, and David Bartholomew the artistic director. During their tenure, the company continued to expand by producing larger-scale mainstream operas. Kathryn Smith came to the company in 2003 as general director, extending the continued growth of the company until the economic downturn of 2008, after which she successfully shepherded the company through some very difficult financial times. In 2023, Tacoma Opera named international baritone and experienced producer Limuel Forgey as General Director.