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Opera Theatre’s 39th Season Breaks Records, Growing New Audiences, International Recognition, and Community Access

Increases in “Young Friends” audiences, subscription sales, and international attendance mark significant growth for St. Louis company

St. Louis, MO, June 30, 2014 – Opera Theatre of Saint Louis wrapped up its acclaimed 39th season on Sunday, June 29 with significant growth in subscriptions, overall attendance, and reach in the St. Louis community and beyond. The Wells Fargo Advisors 2014 Festival Season generated $1.8 million in total box office revenue, an increase of 5.8% over the previous year. Subscription revenue and attendance increased by 8.4%, the second year of growth since 2012, bucking national sales trends for performing arts subscriptions. Major national and international media coverage helped draw audiences to St. Louis for the opera season from 43 states, 14 countries, and 5 continents, from as far away as Australia and Sierra Leone. Once again, audiences also came from every zip code in the St. Louis metropolitan region.

Season events began weeks before the first mainstage performance, thanks to the company’s first surprise outdoor concert, Spring Sing! in Kiener Plaza. During the season, Opera Theatre’s total audience grew to 30,148 attendees across main season performances, free lunchtime concerts, and a range of community engagement events, hosted in partnership with the Contemporary Art Museum, The Missouri History Museum, St. Louis ArtWorks, Craft Alliance, the Kranzberg Arts Center, Arts & Faith St. Louis, The Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Louis, and Kingdom House, among others. Main season performances attracted 24,468 of these attendees, among the company’s highest main season attendance figures in a decade. In addition, the company reached more than 9,000 K-12 students through special performances, and in-school arts-in-education programs.

Box office results met or exceeded many Opera Theatre records. Highlights include the following:

  • First-time subscriber volume doubled over 2013, accounting for 17.7% of all subscribers, Opera Theatre’s highest volume of new subscribers since 2008.

  • Overall, “new-to-file” households accounted for 26% of all OTSL audiences this season, continuing the company’s stepped-up commitment to attracting first-time opera-goers.

  • The Magic Flute attracted more single ticket buyers than any OTSL production in the last ten years, becoming the company’s highest-attended production since the economic downturn of 2008.

  • All pre-season and in-season Young Friends events sold out, with some selling out as much as two months in advance. Total Young Friends subscribership has grown 93% over the last two years. (Young Friends programs are offered exclusively to patrons 45 years of age or younger.)

  • Family audiences, attending with Opera Theatre’s “Family Four Packs” at special Family Nights for The Magic Flute grew 65% from 2013’s record-setting numbers.

  • All three of Opera Theatre’s signature behind-the-scenes programs (the concert/lecture series Spotlight on Opera, the lecture series Illuminating Opera, and the free concert series A Little Lunch Music) were the highest attended in OTSL history. Attendance at the lecture/concert series Spotlight on Opera was up 10.1%.

Opera Theatre’s profile in St. Louis and across the country grew in 2014 as well:

  • Major national and international press coverage so far has included the June cover story of Opera News magazine, two articles in The New York Times, two in the Financial Times (London), two in the Los Angeles Times, two in the Chicago Tribune, two in the Washington Post, two in Out Magazine, three in the Dallas Morning News, one in the Wall Street Journal, one in the Denver Post, and feature coverage on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”

  • During the second year of OTSL’s “Tweet Seats” program, the company welcomed four dozen live tweeters across two regular season performances, for a total potential reach of over 3 million Twitter impressions. Hashtag #otslflute became the number three trending topic on Twitter in St. Louis, on the evening of the live-tweeted performance of The Magic Flute thanks to this program.

  • OTSL’s first-ever Spring Sing! brought several hundred community volunteers together with professional singers to rehearse and perform in a surprise birthday concert for St. Louis in Kiener Plaza.

  • With the support of many community partners, OTSL initiated a series of special events to provide direct access to artists – including a program with The Magic Flute director and designer Isaac Mizrahi at the Contemporary Art Museum, one with “27” composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek at Craft Alliance, an event with The Elixir of Love’s tenor René Barbera at Kingdom House, and a panel discussion featuring Sister Mary Antona Ebo and Dialogues of the Carmelite’s soprano Kelly Kaduce at the Missouri History Museum.

The success of Opera Theatre’s Wells Fargo Advisors 2014 Festival Season maintains Opera Theatre’s tradition of fiscal strength and stability, reflected in part by the growth and stewardship of the OTSL endowment, which has grown to exceed $27 million, representing an increase of more than 60% since the start of general director Timothy O’Leary’s tenure in 2008.

Opera Theatre’s success in 2014 resulted from an amazing team effort,” said general director Timothy O’Leary. “The Opera Theatre family is what makes a season like this possible – the leadership of our music director Stephen Lord and artistic director James Robinson, our tremendous artists onstage and behind the scenes, the great players of the St. Louis Symphony, our deeply committed board and donors, our outstanding staff, our gung-ho volunteers, and our passionate audience. I am so grateful to them all and look forward to another great season in 2015 – Opera Theatre’s 40th.”

Opera Theatre’s 2015 season opens on May 23, 2015 with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and continues with the much-anticipated return of soprano Corinne Winters in Puccini’s La rondine. In 2015, Opera Theatre will also produce its 24th American premiere, Handel’s Richard the Lionheart. The season concludes with the first new major production of Tobias Picker’s acclaimed Emmeline in nearly twenty years. In honor of the company’s 40th anniversary, OTSL will also offer a first-ever concert showcasing the company’s talented Gerdine Young Artists on stage with the members of the St. Louis Symphony. Subscriptions are currently on sale and available by calling the Opera Theatre box office at (314) 961-0644.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions, sung in English, featuring the finest American singers and accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.  As of 2014, Opera Theatre has presented 24 world premieres and 23 American premieres – which may be one of the highest percentages of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis annually welcomes visitors from nearly every state and close to a dozen foreign countries. Although the size of the theater typically limits box office income to less than a quarter of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit. 

Opera Theatre also has a long tradition of discovering and promoting the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation.  Among the artists who had important early opportunities at Opera Theatre are Christine Brewer, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Patricia Racette, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Dwayne Croft, Kelly Kaduce, Lawrence Brownlee, Jamie Barton, Corinne Winters, Anthony Dean Griffey, and Christine Goerke.  Opera Theatre has always been known for distinguished leadership: founding general director Richard Gaddes was succeeded in 1985 by general director Charles MacKay, with famed British stage director Colin Graham as artistic director and Stephen Lord (1992 – present) as music director.  Timothy O’Leary was named general director in October 2008, with acclaimed stage director James Robinson succeeding Colin Graham.  For more information, visit ExperienceOpera.org.

Opera Theatre gratefully acknowledges 2014 season presenting sponsor Wells Fargo Advisors.

Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.

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