One of the Opera’s continuing endeavors is to promote the work of Richard Wagner, whose epic operas were once rarely performed in the United States. General Director Speight Jenkins joined the Opera in 1983, bringing his extensive knowledge and passion for Wagner. Each summer from 1975 – 1984 Seattle Opera performed Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)—a cycle of 4 operas lasting over 15 hours—in a single week. In August 2009, the Opera will expand upon this tradition by performing the full cycle each week for 3 weeks.
The Opera performs at the 2,900-seat Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, which reopened in the summer of 2003 after a large-scale renovation of the 75-year-old Civic Auditorium. The first performance in the new auditorium, appropriately Wagner’s Parsifal, took place in August 2003. The Opera also holds many educational lectures and special events in the 400-seat Nesholm Family Lecture Hall.
Seattle Opera has programs for audiences of all ages to fulfill its educational mission in the community. Throughout the season there are over 250 events for adults, including pre-performance lectures for ticket holders and free public lectures discussing each opera’s composer and historical context. The Experience Opera program brings opera into high school classrooms through study guides, class visits, and invitations for students to attend dress rehearsals. Through the Opera Goes to School program, elementary school classes put on their own age-appropriate opera productions with guidance from Seattle Opera members and Young Artists.
The Young Artists Program is a 20-week training program that covers all facets of opera production. Each fall the artists perform piano-accompanied scenes in select cities around the state. In spring the artists stage a full opera at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center. This season’s Young Artists production is Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which runs from March 27 – April 5, 2009.