Art

Why a $1 Million Gift to Arizona Opera Could Mean a New Work

Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Florencia en el Amazonas.
Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Florencia en el Amazonas. Tim Trumble
Marlu Allan and Scott Stallard of Payson have donated $1 million to Arizona Opera. The Phoenix-based opera company announced the gift on Thursday, April 20.

Allan and Stallard are longtime supporters of the company, says Joseph Specter, president and general director for Arizona Opera. Stallard serves on the Arizona Opera board of directors.

Arizona Opera was founded in 1971 as Tucson Opera Company, but began performing in both Tucson and Phoenix during its 1976-77 season. To date, it’s mounted more than 170 fully-stages operas and concerts.

The $1 million gift supports Arizona Opera’s commitment to presenting new and contemporary works, Specter says.

Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Riders of the Purple Sage. - TIM TRUMBLE
Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Riders of the Purple Sage.
Tim Trumble
This season, Arizona Opera presented the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage, the first opera developed by the company. It was inspired by a 1912 Zane Grey novel by the same name. The opera features music and scenic design by Arizona artists.

“Arizona Opera’s deepening commitment to presenting innovative and inspiring work that appeals to both longtime opera fans and first-time audiences is so important,” Allan says.

Creating Riders of the Purple Sage cost about $1.1 million, Specter says. So, a $1 million gift could certainly fund an entirely new work.

Even so, Arizona Opera has not announced any specific productions tied to this gift.

But Specter says the company is continuing to explore new and contemporary works while considering options for future seasons.

“We have an enduring commitment to presenting the most electrifying program,” Specter says. “The annual presence of big, contemporary works is critical to today’s opera company.”

Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. - TIM TRUMBLE
Scene from Arizona Opera's production of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.
Tim Trumble
In recent years, Arizona Opera has presented several contemporary works, including Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Florencia en el Amazonas, and Arizona Lady.

Arizona Opera’s opens its 2017-18 season with Hercules vs. Vampires in October. The production features live performances of a new, original score against the backdrop of a 1961 cult classic film called Hercules in the Haunted World.

The company is already exploring options for subsequent seasons, Specter says. “So many works are being created today that dig into who we are as a culture,” he says.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble