OperaDelaware gets big grant from Longwood Foundation

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S poster for the recent OperaDelaware Festival.
S poster for the recent OperaDelaware Festival.

Efforts by the staff and supporters of OperaDelaware have resulted in a two-year grant that will bolster its productions.

OperaDelaware was awarded two years of production support totaling $450, 000 from The Longwood Foundation, the largest grant to the arts organization in its 71-year history.

The grant will help to support OperaDelaware’s next spring festival, scheduled for the weekends of May 14 and 21, 2016. The festival will feature performances of two operas at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, including the East Coast premier of Franco Faccio’s Amleto (Hamlet), and Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff.

This came after OperaDelaware made difficult decisions, reducing some programming, cutting costs,  and bolstering marketing and partnership  efforts.

“We are grateful for the Longwood Foundation’s generosity, and appreciate the confidence the organization has placed in the new strategic direction of OperaDelaware,” said Brendan Cooke, OperaDelaware’s general director. “We’re demonstrating that embracing change and innovation works. We faced the financial headwinds that affected us beginning in 2008, re-imagined the opera company, and emerged with a successful 2015 opera festival.  Thanks to the support of the Longwood Foundation, we are now able to plan a season that puts OperaDelaware and the city of Wilmington on the international spotlight.”

In addition to Falstaff and a series of more intimate concert performances at OperaDelaware’s Riverfront studios starting in the fall, the company also will produce the East Coast premiere of Amleto (Hamlet) on the main stage of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House next May.  Up until Nov.  2014, this opera had not been performed anywhere in the eastern U.S. since 1871.

Cooke predicted that next year’s festival – anchored by Amleto — will attract opera, classical music fans, and journalists from throughout the country and the world, and added that this presentation is a coup for the state and the city of Wilmington.

Cooke, an opera singer and director, who helped form an opera company in Baltimore, came to OperaDelaware in 2012. Cooke and staff have work tirelessly in efforts to make opera more accessible, while not compromising on its signature qualities.

“Out of town guests who come to our festival next year will discover what we already know – that Delaware offers a wealth of beautiful attractions, a wonderful array of fine dining, world class lodging, and an opera house that is a jewel in the heart of Wilmington,” Cooke said.

Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau agreed“ The 2016 festival – and future festivals –will be an important benefit to our initiatives to grow, to enhance travel and tourism, and to show the world all Delaware has to offer. This is an opportunity to reach a broader geographical audience.   We’re eager to see the festival next year and fully support OperaDelaware’s work on this innovative and exciting project.”

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