The Arizona Opera has good reasons to make a grand entrance into its 2011-12 season. Not only is it coming off a stellar 40th year, but an off-season real-estate purchase will consolidate backstage operations and make opera more visible in a growing Downtown Phoenix cultural area.
In July, the city of Phoenix used $3 million in 2006 cultural bond money ticketed for the opera to purchase the 16,800-square-foot Walsh Brothers Furniture building at 1636 N. Central Ave. The city bought the 1956 building, which had been empty for about a year, for $1.78 million, including $228,000 in economic development funds, says Jane Morris, executive assistant to the city manager. Another $1.5 million of the bond will be used for renovations.
Once that work is completed next summer, the Opera will be across-Central neighbors with the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Theatre and the Heard Museum.
Arizona Opera’s operations, currently divided between Phoenix and Mesa, will all be in the Walsh Brothers building, which will host public tours, educational programs for youth and adults, rehearsals open to the public, and smaller opera and theater performances. It will continue to split performances between two venues – the Tucson Music Hall and Phoenix Symphony Hall.
“The new building is a remarkable opportunity to grow and be part of a sustained art community in the Central Avenue corridor,” says Scott Altman, the Opera’s general director. “Internally, it will be wonderful to have the magic of making opera under one roof.”
The opera company finished its fiscal year in the black while it drew great reviews from both the local press and national opera publications. Its five-production season saw a 10 percent gain in season subscription sales, a 30 percent growth in contributors and 10 sold-out performances. “That is really impressive considering the problems arts organizations are having generally because of the economy,” Altman says.
Arizona Opera’s 2011-12 season opens October 1 in Tucson and October 7 in Phoenix with a double billing of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.
For more information, visit azopera.com.
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