Opera San José

Opera San José is a flagship arts organization in Silicon Valley. Maintaining a resident company of artists, Opera San José presents four mainstage productions annually in San Jose's beautifully restored, magnificent California Theatre. It also regularly broadcasts fully produced productions from its state-of-the-art Heiman Digital Media Studio. Now in its 38th season, Opera San José specializes in role debuts, serving as an artistic incubator for established and emerging artists and administrators, producing world-class operatic performances for diverse audiences throughout the Bay Area and around the globe.

Opera San José was founded in 1984 by the late Irene Dalis (1925-2014), who was a general director for 30 years, retiring in 2014.[1] She was joined by conductor David Rohrbaugh, a founding member of Opera San José's artistic staff. Prior to his retirement in 2014, Dr. Rohrbaugh conducted more than 70 productions and more than 600 performances for Opera San José.[2] Larry Hancock, who had served with the organization for many years, became General Director in 2014. Hancock announced his retirement in April 2019,[3] introducing arts administrator Khori Dastoor as his successor.[4] Joseph Marcheso has been the music director and Principal Conductor since 2014.

In June 2021, Dastoor was selected to become the next General Director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera [5] (beginning in January 2022), taking the helm of one of the country's largest opera companies. Opera San José announced the appointment of nationally acclaimed opera and theater director Shawna Lucey as its new General Director and CEO in December 2021.[6] Lucey's appointment as the fourth General Director in Opera San José's history will begin in January 2022, midway through the company's 38th season,[7] overseeing the productions of Bizet's Carmen and Bernstein's West Side Story, as well as the return of the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition.

Following cancellations in 2020-21 due to COVID, the company's 2021–22 season kicked off in September 2021 with the digital production of Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri,[8] starring baritones Sidney Outlaw (Salieri) and Simon Barrad (Mozart). A month later, the company made its triumphant return to the California Theatre with a new production of Purcell's baroque masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas. Casting for this celebrated work included mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz as Dido, baritone Efraín Solís as Aeneas, soprano Maya Kherani as Belinda, bass-baritone Nathan Stark as the Sorcerer, and dancers from San José Dance Theatre. Opera San José's return to in-person performances was met with great success, with the San Francisco Chronicle calling the production, “Exquisite. Heart-rending, thrillingly fierce. Magnificent.”[9]

In June 2020, Opera San José unveiled its plans to create the Heiman Digital Media Studio,[10] a new performance/film space that enables the company to stream high-quality, fully produced operatic performances into the living room of patrons. On July 11, 2020, Opera San José launched its Digital Media Studio series with virtual performances of Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe ('A Poet's Love') song cycle[11] performed by Resident Artist baritone Eugene Brancoveanu and Resident Artist conductor Christopher James Ray on piano. The virtual performance was offered with Spanish and Vietnamese translations,[12] in addition to English, welcoming two of San Jose's largest communities to experience its local art. The company saw this performance, the first in its Digital Media Studio series, as one of the many opportunities to make the work it produces more widely available.

A few months later, in December 2020, Opera San José presented a new fully staged production of Jake Heggie's chamber opera, Three Decembers, featuring world-renowned mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the central role, alongside celebrated Opera San José Resident Artists soprano Maya Kherani and baritone Efraín Solís. Filmed in the Heiman Digital Media studio and available via digital stream, this production of Three Decembers was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as “Skillful, makes chamber opera sparkle online. Buoyant. Elegant. A knockout.”[13]

Virtual offerings that followed Three Decembers included: Opera San José's virtual New Year's Eve celebration, The Parting Glass[14] (Dec. 2020); Love & Secrets: A Domestic Trilogy[15] (April 2021); Sing For Your Supper![16] (May 2021); and The Parting Glass Part 2: Back to the Bar! (Dec. 2021).

The Heiman Digital Media Studio was made possible by a generous lead donation from Opera San José trustee Peggy Heiman in honor of her late husband, devoted Opera San José supporter Fred Heiman.  

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Opera San José has remained tirelessly inventive in finding ways to keep its artists working, the company together, and its community well-served – from creating one of the nation's first artist and musician relief funds at the outset of the pandemic[17] to pioneering the production of digital programming for safe at-home viewing from the cutting-edge Heiman Digital Media Studio.

Opera San José's continued mission is to act as an incubator for emerging artists and producers of affordable, accessible, world-class operatic performances. In addition to full-scale, mainstage operas, members of the resident ensemble will perform in digital concerts, recitals, in-conversation and Meet the Artists events and fully produced operas created specifically for digital broadcast, as well as educational programming for youths and adults.

Mission StatementEdit

Opera San José is dedicated to maintaining a resident company of opera singers with whom we present compelling, professional opera performances, while creating and providing cultural and educational programs that both enrich the opera-going experience and encourage future generations of artists and audiences. Opera San José also provides technical assistance to other organizations.

Resident CompanyEdit

In the United States, Opera San José is unique with its resident company of principal artists. These artists, in the first years of their careers, are identified and awarded annual contracts to perform leading roles in mainstage productions and to participate in school and community-wide educational activities. These singers are groomed for international performing careers. Due to the resident nature of the company, modeled after the German regional opera company, these artists build substantial professional repertoire, are coached by resident and guest conductors and stage directors, and are prepared to meet the demands of a successful operatic career.


To date Opera San José has presented 150 opera productions, including five world premieres among the 64 titles in its repertoire. Notable productions include the American premiere of Alma Deutcher's Cinderella (2017),[18] Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (2019),[19] and the large scale production of Mozart's Idomeneo: ré di Creta (2011)[20] jointly produced with the Packard Humanities.

The number of K-12 educational performances has exceeded 2,300. Community programming for adult audiences totals some 3,200 performances. Between all areas of programming, the company reached approximately 113,000 in its last complete season (2018-2019).

Opera San José has never incurred debt and has received consistent four-star ratings from Charity Navigator[21] for its record of responsible fiscal management.

Opera San José is funded by the city of San José and has had many major corporations and foundations as donors including Applied Materials, Packard Humanities Institute, Hewlett Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Getty Foundation, and many others.

California TheatreEdit

California Theatre

On September 18, 2004, Opera San José opened its debut season in the California Theatre. The 1,100-seat auditorium joined the select ranks of the world's most intimate opera houses. The California Theatre was originally a magnificent 1927 vaudeville and film house that closed its doors in 1973. After reconstruction and restoration, the California Theatre was returned to use as one of the region's most important performance facilities.


  1. ^ "Irene Dalis will retire in July after 30 seasons as general director of Opera San Jose". The Mercury News. 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  2. ^ "Opera San Jose's David Rohrbaugh says goodbye". The Mercury News. 2014-02-12. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  3. ^ "Opera San Jose director Larry Hancock stepping down". The Mercury News. 2019-04-07. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  4. ^ "Khori Dastoor To Be Next Opera San José General Director As Larry Hancock Announces Retirement". Opera Wire. 2019-04-07. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  5. ^ June 29, Joshua Kosman; June 30, 2021Updated; 2021; Am, 7:12. "Opera San José chief Khori Dastoor tapped to lead Houston Grand Opera". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Opera San Jose makes another bold move with new general director". The Mercury News. 2021-12-07. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  7. ^ Gilmore, Sue; Foundation, Bay City News (2021-06-23). "Opera San Jose announces '21-'22 season with 1 digital production, 3 live operas". Local News Matters. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  8. ^ "Sidney Outlaw Shifts Into High Gear". www.sfcv.org. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  9. ^ November 15, Joshua Kosman; November 16, 2021Updated; 2021; Am, 7:33. "Review: 'Dido and Aeneas' gets a sleek, exquisite staging at Opera San José". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Opera San José Announces New Digital Performance Space to Stream Fully-Produced Opera". Opera Wire. 2020-06-13. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  11. ^ July 8, Joshua Kosman; July 9, 2020Updated; 2020; Pm, 4:28. "Opera San José starts scouting an uncertain future with online song recital". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Opera San Jose Offers 'Dichterliebe' in Spanish & Vietnamese Translations". Opera Wire. 2020-07-16. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  13. ^ December 2, Joshua Kosman; December 2, 2020Updated; 2020; Pm, 6:25. "Review: Skillful 'Three Decembers' makes chamber opera sparkle online". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "New Year's Eve 2020: 5 cool ways to ring in 2021 at home". The Mercury News. 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  15. ^ April 15, Joshua Kosman; April 15, 2021Updated; 2021. "Review: She smokes, he doesn't know it — but all's well in Opera San José's virtual trilogy". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2022-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Opera San Jose Announces 'Sing for Your Supper' Virtual Fundraiser". Opera Wire. 2021-04-12. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  17. ^ "Facing Crisis, Opera San José Sets Up Relief Fund for Its Musicians". www.sfcv.org. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  18. ^ "Deutscher's Cinderella is a Melodious Surprise". December 19, 2017.
  19. ^ "Opera San José 2018-19 Review: Moby Dick". February 12, 2019.
  20. ^ "Review: Opera San Jose unveils a jaw-dropping, must-see production of Mozart's 'Idomeneo'". September 12, 2011.
  21. ^ "Charity Navigator - Historical Ratings for Opera San José".

External linksEdit