Basic Organization Information
Boston Lyric Opera Company
- Physical Address:
- Web URL:
- NTEE Category:
A Arts, Culture, and Humanities
- Ruling Year:
The mission of Boston Lyric Opera is to build curiosity, enthusiasm, and support for opera, by creating musically and theatrically compelling productions, events, and educational resources for our community and beyond. We produce opera in all forms, large to small, popular to less known, from early music to newly commissioned works.
Ms. Esther Nelson
Esther Nelson joined Boston Lyric Opera in 2008, and has launched numerous new programs including Opera Annex, Signature Series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Open House, and partnerships with Boston University's Opera Institute as well as other university and organization collaborations. Esther Nelson's experience in opera and the performing arts spans three decades. Before joining BLO, she was a management consultant to artistic associations including the New York Historical Association, their research library, and their associated Fenimore Art Museum; the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York; the European International Music and Arts Foundation; the Cultural Diplomacy Institute in New York and Berlin, Germany; Albany Symphony Orchestra in New York; The Douglas Moore Fund in New York City; Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta, NY; and Memphis and Portland (Maine) Operas. This followed six years as the General Director/CEO of Glimmerglass Opera, one of the country's largest and most prestigious opera festivals. During her seven year tenure, Glimmerglass Opera experienced significant artistic growth and fiscal stability, earning her a professional citation from the governor of New York. Before Glimmerglass, Ms. Nelson was the General Director/CEO of Nevada Opera in Reno, where she was responsible for all administrative and artistic activities and founded the company's successful state-wide touring program. She also held previous leadership positions with Virginia Opera, Triangle Opera, and New Orleans Opera. Ms. Nelson has served as evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the New York State Council, and is a frequent speaker and panelist, including consulting with OPERA America, the American opera service organization. She serves on the Board of Directors and Executive and Finance Committees of numerous cultural and social service organizations.
For 36 years, Boston Lyric Opera has demonstrated a careful and financially responsible progression in its artistic planning while gradually building an infrastructure to sustain a fully professional major opera company in Boston. Unique as the only New England opera company with this broader artistic focus, BLO has now identified a long-term goal to go one step further. Through regular presentation of an inclusive repertoire, it is BLO's aspiration to sustain Opera Annex, build and deepen partnerships, and strengthen artistic planning so that we can see those big works we've been missing in Boston for some time. Boston has a proven interest in opera with high Met HD broadcast attendance, and a prevalence of over 30 producers of the art form, ranging from small to mid-size companies. BLO attracts over 40,000 people a year and has the largest opera audience in New England. BLO's current primary challenge is to reach the next level of financial stability, one that will allow more frequent production of those major operas demanding the largest vocal and musical resources, such as The Magic Flute, Turandot, and Nixon in China, to name a few. These operas resonate with audiences present and future, and offer the full breadth of the art form. Combined with production of lesser-known and chamber works, and more frequent commissions, it is BLO's commitment to bring opera's full scale of potential to Boston. The past two fundraising seasons saw the highest annual contributions ever raised in the company's history with two surpluses in a row - sound evidence that we have the potential to deliver on this goal. We have weathered an economic recession, emerging with the critically-acclaimed Opera Annex series and a major four-year fundraising challenge. By gaining the capacity for the largest works, not only will we have over 30 producers of the art form here who present thought-provoking works, but we will also have an anchor for all this energy with the ability to experience the full breadth of the art from the small to the large. It is this unbounded pageantry - this transcendence into another world, and connection to the history of the human condition and how we express ourselves - that opera, particularly on a large scale, gives us. It not only expresses the present, it expresses our history. I believe that an appreciation of artistic history alongside expression of the present and future with all its complexity bring a fuller understanding through this art form. Boston is a world-class city, and it deserves a world-class opera community.
Board of Directors
Highest Paid Employees & Their Compensation
Productions, Opera Annex, Education Programs
Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other
- Population Served:
Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
College Aged (18-26 years)
BLO produces three operas a year at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre. The Company also offers its critically-acclaimed Opera Annex series, offering new or unusual opera in inspiring venues throughout Boston. BLO's 2013/2014 Season includes Mozart's The Magic Flute, Beeson's Lizzie Borden (BLO's commissioned reduction is this Season's Opera Annex production), Verdi's Rigoletto and Bellini's I Puritani. BLO also engages over 20,000 K-12 students, teens, teachers, and adults each year outside its performances, through artistic and community partnerships with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Boston Public Library; Boston Landmarks Orchestra; Boston Public Schools, OPERA America, Wheelock Family Theatre, and Artists For Humanity.
Program Long-Term Success:
After Esther Nelson's arrival at the Company as General & Artistic Director in 2008, BLO has made transformational changes to the way it operates, including audience building through the new Opera Annex program in alternative spaces (sold-out performances and 90% of capacity in just the second year); a new Signature Series performance and lecture program in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (steadily increasing attendance); and a boost in new productions, collaborations, and artistic focus. Recent audience development initiatives have demonstrated that BLO is capable of attracting more diverse audiences to the art form. These include new student subscriptions, high attendance at free community performances (10,000 at a recent outdoor concert, the highest attendance on record for that annual free performance), and sold out Opera Annex performances. Over the past three years there has been a 7% increase in contributions, including a significant percentage from national foundations and the Board of Directors. The number of education and artistic collaborations has amplified as well, in depth and number. There has been a boost in free attendance from 4,000 people to 13,293; this is largely spurred by an increase of attendance at the free annual summer outdoor concert. The 2010 production of Tosca was the second most successful in single ticket sales for a six-performance run in BLO history. Press attention has magnified; the number of reviewers per event has risen from 18 at Opera Annex in 2010 to 24 reviewers for Annex in 2011. There has been an increase in average press reviews per production since 2008.
Program Short-Term Success:
Boston Lyric Opera received national and international critical acclaim in the 2010-2011 Season. According to the New York Times in 2011, BLO will ""catch the interest of operagoers around the country."" The Boston Music Intelligencer states ""BLO has proven itself to be an innovative and professional company that is dedicated to sharp productions… Boston Lyric Opera is one of New England's best cultural jewels. We are lucky to have it."" The Wall Street Journal described the 2011 production of The Emperor of Atlantis as ""vivid…jolting."" According to Opera News, the Company's Tosca had ""…a strong cast, evocative production design and…solid playing from the orchestra."" EDGE Boston states that ""BLO confirms its place as the city's premier opera troupe.""
Program Success Monitored by:
Self-Assessment: BLO Board and staff use various methods of self-assessment including The Balanced Scorecard that offers a comprehensive, top-down view of organizational performance with a strong focus on vision and strategy. The Company is focusing on continuing to be a learning organization, measuring the effectiveness of everything it does and making changes as needed. BLO measures traffic on its website, ticket trends, and sends out online questionnaires to profile and measure the ticket buyers' attitudes and satisfaction levels, and backs those results up with rigorous qualitative and quantitative research.
Program Success Examples:
BLO continued the third year of Opera Annex, a program launched in 2010 to present lesser-known chamber opera in alternative spaces throughout Boston at lower ticket prices, in order to attract new audiences to the art form. During the past two seasons, Opera Annex productions sold out a majority of their performances, and during only the second year reached 90% of house capacity during the critically-acclaimed production of Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis. According to BLO market research, 15% of Opera Annex ticketholders have never purchased a ticket to BLO before, as compared with lower averages for other productions. The program also attracts younger and more economically diverse audiences than other productions, indicating this program successfully attracts significantly new and more diverse audiences to opera.
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Impact Summary from the Nonprofit
Now in its 36thseason and New England's largest opera company, BLO reaches 40,000 people a year. BLO is devoted to producing the full range of operatic repertory, from chamber to larger operas - in order to engage audiences in diverse works of art and cultivate inclusive appreciation. Through its productions and education programs that serve numerous regional schools, BLO inspires and engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds with the captivating experience of opera in all its forms from large to small - including masterworks, chamber opera, commissions and co-commissions, and smaller community performances and events. In 2009, BLO launched its critically-acclaimed Opera Annex series, a program to present opera in non-traditional venues throughout Boston to: offer audiences unexpected experiences outside the traditional theater; produce works with innovative set designs that merge with the found space; nurture lesser-known work; and promote collaboration with organizations and Boston neighborhoods. The first venues have included the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Boston Center for the Arts, with the upcoming venue to be the Artists For Humanity Epicenter in South Boston's Fort Point. About the 2012 Annex production The Lighthouse, the Boston Phoenix said ""This is one of the most adventurous and viscerally charged productions the BLO has ever given us."" The Hub Review said ""Simply put, it (The Lighthouse) represents the most brilliant integration of opera into an existing space that I've ever seen in Boston."" About The Emperor of Atlantis, BLO's 2010 Opera Annex, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe recognized the stunning stage direction and excellent singing of all roles. In 2011, BLO co-hosted the Opera America conference, the first time this national conference visited Boston. According to the New York Times in 2011, BLO will ""catch the interest of opera goers around the country.""