Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Boston Lyric Opera Company

  • Boston, MA

Mission Statement

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.

Main Programs

  1. Productions, Opera Annex, Education Programs
Service Areas



BLO serves Greater Boston, New England, and national opera audiences as well as audiences from numerous countries outside the United States.

ruling year


Principal Officer since 2008


Ms. Esther Nelson



opera, arts, performance, education, culture, music

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Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Opera (A6A)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization

Founded in 1976, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) is New England's largest opera company, reaching over 40,000 people annually. Now in its 38th season, BLO celebrates the art of the voice through its mission of building curiosity, enthusiasm and support for opera by creating musically and theatrically compelling productions, events and educational resources for the Boston community and beyond. Recognized for its artistically exemplary productions, BLO entertains and inspires audiences with a diverse repertoire featuring emerging operatic talent and innovative productions of opera's oldest and newest masterworks. BLO presents four productions each season: three at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre in Boston and since 2009, Opera Annex, a contemporary work presented in an alternative space (this year, at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline). BLO's programming also includes support for Emerging Artists, concert performances such as its annual free performance at the Hatch Shell, lectures at the Boston Public Library and at partner organizations, and recordings.Through its performances and programs, Boston Lyric Opera strives to be a regional resource for opera and acts as a gateway to an accessible and sustainable performing arts community where vibrant productions of various art forms, artistic and intellectual exchanges and educational programs are available to patrons of all ages and backgrounds. BLO's in-school programs present the conventions of opera and provide teachers and students with the support and resources needed to create and perform original classroom operas, assuring high quality through the use of the nationally-recognized Music! Words! Opera! curriculum and offering its programs at no cost to partner schools.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Productions, Opera Annex, Education Programs

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 2014/15 Season includes Verdi's La Traviata, Martin's The Love Potion (BLO's commissioned English-language translation is this Season's Opera Annex production), Janacek's Katya Kabanova and Mozart's Don Giovanni. BLO also engages over 20,000 community members, including 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, and Wheelock Family Theatre.


Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other

Population(s) Served


Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)

College Aged (18-26 years)



Service Areas



BLO serves Greater Boston, New England, and national opera audiences as well as audiences from numerous countries outside the United States.

Additional Documents

Funding Needs

Capitalization: To ensure sustainability of the Company, BLO needs to raise endowment funds that will support the high standard of programming achieved over the past eight years and that will help to expand the artistic vision. Artistic Planning. BLO needs funds to devote to the planning of upcoming seasons, enabling BLO to plan new productions, larger works, and commissions, continuing the momentum of the past few Seasons. Support for Administrative Infrastructure. BLO is actively working to build the administrative infrastructure that will support an opera company for 21st century Boston, capable of reaching out to and serving the needs of diverse audiences. To achieve this goal, BLO needs assistance to invest in employee salaries, and build capacity to enable effective fundraising, marketing, and customer service. Expansion of Education Programs. Additional funding would allow BLO to increase the number of students and teachers served, engage in more and deeper partnerships with regional community organizations, reach more Title 1 schools, and increase the diversity of its audiences. Audience Development Technical Assistance, to enable BLO to work with experienced consultants on audience needs analysis and to survey audiences to best inform future planning.


Affiliations + Memberships

AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals)

OPERA America


External Reviews


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Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.


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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Boston Lyric Opera Company



Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2014
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
Need the ability to download nonprofit data and more advanced search options? Consider a Premium or Pro Search subscription.

Principal Officer

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.

STATEMENT FROM THE Principal Officer

"For 38 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 several seasons finished with surpluses, while in the last year BLO successfully secured two major challenge grants - 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."



Mr. Steven P. Akin

Fidelity Investments

Term: Sept 2005 -


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Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?