50th Anniversary



June, 1967: an age of iconic headlines. The conflict in Vietnam was a shadow across the American psyche. The ink on the Voting Rights Act was still fresh. The first presidential election open to all Americans loomed large. America was intent on reaching the moon, but our first grasp at the cosmos ended in tragedy. These were times of upheaval and promise: a perfect epoch for opera.

In such heady eras, we look to the arts to elevate, to animate and transform us. We rely upon those practicing their crafts patiently and out of sight to pull us into the theater, to remind us of our own souls’ capacity. To feel the tumult of the world melt away, as a pleasant chill ascends the spine beneath a blooming aria.

The founders of Opera Grand Rapids knew that passion is best when shared with the world. Nevertheless, it was a bold proposition: to build a professional opera company that would put Grand Rapids on the map for a very discerning audience. Read more.



In July of 1966, the Opera Association of Western Michigan (now Opera Grand Rapids) was officially incorporated by founding officers John F. Gilmore (president), Joan White (executive vice president), Marnie Houseman (secretary), and R. Edwin Owen (treasurer). Carl Karapetian, musical director of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and Paul Dreher, director of Civic Theater, agreed to serve as artistic directors. On June 2, the company opened the doors of the Calvin College Fine Arts Center Auditorium for its first performance of The Marriage of Figaro. Gerald A. Elliot of the Grand Rapids Press had this to say about the performance: “In the Opera Association of Western Michigan this part of the state has something of outstanding musical merit to preserve and nurture.” Read more.







Follow our journey throughout the season as we highlight the unsung heroes behind the curtain, discuss the opera art form’s bold future, and take a trip down memory lane. Browse the latest stories.





As an integral part of our city’s artistic fabric, it’s our responsibility to see to its continual flourishing. Please consider donating to Opera Grand Rapids to ensure our artistic excellence for the next 50 years and beyond. You’ve already made us great. With your support, there’s no limits to the height our voices can reach together. Donate today.