A Message from Executive Director, Emilee Syrewicze

Watch Emilee’s video message.

Dear Opera GR Patrons,

The Board of Directors is prioritizing the safety of the OGR staff, patrons and audience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff is working remotely while sheltering-in-place until April 13. We are fortunate that technology allows us to conduct normal operations and run a box office from our homes, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

We are rescheduling our spring events and Productions. 

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Opera Grand Rapids Transforms Scalia/Ginsburg into Virtual Performance

In Face of Global Pandemic, Opera Grand Rapids Transforms Scalia/Ginsburg into Virtual Performance

The Show Will Go On: Grand Rapids Company One of First in World to Stage Comic Opera

Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 13, 2020 – While arts organizations around the country canceled performances and closed their doors, Opera Grand Rapids found a way to bring a performance safely to its community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than risk gathering a large audience in a confined space, the company received unprecedented permission from composer and librettist Derrick Wang to record and share the performance of Scalia/Ginsburg with ticket holders. The cast will perform in front of a very small audience at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center, where the production will be recorded by Aria Show Technology and then virtually broadcast to ticket holders.

Read the full press release

Opera Grand Rapids Announces 2019-2020 Season

For its 52nd Season of great operatic spectacles, Opera Grand Rapids is excited to bring to West Michigan two stunning performances: Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado and Puccini’s Turandot. 

“We are thrilled to bring to life two iconic works for our Grand Rapids audiences for the up-coming season. By pairing Gilbert & Sullivan’s beloved satire The Mikado with Puccini’s final opera Turandot, Opera Grand Rapids offers two truly contrasting stories, continuing the company’s long-standing reputation for providing unique musical experiences to the community.”

– James Meena, Artistic Director at Opera Grand Rapids

Opera Grand Rapids will open the 2019-20 performance season with The Mikado, at St. Cecilia Music Center on November 1-2, 2019. The production will feature the robust voice and excellent comedic timing of opera “buffo” role expert Steven Condy, under the stage direction of rising star Eve Summer who has been described as having “a gift for translating classical symbolism into familiar detail.

Bookending the performance season, Opera Grand Rapids will present a fully-staged, traditional telling of Puccini’s deathbed masterpiece, Turandot, on May 1-2, 2020 at DeVos Performance Hall. Known for her “voice of true substance,” soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra will make her debut with the company as the legendary ice princess, Turandot.

Read the full press release here.

Sean Panikkar Profiled on GRMag.com

An Evening with Sean Panikkar

February 7  |  7:30 PM
Betty Van Andel Opera Center

Get tickets here.

Sean Panikkar, star of Opera Grand Rapids upcoming Opera Unlimited recital, was recently profiled on GRMag.com. Read the full article below or on GRMag.com.


By John Kissane
Published on GRMag.com, January 3, 2019

Sean Panikkar treats his body well. Even when on the road, he makes time for running and lifting weights. He cooks his own food. Restaurant fare tends to be unhealthy and, besides, you never know who made it; it’s not worth the risk of getting sick.

After all, he’s an opera singer

He could rehearse three weeks or more for a show. He doesn’t want to put in that time only to miss a performance due to the common cold. Besides, performances pay. Rehearsals don’t.

Panikkar, the son of Sri Lankan immigrants, grew up in small-town Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. His parents made sure he studied music, not because they thought he would pursue it – “they never dreamed that I would,” he said—but because music is vital to a well-rounded education. He took up the violin at three years old and the piano at six. And he began to sing.

In middle school, music teachers told him that not only was he talented, but that he could make a career in music. But that wasn’t his dream. What was? “Owning a construction company. Building design fascinated me,” he said.

He was accepted into the University of Michigan’s engineering program. Hearing that the school offered a fine music program, he applied to that as well – and was accepted. There, he met a beautiful young woman who played piano and trumpet. Too shy to ask her out, he did the next best thing; he asked her to accompany him as he sang. It worked; he later married her.

As he learned to sing, he also learned to hear music. Bloomsburg hadn’t been a hotbed of opera obsessives. “I was in an opera before I saw an opera,” he said. Now, he dived into the form, finding through attending performances that opera was visual, visceral and moving. At a performance of “La Boheme,” he wept.

His interest in engineering dissipated. He decided to give music his all, and his all has led him to world-renowned stages; to incredible colleagues and teachers; and to what is perhaps more impressive than anything to his friends and family: the watchful gaze of Howard Stern and his fellow judges on “America’s Got Talent.”

A YouTube clip shows Panikkar, handsome and serious in a formal shirt and jacket, surrounded by two similarly-attired young men. “Unchained Melody” is the song. If the lighting and smoke don’t tip into schmaltziness, the instrumentation does; still, the power of the three classically-trained voices is undeniable, and the end result is thrilling.

In the classical world, this kind of performance can be frowned upon, as if it’s slumming. But Panikkar points out that, for many people in smaller towns, this may be their only way to encounter a classically-trained voice. And for some, it may be a gateway.

There are fewer gateways than there used to be. While there are still parents encouraging—or enforcing—musical education, school music programs are an easy-to-cut line item in badly-strained budgets. And in a world in which people frantically refresh apps, there are fewer opportunities to sit still and encounter something deep and beautiful.

Grand Rapids will host one of those opportunities on Thursday, Feb.7 at 7:30 p.m. At the Betty Van Andel Opera Center, Panikkar will sing a solo selection, accompanied by Rohan De Silva, a world-class pianist who has previously played with, among others, Itzhak Perlman.

“Teachers always tell you, ‘sing with your own voice,’” he said. “But some people don’t.” They try to emulate the singers they love. But everyone has different bodies, and thus different instruments. Imperfect instruments, at times, which he loves; in those imperfections, he can hear the beautiful moment in which a singer’s passion has carried him or her away.

Those who wish to hear Panikkar’s own passion, sung in a voice inarguably his own, are encouraged to set down their phones, step up into the venue and lose themselves to the music.

Tickets for the performance are available through Opera Grand Rapids.

*Photo by Kristina Sherk


2018-2019 Season Kick-Off Party at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center

Friday, September 28, 2018
Betty Van Andel Opera Center
6:00 PM
Tickets $20

Opera Grand Rapids 2018-2019 season kicks off with a party on September 28, providing a chance for opera lovers and newcomers to meet artists they normally only get to see on stage. Celebrate the kick off of the 2018-2019 Season with heavy hors d’oeuveres, cash-bar, and fabulous vocal entertainment by talented local singers performing your favorite arias and show tunes.

Spin the “Aria Carnival Wheel” or take a chance in our Silent Auction while you mingle with other members of the Opera Grand Rapids family. Call Development Director, Angela Freier, to purchase tickets at 616-451-2741 ext 106.