Founded in 1963, Seattle Opera is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. The company is recognized internationally for the quality of its productions and as the pre-eminent presenter of Wagner's opera in the United States.
While under the direction of its founding general director Glynn Ross, Seattle Opera's noteworthy accomplishments included presenting the 1970 world premiere of Carlisle Floyd's opera Of Mice and Men, the 1971 first fully staged production of The Who's rock opera Tommy, and the 1972 world premiere of Pasatieri's Black Widow. Artists such as Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Franco Corelli, and James McCracken regularly sang at Seattle Opera in its first decade. In 1975, Seattle Opera gave its first complete cycle of Wagner's Ring in one week, an event that had not happened in the United States since 1939 (and unique outside of New York). This Ring was produced twice each summer, once in German and once in Andrew Porter’s English singing translation, for nine consecutive seasons until 1984.
Under the leadership of General Director Speight Jenkins, who succeeded Ross in 1983, Seattle Opera created a host of landmark productions. Among them are the 1984 Ballad of Baby Doe, the 1988 Orphée et Eurydice, the 1989 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the 1990 Dialogues des Carmélites and War and Peace, the 1993 Pelléas et Mélisande with sets by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, the 1998 Tristan und Isolde, and two new productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Aidan Lang succeeded Speight Jenkins as Seattle Opera's General Director in 2014.
In August of 2003, the company inaugurated its new state-of-the-art home, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, with a new production of Wagner's Parsifal, which ranked among the company's finest artistic achievements. Outstanding presentations in McCaw Hall have included new productions built by Seattle Opera of Les contes d'Hoffmann (2005); Iphigénie en Tauride (2007), the company's first co-production with the Metropolitan Opera); a versatile production used for both I puritani (2008) and Lucia di Lammermoor (2010); Don Quichotte (2011); and Orphée et Eurydice (2012). In 2010, the company presented the world premiere of its first operatic commission, Amelia, by Daron Aric Hagen. Summer productions of Porgy and Bess in 2011 and Turandot in 2012 were runaway hits with the public. In 2012, the company's first live simulcast made the beauty and power of Madama Butterfly available to thousands for free. And the company's superlative 2013 performances of Wagner's Ring were captured aurally on state-of-the-art equipment and released, digitally and as a 14-cd set, in 2014.
Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program, founded in 1998, presented 23 operas in non-mainstage productions and fostered the careers of many singers who have gone on to notable success. As part of its commitment to fostering the music of Wagner, the company created the International Wagner Competition in 2006 and presented further competitions in 2008 and 2014.
Seattle Opera's artistic achievements have been widely enjoyed by the public—the company has attained, on an opera-by-opera basis, the highest per capita attendance of any major opera company in the U.S. In addition to serving high numbers of people through its mainstage offerings, Seattle Opera serves many more through its groundbreaking education programs, its building of sets for other companies, and its assumption of special projects, such as repairing the Monorail doors for the City of Seattle. For now and for the future, Seattle Opera remains committed to its mission of “producing musically extraordinary, theatrically compelling operas.”