Opera Conference

OPERA America’s annual Opera Conference is the largest assembly of opera administrators, artists, trustees, and associates in the world.

Hosted by one of our Professional Company Members, hundreds of stakeholders convene in a different location each spring for discussions, networking, and performances that move opera forward.

May 10–27, 2021

Opera Conference 2021 brings the opera field together virtually this spring to address key opportunities before us as we rebuild the industry.

Sessions will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays over the course of three weeks in May. Specific topics and dates are listed below. 

Opera administrators, artists, educators, trustees, and other stakeholders are invited to register for Opera Conference 2021 in order to access live sessions. Registration includes access to videos of the sessions following the live streams. See member and non-member rates.

Register Today

OPERA America members can log in to access member rates.

Week 1: Artists at the Center 

Some of the most stunning performance innovations during the pandemic were conceived, produced, and distributed by artists working independently. They displayed technical and entrepreneurial skills and compelling artistic visions. Their leadership and success challenge the inherited assumption that opera companies are the artistic gatekeepers of the art form. Some companies had begun to increase the agency of artists before the onset of COVID-19, but more companies are now developing strategies that put artists at the center of their work. Artists and producers will discuss the dynamics and potential of rebalanced relationships.

  • Opening Session and Lead Presentation
    Monday, May 10, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT
    Lawrence Brownlee, tenor; artistic advisor, Opera Philadelphia

    Opening greeting from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

    Additional remarks by Annie Burridge, general director, Austin Opera, and vice-chair, OPERA America; Timothy O'Leary, general director, Washington National Opera, and board chair, OPERA America; Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO, OPERA America; and Tony Shivers, director of government affairs, OPERA America

  • Panel Discussion and Breakout Sessions
    Wednesday, May 12, 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT
    Ed Yim (moderator), senior vice president and chief content officer, WQXR
    Lawrence Brownlee, tenor; artistic advisor, Opera Philadelphia
    Willo Carey, board member, Opera Philadelphia
    Elizabeth Cline, executive director, The Industry
    Patricia Garza, director of programs and engagement, Network of Ensemble Theaters
    Yuval Sharon, artistic director, The Industry and Michigan Opera Theatre
    Godfrey L. Simmons Jr., artistic director, HartBeat Ensemble
    Karen Slack, soprano; artistic advisor, Portland Opera
    James Wilson, cellist, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
    Breakout session case studies: Cincinnati Opera, Hartbeat Ensemble, The Industry, Opera Philadelphia, and Portland Opera

  • Happy Hour and Exhibitor Meet-Ups
    Thursday, May 13, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EDT
    Get to know your colleagues in this social networking event. Rotate from room to room and make new friends along the way. The happy hour is made possible by our sponsors: Threshold Acoustics, Fisher Dachs Associates, Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates, and Schuler Shook.

Week 2: The Politics of Art 

Social and political changes have a far-reaching impact on every aspect of the world around us. Opera companies have begun to implement strategies to achieve racial justice and reduce barriers to participation in the art form among artists, audiences, staff, and board members. While companies have become more engaged cultural citizens, is it time for them to emerge as cultural activists around issues that strengthen social cohesion and vibrant communities? Panelists from within and outside the field will explore the dimension of our civic responsibility.

  • Lead Presentation
    Monday, May 17, 2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
    Dr. Christia Mercer, Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University

  • Panel Discussion and Breakout Sessions
    Wednesday, May 19, 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT
    Dr. Antonio Cuyler (moderator), director of the M.A. program and associate professor of arts administration, Florida State University
    Torrie Allen, president and CEO, Arts Midwest
    Teresa Eyring, executive director, Theatre Communications Group
    John Hoomes
    , CEO and artistic director, Nashville Opera
    Cerise Jacobs
    , executive producer, White Snake Projects
    Dave Ragland, composer
    Kimberly Reed, film director and producer; librettist
    Reed Smith, general director, Anchorage Opera
    Tazewell Thompson, director, playwright, librettist; director of opera studies, Manhattan School of Music
    Breakout session case studies: Anchorage Opera on As One, The Glimmerglass Festival on Blue, Long Beach Opera on The Central Park Five, Nashville Opera on One Vote Won, Opera Parallèle on Harvey Milk, and White Snake Projects on Death by Life

Week 3: Achieving a New Normal

Companies are living with questions about the shape of future seasons. What will be the balance between in-theater productions and casual outdoor events? How will digital programming be balanced with live performances? Can the new level of accessibility achieved during the pandemic be preserved? But is it possible to arrive at a “new normal” if we simply return to old department structures and modes of operation? Experts will discuss the ways COVID-19 has cut across existing organizational silos and how new operating strategies will be needed to achieve new goals for the field.

  • Lead Presentation
    Monday, May 24, 2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT
    Julian Chender, manager, Accenture; fellow, Kates Kesler Organization Consulting

  • Panel Discussion and Breakout Sessions 
    Wednesday, May 26, 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT
    Lynette Turner (moderator), senior associate, AMS Planning and Research
    Lee Bynum, vice president of impact, Minnesota Opera
    Julian Chender, manager, Accenture; fellow, Kates Kesler Organization Consulting
    Khori Dastoor, general director, Opera San Jose  
    David Devan, general director and president, Opera Philadelphia
    Rebekah Diaz, manager of community engagement and IDEA initiatives, Pittsburgh Opera
    Barry Edelstein, Erna Finci Viterbi artistic director, The Old Globe
    Jaime Martino, executive director, Tapestry Opera
    Douglas McLennan, founder and editor, ArtsJournal 
    Gillian Moran, board president, Opera San José
    Breakout session case studies: Minnesota Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Opera San José, Pittsburgh Opera, and Tapestry Opera.

  • Closing Session
    Thursday, May 27, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT

Additional speakers, sessions, and programming may be added to this schedule in the future; details will be announced.

Registration Rates
Opera administrators, artists, educators, trustees, and other stakeholders are invited to register for Opera Conference 2021 in order to access live sessions. OPERA America individual members and the staff of OPERA America organizational members enjoy discounted rates.

  Members Non-Members
Organization Staff $48 $99
Individuals $48 $99
Artists $18 $24

Register Today

OPERA America members can log in to access member rates.

Opera Conference 2021 is sponsored by:


Conference Experience

When you attend the Opera Conference, you join colleagues, peers, and associates from across North America with a shared dedication to advancing the art form and industry.

  • Gain insights from inside and outside the field at inspiring plenary sessions.
  • Learn practical tips in breakout sessions to expand your on-the-job skill sets.
  • Reconnect with colleagues and expand your professional network to advance your career.
  • Enjoy performances of new and traditional works produced by the conference’s host company.
Sponsors and Exhibitors

We invite businesses, civic institutions, arts organizations, universities, and foundations to join as partners in presenting the annual conference. By sponsoring conference activities or hosting a table in the communal exhibit hall, you can enhance your experience with:

  • Access: Take advantage of networking opportunities with over 650 opera professionals and decision-makers.
  • Promotion: Receive customized recognition packages to showcase your brand and connect with attendees.
  • Appreciation: Earn admiration from the field by contributing to the sector’s most valuable annual convening.

To learn about becoming a sponsor or exhibitor, download the Sponsorship Prospectus and contact us at or 646.699.5237.