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Come As You Were.
The Story of Fresh Aria, The Campaign for Tomorrow’s Portland Opera.

Who were you before?
What you are about to read isn’t about us.
It isn’t even really about opera.

The story of Fresh Aria is about you, about change, about music and themes that are larger than life.
And the story of Fresh Aria is about a local fifth-grader who sits spellbound during a production of Cinderella.

About an eastern Oregon teenager who thinks twice, even three times, about smoking after seeing The Night Harry Stopped Smoking.

About the moment a promising young singer from Ashland signs her contract as a resident artist with Portland Opera Works.

About the talk on the bus back to the coast after a high school teacher brings her students to a Portland Opera dress rehearsal.

The story of Fresh Aria begins today, moves eventfully into the future and, in truth, does not end. It revolves around one of America’s most respected opera and musical theater companies; it carries the standard plot elements of need and opportunity. There are many surprises. You are the central character, and the turning point is the moment you decide to join so many others in supporting something unique, something valuable, something almost indefinable. It doesn’t matter whether you relish opera and musical theater, ignore it, live for it or couldn’t care less. The story remains the same.
Join us for the telling. Come as you were.

Who are you now?

In which a fledgling opera company goes on to great things.
It was not, if memory serves, a dark and stormy night. It was an evening in 1964 when the first performance rang out—Portland Opera had just been incorporated to bring this unique and lasting art form to our community.

People have been setting stories to music from the earliest reaches of human history. Opera takes that storytelling to another level, one that is larger than life. Since that first season, Portland Opera has created operatic entertainment of the very highest quality. Quality so high that the company is now ranked among the best of America’s more than 100 opera companies, and reviewed in opera publications around the world. The New York Times lauded the company for its willingness to “tackle adventurous repertory.”

Portland Opera has always been an innovator: one of the first two companies in the United States to open opera to new audiences with the use of supertitles. The first opera company in the world to present a subscription series of national touring Broadway musicals. This link between popular and classical art forms has done wonders to reach audiences and help them realize that opera and musical theater are the closest of relatives.

Thirty-five years, hundreds of performances, thousands of moments to remember and cherish. Artistic successes that have transformed our community. All from a simple desire: to share the power of music through performances and programs that are of the very highest quality. Today, Portland Opera is a part of the fabric of our community, from the millions of dollars that are added to the local economy, to the partnerships that bolster and offer opportunity to other important causes and organizations. And today, our ability to continue all of this achievement is in question. We are a victim of our own success…

In which the company embraces the community, and vice versa.
From the very beginning, Portland Opera has been as committed to talking with the people of our community as singing to us. That commitment has resulted in education and outreach programs that now touch 70,000 Oregon students, teachers, parents and others each year. Combined with enthusiastically received mainstage productions, Portland Opera reaches more than 300,000 Oregonians annually, entertaining us, inspiring us, changing us. Let us count (a few of) the ways:

Extraordinary mainstage productions. Five stunning, innovative opera presentations. Eight standing-room-only Best of Broadway presentations.

Portland Opera Works. Up-and-coming singers, tomorrow’s great voices, become resident artists, performing in mainstage productions and creating the core of our education and outreach touring productions. All receive invaluable training, experience and insight.

The Night Harry Stopped Smoking. An imaginative fusion of music and arts education in schools and community centers throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. In cooperation with the American Cancer Society, this program educates its audiences about the dangers of smoking.

Cinderella. A traditional opera production designed for elementary school kids, full of humor and enchanting music—with some cleverly hidden messages about treating others with kindness and compassion.

Benefit concerts. While they are on the road, Portland Opera Education and Outreach Program performers also give their time to help deserving local non-profit organizations. Recent benefit concerts raised $5,000 for Arts Alive in Roseburg (to buy musical instruments for students who can’t afford them) and $2,500 for Shelter From the Storm, a women's shelter in La Grande. Other concerts benefited Rogue Opera and the Museum at Warm Springs.

Opera interns. Portland State University professors identify young PSU singers with notable musical and career potential to receive the benefits of Portland Opera’s experience and resources. Their training is powered by weekly conferences, special classes and access to all rehearsals.

Preview presentations. Portland Opera shares the magic with more than 1,000 low-income teens in middle and high schools, and in social service agencies, corporate headquarters and community centers. The opportunity helps educators understand how opera can be a valuable tool in improving students’ literacy and widening their horizons.

Student dress rehearsals. Before each production, dress rehearsals are opened to an invited audience of students, teachers and senior citizens. Some 10,000 people each year share an opportunity to experience the power of opera at much-reduced prices. Tickets for under-served communities are often underwritten by generous sponsors.

Opera Insights. This informative and lively program offers a rare opportunity for discussions with the artists, conductors, directors, critics and writers before each performance.

Teacher guidebooks and student activity sheets. For each opera, guidebooks and activity pages are created, helping educators use each production to prepare students to meet CIM standards.

All these many efforts are woven into the whole of Portland Opera, and into the story of Fresh Aria.


In which a critical need hides in the glow of success.
True enough, most opera companies in the country would give their collective eyeteeth plus their finest soprano to be in our position. Portland Opera has a strong subscription base and a steadily growing local and national audience. We have one of the highest earned-to-unearned income ratios of any company in America, along with a wide range of strategic partners, an exceptionally strong Board and staff, the respect and support of business, political and community leaders, and a balanced budget.

All of this achievement is founded in Portland Opera’s core values of artistic integrity and excellence, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration. This remarkable opera company has done something rare in this country: survive and grow mainly on ticket sales. But the dark side of this is that the base of contributed and endowed support is unusually low. It’s great news that the community recognizes and enjoys our productions—but it’s bad news that Portland Opera is made vulnerable by a lopsided ratio of earned income to contributed and endowed income. The time has come to remedy that—for Portland Opera to survive and thrive in this era of home entertainment centers and the web and instant access to worldwide events, we must make lasting connections with people and transform ourselves into a self-sustaining cultural power in our community.

Simply put, greater artistic innovation, more educational outreach and increased ability to serve all of the community are at risk without increased philanthropic support.

In which the opera and its volunteers put forth a bold solution.
And so we come to the heart of our tale: Fresh Aria, the campaign for tomorrow’s Portland Opera. This groundbreaking five-year plan has as its goal nothing less than the transformation of your Portland Opera into a fully self-sustaining arts organization—perhaps the very first of its kind in the nation. Countless hours of planning and effort on the part of Opera staff, national arts leaders and our much-appreciated board volunteers have resulted in a new direction, a new vision that will protect both our artistic and educational missions and ensure the future of innovative, exceptional opera and musical theater in our community.

Over the next few years we will build on the wonderful early commitment of several generous lead donors. We will raise some $17 million by 2004. We will create a healthy balance between earned and contributed income. We will eliminate accumulated deficit. We will take the vital next steps in the evolution of Portland Opera.

Of the $17 million we will raise, $10 million will be earmarked for endowment, the foundation from which we launch our future. A strong endowment means both power to offer programs of the highest quality and freedom to experiment and to innovate.

The other $7 million will go to the Sustainable Opera Initiative, designed to end our over-reliance on the box office. The initiative will build a steady funding stream, eliminate debt, secure support for capital expenditures and enhance operations.

Easy words to write—much harder to make them real. The success of Fresh Aria will take so many things: hundreds of people, thousands of hours, heartfelt commitment and inspiring generosity—and yet, Fresh Aria turns upon just one quiet decision to help.


In which you become the author of the story.
This where the brochure ends and the story begins. Why have so many of us committed ourselves to Fresh Aria, to the sustainable opera initiative, to the future of opera and musical theater in our community? Because the need is great and the time is right.

But we can’t do it without you. We need you to stand with us as a partner and a financial contributor. We need you to journey with us into a new era in opera—connected with new audiences, new art forms, new technology. With your help, Fresh Aria is the sound of the future.

As you can guess, Portland Opera has several ways of permanently and prominently recognizing your generosity at many levels, beginning with gifts of $10,000. As examples: A named endowment gift of $2 million to the Artistic Initiative Fund, to be used at the recommendation of Executive Director Robert Bailey, will generate up to $100,000 annually to support new works, innovative productions of traditional works and productions of important, lesser-known works. A named endowment gift of $1 million will generate up to $50,000 annually for the support of the artists of the Portland Opera. A named endowment gift of $1 million will generate up to $50,000 annually for the support of the education and outreach activities of the company. Gifts of $5,000 to $50,000 may be added to the power of our pooled fund. Sponsorships and co-sponsorships are available for productions, special events, single performances and more. The named giving opportunities are too numerous to detail in this brochure—we ask that you discuss your interests and objectives with our development staff.

And, with that, you have become the author of our story. And its hero. What will the future hold for Fresh Aria and Portland Opera? Will opera and musical theater continue to have a powerful presence in our community? Will great performances continue to thrill growing audiences? Will the fifth-grader and the young singer and the high school teacher still have their moments of discovery and joy?

You tell us.