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Opera North Celebrates Its' 40th Anniversary

Dec 13, 2021 01:02PM ● By Virginia Dean

La Bohème at Blow-Me-Down Farm, July 2021

Forty years ago, the successful mission of Louis Burkot, the then director of the Dartmouth Glee Club, to incorporate operatic experience for his students, led to the establishment of one of the Upper Valley’s most well-known and respected professional music companies. In fact, it is the only full-time professional opera company in the tri-state area of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Burkot worked closely with David Strohmier, founder of the Parish Players, a community theater in Thetford, VT. After Strohmier’s departure in 1987, Burkot became artistic director of the company and began moving Opera North toward a more serious operatic repertoire.

Now, as it enters its 40th year, Burkot is still part of the team that makes up  Opera North, located in Lebanon, NH. Continuing as Artistic Director, Burkot shares the success of the musical company with Maria Laskaris, Development Director, and Evans Haile, General Director. In 2015, Haile brought his unparalleled personal experience as a producer of musical theater and as a concert pianist and impresario. In 2017, the National Park Service selected Opera North from among other organizations to partner in the creation of a park for the arts at Blow-Me-Down Farm, a 46-acre property deeded to the adjacent Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in the early 2000s.

That same year, Opera North tested the concept of using the Farm as a performance venue, hosting a bluegrass concert on the lawn overlooking the Connecticut River. In 2018, the company presented a full realized performance in four sold-out performances under a circus tent at Blow-Me-Down Farm in Cornish, NH. The event blended arias and aerialists as singers from Opera North summer productions alternated with circus acts from Circus Smirkus, the Big Apple Circus, and Cirque de Soleil.

“We’ve created a space where people can picnic and see a live performance in this beautiful, historic setting,” said Haile. “One of the pleasures of celebrating our 40th anniversary is to see how Opera North has grown and opened its doors to a wider audience. As one of the founders of the company, it has been very special to have Louis as a partner. And, we all couldn’t be more excited about going into our 40th year and having him still working with us.”

Considered by many to be a cornerstone of the arts community in the Upper Valley, Opera North presents an annual summer season of three fully staged and orchestrated productions: a traditional opera, a piece of classical music theater, and an American opera.

This past summer, every performance was sold out, said Haile.

“We’re looking forward to building on that as we create a season that is family-friendly, fun, and engaging for everyone,” he said.

The company’s artistic assets include conductors, directors, opera and musical theater singers, and creative teams whose work has garnered national and international acclaim, Haile related. The orchestra, an ensemble of 30-36 players, comprises New England’s freelance orchestral musicians.

The 2022 season will be announced the second week of December, and subscription sales will take place in a couple of weeks, he added.

Opera North is supported by a dedicated staff, board of trustees, and volunteer base, who work tirelessly to ensure the company’s artistic excellence and financial stability. The company is active throughout the year with special events and programming. The company’s Education and Outreach Program has provided free performances to thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students across the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont.

For further information, contact or 603-448-4141. The Opera House is located at 20 West Park Street in Lebanon, NH 03766. The business office is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

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