Opera Ontario. Opera company that grew out of Opera Hamilton in 1995, comprising a partnership between that company and its offshoot, Kitchener-Waterloo Opera, in which three Hamilton performances were given of each of its opera productions and two of Popera concerts, with one repeat of each in Kitchener. Opera Ontario's first production in Kitchener was a Popera concert 26 Jan 1996. This was followed by The Magic Flute in May 1996, which was played three times at Hamilton Place under the name Opera Hamilton, then once at Kitchener's Centre in the Square under the Kitchener-Waterloo Opera banner. Three productions (two operas and one Popera concert) were staged the following year under the separate and joint company names, establishing the pattern for subsequent years.
Opera Ontario's joint 1996-7 season was Cosi Fan Tutti, a Popera concert, and Carmen. Un Ballo in Maschera was also performed Sep-Oct 1996 in Hamilton only, and La Bohème (a New York City Opera touring production) was shown in Kitchener. The New York touring productions were thereafter dropped. By 1997-8, all Opera Ontario productions (Don Giovanni, Die Fledermaus, Popera, and Rigoletto) were joint Hamilton-Kitchener efforts. The collaborative formula was still in operation in 2007.
Plans to tour to other cities in southern Ontario did not materialize. Other collaborative efforts in which Opera Ontario has participated include Opera Conference 2002 and Opera Festival 2004.
Opera Ontario is devoted to the development of Canadian singers. Its concentration is on Italian, French and some German opera, with only rare forays into post-1910 waters (eg Poulenc's La Voix humaine in 2004) or opera sung in English (eg US composer Carlisle Floyd's Susannah in 1999). The company's only Canadian production and only commission to date is Tomas Dusatko's Tyendinaga, scheduled for completion by 2008.
The company had a budget of $2.6 million in 1996-7, rising to $2.8 million in 1997-8 and to about $3 million by 2004-5, when it had 4,500 subscribers. Grants from the Ontario Arts Council have varied from $59,000 in 2002 to $110,000 in 2004.
Daniel Lipton has been the principal conductor and music director. Guest conductors have included Raffi Armenian. Kenneth Freeman was general director of Opera Hamilton 1994-5 and Opera Ontario 1995-2004; he was succeeded by David Speers. Opera Ontario presentations use members of the Hamilton Philharmonic and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony orchestras.