For the best browsing experience, please download a modern browser. Internet Explorer 8 is outdated and may result in errors.

Seattle Opera.

Vision, Mission, & History


Seattle Opera is a cultural icon of a major world city that speaks to all communities of, and visitors to, the Puget Sound region.


By drawing our community together and by offering opera’s unique fusion of music and drama, we create life-enhancing experiences that speak deeply to people’s hearts and minds.

Company History

Seattle Opera is a member of:
The National Opera Center of America Logo.

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 is especially known for its acclaimed works in the Richard Wagner canon, creating an “international attraction” in its presentation of Wagner’s epic Ring, according to The New York Times.

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. In 2010, the company presented the world premiere of its first operatic commission, Amelia, by Daron Aric Hagen.

Aidan Lang succeeded Speight Jenkins as Seattle Opera's General Director in 2014. Lang has ushered in new programs that serve the community both on and off the mainstage, and the company commissioned and produced the world premiere of An American Dream in August 2015. Among his new community engagement initiatives have been a production of As One, an opera about a transgender woman’s search for self, at Washington Hall in Seattle’s Central District and new programs that bring performances to retirement communities and Title I schools.  

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. At the end of 2018, the company plans to move its education, artistic, and administrative programs to a new civic home next to McCaw Hall. The new building will be an accessible community resource and will allow the company to expand its education programs.

Seattle Opera has a long history of training young singers. Today’s programs involve several youth training programs—from youth opera choruses to advanced vocal ensemble and a vocal studio for those aiming to study voice in college. Past training programs included Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program, which ran from 1998 to 2013, and the International Wagner Competition, hosted in 2006, 2008, and 2014.

The company is committed to advancing the cultural life in the Pacific Northwest with performances of the highest caliber, and through innovative education and community programs that take opera far beyond the McCaw Hall stage. Each year, more than 95,000 people attend Seattle Opera performances and the company’s programs serve more than 400,000 people of all ages (including school performances, radio broadcasts, and community engagement initiatives).

Back to Top

2018/19 Season

Seattle Opera's blockbuster 2018/19 season includes The Gershwins'® Porgy And Bess®, Britten's The Turn of the Screw, Verdi's Il trovatore, a west coast premiere of the new opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and Bizet's Carmen.

Explore the 2018/19 Season

Main Photo © Lara Swimmer | Photos © Philip Newton