Opera Birmingham, the only professional opera company in Northern and Central Alabama, has entertained audiences for over 55 years. From its humble beginnings in 1955 to its 50th anniversary in 2005 and beyond, Opera Birmingham has produced world-class operatic productions and concerts that have been hailed by critics and loved by audiences.
Opera Birmingham began in 1955 as the Birmingham Civic Opera. Under the leadership of Martha Dick McClung, director of Opera Theater at Birmingham-Southern College, the company’s first production was Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, followed by Puccini’s Madama Butterfly the following year. Since then, the Opera has produced over 50 different operas, and has brought hundreds of the best operatic performers from all over the world to Birmingham’s artistic doorstep.
After merging with Southern Regional Opera in 1986, the company became Birmingham Opera Theater for its 1987 season, and finally Opera Birmingham in 1996. The current General Director, John D. Jones, has led the Opera into its fifth decade.
John D. Jones has served as General Director of Opera Birmingham since 1999. In Birmingham, he has provided many young singers the opportunity to successfully expand their repertoire, and he has also brought many internationally acclaimed artists to the city in both recital and staged performances. Sopranos Kallen Esperian, Elizabeth Futral, Renée Fleming and Angela Brown, mezzos Susan Graham and Kristine Jepson, tenor Jay Hunter Morris and baritone Nathan Gunn are among those superstars performing for Birmingham audiences during the past decade.
Prior to joining Opera Birmingham, John served as Public Relations Director for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Marketing Director for Opera Memphis and Director of Institutional Development at Virginia Opera. He also completed an administrative internship at the Santa Fe Opera. As a young singer, he appeared in Opera Memphis productions of Carmen and Tosca as well as serving as production manager for productions of Aida, La Bohème, and Ariadne auf Naxos.
His nominations have led to recognition on a national scale for Opera Birmingham, supporter Betty Healey, and corporate partner Alabama Power. Nancy Raabe of The Birmingham News named him the outstanding arts administrator in his first season and The Birmingham Business Journal tapped him as one of their "Top 40 Under 40" in 2001. A native of Memphis, John earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Memphis and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. His initial introduction to opera came when a high school music teacher suggested he volunteer to usher when the Metropolitan Opera made its annual tour stop in Memphis. He has been hooked ever since.
The Opera Birmingham Chorus, led by Chorusmaster Daniel Seigel, is an essential part of the success of Opera Birmingham. Chorus rehearsals traditionally take place on alternating weekends—Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings—beginning in the fall. For three weeks in advance of a production, rehearsals increase—taking place every Tuesday and Thursday evening, as well as Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to performing in Opera Birmingham’s fully-staged operas, the Opera Chorus also participates annually in the holiday concert, and has produced its own fundraiser, the Chorus Cabaret, which takes place in the fall.
Choral groups and college choirs are often invited to participate in Opera Birmingham productions.
Auditions are held year-round. Singers interested in auditioning for the Opera Birmingham Chorus should contact Daniel Seigel for details.