City Lyric Opera Shares Why Opera should be Accessible to Everyone


Tell me about the organization and a little bit about what you do.

City Lyric Opera, a member of Nonprofit New York, provides a one-of-a-kind experience for audience members by welcoming them to the operatic art form without judgment, expectation, or financial burden. We provide opportunities for NYC artists and NYC audiences to learn grow and connect through music. We are built on four pillars that we believe are crucial to incorporate into our community; we champion the unheard voices within opera, we are a community for New York City artist, we are redefining opera, and we make opera affordable and accessible for everyone.

Unheard Voices
As a female founded and led organization, CLO prioritizes providing opportunities to all artists through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion creating a home for the unheard voices within the operatic community. This focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion not only betters the quality of our art, creating a more impactful production. Both our artists and our audiences benefit by engaging in the art from new and inspired perspectives influenced by diverse backgrounds.

The creation of CLO was inspired by the many talented artists of New York City. We believe there are few places where true freedom is found in exploring one’s art and we pride ourselves in having created a community for artists to come together, explore their characters, expand their craft, and innovate as well as be provided compensation for their hard work during our mainstage productions.

Redefining Opera
Opera is often perceived as irrelevant and dated. We are working to change this stereotype by redefining the way our society views opera and classical music as a whole. Great opera can take audience members to the very depths of human emotion even if written and conceived hundreds of years ago. We take a step back, look at our world, and ask ourselves, “Why does this piece matter right now?” It’s through this lens, that we are able to connect with audiences on a deeper level and showcase new and often surprising points of view within classic works.

Affordable Opera
Opera in its earliest form was for everyone, much like attending a movie or a sporting event. We think it is imperative to change the narrative that opera is only for the elite and want to create opera that is inclusive of all people no matter their socio-economic background. That is why we provide low ticket prices to encourage people of all incomes to enjoy and experience opera.

How many are on your team?

Four staff, but any given production may have 15-40 people involved.

Servicing how many of the population?

Last year we provided paid & learning opportunities for 73 NYC artists and reached over 400 NYC audience members. We do this through three programs; Salons, WorkshOpera, and our Mainstage.

WorkshOperas are four hour workshops where artists come together and explore traditional opera characters in an effort to better inform their work in the future. This program is free to our singers, and we are proud to be able to invest in our New York City artists in this way. WorkshOpera is process-based, not product-based, so it is not open to the public and does not culminate in a performance.

City Lyric Opera supports New York City audiences by hosting multiple Salons throughout the season. These events are informal and welcome anyone who wishes to enjoy or explore classical music. We present thought provoking pieces paired with conversations that engage and educate the audience on the importance of the work and its relevance today. Whether you’re a seasoned opera goer, or a novice in the classical realm this event presents music in bite-sized pieces that make for an enjoyable and inspirational experience.

The mainstage production is where our artist-based and audience-based programming meet. These productions bring innovative and challenging storytelling together with New York City’s upcoming opera singers and engaged and open audiences. We strongly believe in compensating the artists who work with us because of their hard work to produce these compelling stories. CLO believes it is important that our performances not only tell a story, but also say something worthwhile in a way that is impactful within our community.

Where do you see your organization in the next five years or ten years? What is your blue sky goal?

Our dream in the next 5-10 years is to have an ecosystem of learning and understanding between audiences and artists that is inviting people from various cultures, economic backgrounds, ethnicities, race, experience with classical music and create safe spaces and programs to learn, connect and grow as humans. We believe the arts (and opera!) are important to our community because music allows people to understand others in a way that transcends what one might read in a book or see from afar. Through breaking the barriers and stigma of opera, we then contribute to a more equitable and empathetic society.

In order to grow and see your mission fulfilled, what do you need?

We need resources, exposure, time, and incredible partners and people to help us develop and grow into a thriving community! As a young arts nonprofit we are primarily funded through individual donors. This is incredible and we are so grateful for our supporters! However, we need more supporters and we need grant funding as well as corporate funding in order to be able to grow with the demand we have for accessibility to our NYC audiences. We need exposure because, while we have worked hard to create an excellent service to our community, we want to broaden our reach and expand our audience. We have faith that all of this will come with time and the right people to help with come along the way!

What are you currently working on that you want us to mention to our membership?

We are currently getting ready to kick off our fourth season with our 2019-2020 Season Opening on September 10 at Steinway Hall! We are thrilled to share the success of last year and the season ahead. This season we have two mainstage productions-- Menotti's The Medium in October and Humperdink's Hansel & Gretel in May. We will have five salons over the course of the season as well as a WorkshOpera summer intensive in June. For tickets, details, and a full schedule check us out at!