WEST PALM BEACH — Palm Beach Opera has received a gift of $6 million from a local foundation, the largest donation in the opera company’s 61-year history.
The gift, announced last week, will allow Palm Beach Opera to move forward with renovations on its new home in the artsy Northwood section of West Palm Beach. The company announced in September it had bought an 18,000-square-foot space at 425 24th St. that it planned to use for a rehearsal space, production storage and artist training, as well as new programming and community engagement outreach.
The Northwood space is currently occupied by the Center for Creative Education, an arts-centered educational nonprofit that is relocating to a new campus near 45th Street that is expected to open this fall. CCE has launched a $20 million capital campaign to complete its construction.
The $6 million for Palm Beach Opera also will help pay for three mainstage productions and its Artist Apprentice program. The company’s current rehearsal space is on Florida Avenue off Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach, and its offices just west of there on South Australian Avenue.
“We are immensely grateful for this extraordinary, record-breaking support and commitment to Palm Beach Opera,” General Director David Walker said in a prepared statement. The foundation has asked that its identity be kept confidential at this time, but Palm Beach Opera notes that the donor will be naming the company’s new home when it is complete.
The gift — roughly equivalent to the troupe’s annual operating budget — is spread out over three years, annually funding one mainstage production and the Apprentice Artist program, which offers 10 recent graduates of conservatory vocal programs a five-month residency with the opera company.
“This transformative gift will … ensure that world-class opera will continue to thrive in our community for years to come,” Palm Beach Opera Board Chairman David Genser said in a prepared statement.
Palm Beach Opera has hired the Minneapolis-based theatrical design firm of Schuler Shook to bring the project to fruition. The company expects to begin moving into the renovated building this fall.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the company announced its 61st season of mainstage productions, which will contain three operas, all performed at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
First up is one of the world’s favorite operas, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, on Jan. 20-22. This 1904 opera, set in Japan, tells the story of the teenage geisha Cio-Cio San and the American naval man who betrays her. No casting has yet been announced for the season.
The second production, set for Feb. 24-26, is Mozart’s 1790 comedy Così fan Tutte, his final collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. The story, which was Da Ponte’s own and not based on a previously extant work of literature, concerns a bet made by a cynical “old philosopher” who tells two young men their beloveds will not remain faithful to them, given the chance. They take him up on the offer, with disquieting results.
The season ends March 24-26 with a company premiere, Verdi’s Falstaff, the final opera in the Italian composer’s career, premiered in 1893 when Verdi was 80. It is essentially a setting of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, with librettist Arrigo Boito adding some material from other Shakespeare plays featuring the disreputable old knight Sir John Falstaff. The sparkling score is a miracle of late-life creativity, and only the second comic opera Verdi ever composed.
In the past two seasons, Walker inaugurated a Discovery Series with one-night semi-staged operas featuring the company’s young artists. The series began in March 2021 with Bellini’s I Capuletti e I Montecchi, and in December, the company presented Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
The company has not yet announced a Discovery Series opera for the new season.
For more information, visit Palm Beach Opera’s website at pbopera.org.