Jack Riddle, one of the founders of PORTopera, will go to New York City later this month to receive a National Opera Trustee Recognition Award from OPERA America, a national service organization.

The South Portland resident is one of four recipients of the national honor.

“I’m there with Houston; Colorado; Dayton, Ohio; and then little old Portland, Maine,” said Riddle, who helped start the local opera company in 1994. “It’s nice to have the individual recognition, but it’s also terrific for the city. We’re suddenly tossed into the national melting pot of big-time opera. It gets us out there.”

Riddle will receive the award at a private dinner in Manhattan on Feb. 25.

The award recognizes “exemplary leadership, generosity and audience-building efforts.”

Riddle and PORTopera join Lynn Wyatt of Houston Grand Opera, Eleanor Caulkins of Opera Colorado and Jackie Lockwood of Dayton Opera.

“The National Opera Trustee Recognition Award affords the entire opera community with an opportunity to recognize and learn from those who have been so generous in their passion for the art form, vision and support of their opera companies,” Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of Opera America, said in a prepared statement.

Riddle was among a group of visionaries who began PORTopera, known then as Portland Opera Repertory Theatre. Its goal was producing high-quality opera in Maine.

The company produces one mainstage production each summer at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, hiring singers from around the country to come to Maine to fill the roles. It also has created a platform for emerging singers from Maine to perform.

Riddle, a former president of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, was instrumental in transforming the vision into reality because of his contacts within the community and the music world. He remains active with the company behind the scenes, raising money and encouraging audience development.

Riddle said he was “flabbergasted” when he learned that he had won the award. Dona D. Vaughn, PORTopera’s artistic director, called him with the news.

He intends to use the opportunity in New York to promote PORTopera within the national opera community and to build support for his next vision. He wants PORTopera to evolve into an opera festival similar to Glimmerglass in upstate New York.

“I’ll be working the room,” Riddle said. “I want people to take a look at us. I want people to think about us a little more and come up to Maine to take a look. We have one of the finest venues for opera in the country in Merrill Auditorium.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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