Decked out in suits and gowns, 150 opera lovers kicked off Opera Maine’s summer season with a gala June 7 at Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, raising $33,550 to support the nonprofit and its summer production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

“Opera is the ultimate art form, but it’s an expensive one,” said board President Arlene Schwind.

Ticket sales cover about half the opera company’s expenses, with community support covering the other half. Community support certainly isn’t just financial. This summer, 25 artists – singers, costume designers, stage managers and directors – will spend several weeks living with local host families. Studio artists were selected from more than 350 applicants.

“The singers we select are pretty incredible,” said artistic director Dona D. Vaughn. “Our Young Artists rock, I’ve got to tell you.”

“This program made, literally, my life,” said Hidenori Inoue, a bass singer from Japan who was part of the Young Artists Program in 2017 and is booked with operas through next year. “Your donation creates our future.”

“When we think about the history of opera in Maine, it’s astounding that we’re coming up on our 25-year anniversary,” said Bonnie Riddle, who co-founded Port Opera, which was renamed Opera Maine last year. “We never quit on the quality when we were running on a shoestring in the early years. Not all people just want to listen to music, they want to watch the acting and the dancing. And the sets are always gorgeous.”

A quarter-century later, opera is not only still alive in Maine but thriving and evolving.

“It’s been a really busy, exciting year,” said Executive Director Caroline Musica Koelker, outlining the nonprofit’s growing number of community partnerships, many of which focus on making opera more accessible. For example, thanks to a grant from Macy’s and other contributors to a new Opera for All program, 150 tickets to “The Marriage of Figaro” will be given to the public through community organizations serving youth, veterans, immigrants and individuals with disabilities.

“The Marriage of Figaro,” a comical satire, will be performed July 25 and 27 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, in Italian but with English subtitles.

Opera Maine is also producing a 90-minute contemporary opera in English with performances at four historic theaters around the state. Jake Heggie’s “Three Decembers” will be performed July 11 at St. Lawrence Arts, Portland; July 13 at Deertrees Theatre, Harrison; July 15 at The Temple in Ocean Park; and July 16 at Camden Opera House.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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