In 2005, a group of Rochester-area opera lovers and business people informally came together to throw a party which combined presenting classic, professional opera within a festive, social atmosphere. The inaugural event was such a success, that Empire State Lyric Theatre, a new and innovative opera company was born. Within just a few years, Empire State Lyric Theatre evolved into Western New York’s leading presenter of professional opera and led the way in attracting new audiences to an old art form.
In addition to presenting operas in concert in a variety of venues, ESLT presented “Opera at the Arena” part of an on-going partnership with the famed Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the first opera staged at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. Audiences ate popcorn and cotton candy and were in thrall of the beautiful music of “I Pagliacci.” With “Opera Rocks,” ESLT presented for the first time an evening of opera and musical theater favorites outdoors, pool-side. And in 2012, ESLT kicked off the first annual Chamber Opera Festival, a week-long program of opera for all ages, from a gala performance of Rossini’s “La cambiale di matrimonio” in one venue, to a kids’ opera at Rochester’s famous National Museum of Play and opera one-acts at yet a third venue. The chamber opera tradition continued with festivals in 2013 and 2014, featuring performances by youth ensembles and professional singers, at various venues around Rochester.
Part of ESLT’s mission from the beginning was to offer talented regional vocalists opportunities to perform with world-class professionals, and hone their craft. The list of opportunities has grown and now includes master classes, children’s ensembles, high school and adult vocal competitions, and a summer high school opera and musical theater camp in partnership with Nazareth College’s Department of Music. In 2012, ESLT joined forces with Rochester Vocal Arts Collaborative, and ultimately became Rochester Lyric Opera (RLO), expanding its mission still further and rooting itself with a new name in its hometown, a city with a rich and remarkable legacy of music performance and education.