In 1982, Louis Burkot, the new glee club director and voice teacher at Dartmouth College, was looking for an avenue for his students to gain operatic stage experience. He asked David Strohmier who directed the Parish Players, in Thetford, Vermont, to direct his students and community singers in a program of opera scenes. The success of that performance led to subsequent collaborations, and by 1984, Opera North formally established itself as an organization committed to professional standards.
With the addition of a board of trustees drawn from the local community and delighted by the chance to hear opera in the Upper Valley the Opera North grew steadily in reputation and audience, becoming a true regional opera company attracting patrons from beyond northern New England and establishing the Resident Artist Program to fulfill the founder’s vision
In the late 1980s, Florence Klausner and Ron Luchsinger joined Artistic Director Louis Burkot as Executive Producer and Director of Productions, respectively. This triumvirate was instrumental in taking Opera North to the next stage.
By the early 1990s, Opera North had thrown itself headlong into grand opera. Meanwhile, interest in Opera North’s Resident Artist Program began to spread selecting promising young singers from auditions held in more than a dozen cities around the country, to participate in extensive training over the summer season. Much of Opera North’s national reputation is due to the rigorous program.
Around this time, Opera North’s Education & Outreach program began to take shape, introducing new audiences to opera through visits to local schools, “lunch & learn” talks for local employers, and casual presentations at private homes,
In 1996, Patricia Compton joined Opera North as its first Executive Director, a position she held until her retirement in 2006. In tandem with Opera North’s growth its production venue, the Lebanon Opera House, was renovated in 1999, emerging as an important showcase for regional arts.
In 2009, Pamela A. Pantos joined Opera North as Executive Director, bringing both experience as an opera singer and business exectuive (with W.R. Grace and Company in Boston) to lead the company for the next six seasons. In 2010, Opera North put a new strategic plan into place to foster growth for the company.
In 2015, Evans Haile, came on board as General Director, bringing unparalleled experience as a producer of musical theatre and as a concert pianist and impresario to Opera North. In 2017, the National Park Service selected Opera North from among other organizations to partner in the creation of a park for the arts at Blow-Me-Down Farm, a 46-acre property deeded to the adjacent Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in the early 2000s. In July 2017, Opera North tested the concept of using the Farm as a performance venue, hosting a bluegrass concert on the lawn overlooking the Connecticut River. In July 2018, the company presented a fully-realized performance, Singers & Swingers, in four sold-out performances under a circus tent at Blow-Me-Down Farm. The event blended “arias and aerialists” as singers from Opera North summer productions alternated with circus acts from Circus Smirkus, the Big Apple Circus and Cirque de Soleil.