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History of the Company


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Opera Hamilton was incorporated in 1980,having grown out of the community’s annual “Festitalia” celebration. The new company produced a two-opera season, under the leadership of its board, Artistic Director Steven Thomas and General Manager Ruth Slater.

In 1986, conductor Daniel Lipton was appointed Artistic Director, and the company added an ‘opera highlights’ concert – POPERA™- to its season. In the 1989-90 season, Opera Hamilton added a third, fully staged production to its annual program.

In 1992-93, the Board of Directors developed the organization’s first long-range Strategic Plan which fostered the creation of partnerships with other communities, with the intent of accessing increased resources and market potential. The plan also created a new organizational infrastructure headed by a General Director, responsible for the overall management of the company. In 1994, the board engaged Canadian Ken Freeman as the first General Director.

During the 1994-95 season, Opera Hamilton cultivated community leaders in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, subsequently incorporating Kitchener Waterloo Opera as a producing partner. In 1995, Opera Hamilton was re-incorporated as Opera Ontario, Inc., with registered trade names “Opera Hamilton” and “Kitchener Waterloo Opera” for its two producing collaborators. In 1996, Kitchener Waterloo Opera launched a two-production season, expanding to three operas in 1997. Both communities shared Opera Ontario’s full season beginning in 1997-98.

With the resignation of Ken Freeman in May 2004, Edmonton native David Speers became the company’s second General Director, having held that post with both Calgary Opera (1988-98) and Arizona Opera – Phoenix and Tucson – (1998-2003).

With Mr. Speer’s tenure, both artistic and administrative leadership of the organization have been placed with the General Director. Maestro Lipton continues his relationship with the company as Music Director/Principal Conductor, conducting one opera and one concert each season.

Since joining Opera Ontario, David Speers has been heavily involved in the development and implementation of a new Strategic Plan, the restructuring of the company and its programming model, planning future seasons and the initiation of a major funding campaign.