Nancy Preis says she's still a little overwhelmed when she realizes Opera in the Ozarks is getting its biggest wish granted. Thanks to the Walton Family Foundation, the Eureka Springs opera company will get $34 million to design and construct a new theater.
"Jim and Lynne Walton have been attending the operas and remember Helen Walton's enthusiasm for the opera," says Preis, who is general director for OIO. "We've been working with the Foundation for five or six years to get this project off the ground.
"It originally was considerably less grand," she adds, "but as our need grew for a more comfortable theater for both our patrons and our artists, the Foundation stepped up with significantly more support."
Preis promises that the new theater, which will seat 300, will retain the intimacy and connection with nature that has always been part of the OIO experience. But it will also be usable year-round, "offer artists a stage worthy of their talents" and "be a welcoming space for audiences to enjoy an intimate and high-quality performance." She promises the changes will be "transformational."
Opera in the Ozarks started as a summer camp in 1950 and has evolved into a music mecca that attracts student singers and musicians from across the globe, many of whom go on to significant international careers.
"For seven decades, artists have traveled to Opera in the Ozarks on their music education journey," Jim and Lynne Walton said in a news release Thursday. "A new theater continues this legacy by offering generations of future musicians and singers a new stage to showcase their talents."
According to the news release, the facility will also include a lobby for guests, an expanded costume shop and new faculty housing with multi-unit cabins. Construction begins this month. It is scheduled to be completed in mid-2025.
OIO starts its 2023 season, featuring Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld," Donizetti's "L'Elisir D'Amore" and Copland's "The Tender Land," June 23.