A Sustainable Model for a thriving 21st century Opera Company


Cleveland Opera Theater believes in and implements a sustainable model for an opera company in the 21st century.  COT has a ten-year track record of success exhibiting a business model that has seen the growth and development of Cleveland's professional opera company over the last ten years, while many other companies have faltered in the challenging economic recession.  


COT’s business model and successful operations practices were born out of necessary to survive in the challenging economic climate in order to foster the continued performance and development of the operatic art form in Cleveland. This process however, also illuminated the business model that would function excellently and remain sustainable as COT would continue to grow.  


Opera, because of its inherently interdisciplinary nature, which combines all of the art forms, is by its very nature, the most expensive art form to produce.  


COT's business model reduces the profit-loss gap typically associated with opera.  which is less consumptive than that of the traditional opera companies of the past, so many of which have been halted by the increasingly challenging economic climate.  


COT’s model is not administratively top heavy, but rather has built upon a foundation of “art and artists first” philosophy that employs creative and flexible production design and skillful budget management, which is enabled by the unique confluence of artists, assets and venues in the Cleveland area.  “Right-sized” has emerged as the industry buzz-word for this type of model that COT has practiced since its founding days.  What we do as a company, such as flexible performance venues, engaging opera theater entertainment, effective audience building and dynamic education programming, is becoming more common practice as the non-juggernaut opera companies adapt to thrive in the 21st century. 


Cleveland Opera Theater recognizes that the very nature of the operatic art form itself, which combines many disciplines such as music, acting, dance, and set, lighting and costume design, predicates that producing opera will always remain a relatively more expensive venture than producing theater, orchestra or dance alone.  Rather than following the trend of so many opera companies in this country and cutting back on the number of performances and productions offered annually, Cleveland Opera Theater has adopted an innovative model for an opera company, which cannot only survive in the current challenging economic climate, but adapt, respond, grow and thrive as well.


Cleveland Opera Theater capitalizes on the unique confluence of artists, venues, and other assets in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, which has enabled the World Class level of Cleveland Opera Theater's professional opera productions to grow. The past, current, and future success of COT would not have been possible without the dedicated quality of our leadership, and their willingness to donate much in-kind service for the greater good of opera.  


COT's mobility and the flexible use of a varied performance venues which allow the company to produce interesting, innovative, and engaging opera theater in a fiscally responsible manner that is unfettered by the often staggering and unsustainable cost demands of traditional operatic performance calendar, which features only large scale productions in large performance venues.   Varying the scope and nature of the performance venue to that of the given repertoire, enables Cleveland Opera Theater to bring the operatic experience to life for audiences through an innovative artistic aspect which enhances the innate nature and scope of specific works, while keeping production costs low and within the projected relative earning capacity of each production. Cleveland Opera Theater productions therefore have been able to range from large-scale Grand Opera to more cutting edge, minimalistic theatrical settings, and all shapes and sizes in between.


In addition to matching performance venue to the demands and expected draw of specific repertoire, Cleveland Opera Theater has taken further steps to make our productions of large scale grand opera productions more cost effective, sustainable, and engaging for the audience.  Cleveland Opera Theater utilizes performance venues that maintain an atmosphere of intimacy.  This not only allows Cleveland Opera Theater to produce traditional opera on a grand scale, relative to our season offering, at a much lower cost than the average regional opera company, but also to create a more intimate, engaging, immersive, and enjoyable experience for the audience.


COT’s innovative programming and successful audience building and engagement has resulted in capacity crowds and sold-out venues.  Versatile to stage opera in a variety of venues, large and small alike, COT has offered critically acclaimed performances in settings including traditional proscenium stages, intimate black box theater settings, daring stages afloat on water, cavernous church sanctuaries, whimsical found spaces, state of the art and historic theaters, beautiful outdoor community parks and gardens, innovative opera theater-in the round settings and site-specific production locations.

Education and community outreach efforts have increasingly developed new audience members and made opera accessible to those who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to experience the art form.  Annual performances are offered free to the public, thereby  increasing the accessibility to potential and return audience members in underserved communities, and attracting new opera fans and supporters of all ages and in a wide range of communities and demographics.  


It is specifically COT’s commitment to producing professional-level productions, with the highest standard of artistic excellence, that has distinguished our work from other small opera companies in the greater Cleveland area.  


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Cleveland Opera Theater
5000 Euclid Avenue, #1001
Cleveland, Ohio  44103      

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