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The Past And Future Of Opera In Utah

USU Libraries

In 2014, the San Francisco Opera faced possible closure, as a result of the 2009 recession. Other opera companies have struggled to maintain what is considered to be one of the most expensive art forms.

There is no written history of opera in Utah. But Walter B. Rudolph, a Utah opera history expert, said when searching for references about what is considered an elitist art form by many, opera in the Beehive State has an interesting history.


“The first opera was in 1869 and what else was happening in 1869?" said Rudolph "There’s a correlation between the presence of the railroad that brought opera companies to Salt Lake but it wasn’t long before they started producing their own.”


Rudolph developed the classical music format at the Utah music station Classical 89, KBYU-FM. As a musicologist, he has produced radio documentaries on opera and lectures on opera across America and in Sweden, most recently presenting the Utah State University Year of The Arts Arrington Lecture.


“Arrington had a fond love, so fond that he was known to sing himself at some of the parties he had while he was church historian," said Rudolph.


Through education and exposure, Rudolph believes the future of opera in America is sound.


“I think that opera can be performed much less expensively," he said. "Let it stand on its own. The thing that really separates opera from the rest of the theater works is the singing. And when there is good singing, and certainly there's a lot of good singers out there today, they can really reflect what opera has to offer. If we train ourselves a bit as well.”


Rudolph said that in Utah, the list of visiting operatic artists is extraordinary, largely in part because of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which became the first of several venues to host recitals and concerts with the world’s leading opera singers.