Lake George Opera, now Opera Saratoga, began with a production of Die Fledermaus at the Diamond Point Theatre on July 5, 1962, playing to an audience of 230 people. The company now calls Saratoga Springs home and performs for more than 25,000 people annually. To date, the company has performed 90 different fully staged works by 52 different composers, including 33 works by American composers and 10 premiere productions. Throughout its history, the company's continued success has been shaped by visionary leaders, talented artists, and critically acclaimed productions.
Fred Patrick, with his wife soprano Jeanette Scovotti, established the company in Lake George, seeking a permanent seasonal repertory company that presented opera in English and showcased young, talented American singers. An ambitious first season included 46 performances in eight weeks, fully staged, with two pianists providing accompaniment.
Growing audiences and performances with orchestra quickly followed, and in 1965, the Opera moved to the newly completed auditorium at the Queensbury High School in Glens Falls. That year also saw the formation of the company's first Board of Directors and the loss of Fred Patrick to cancer at just 37 years old. Then current artistic director, David Lloyd was appointed general director, a post he held until 1980. During Lloyd's tenure, the company gave its first contemporary and American operas, Menotti's The Telephone in 1965 and Robert Ward's The Crucible in 1966, and four world-premiere productions: David Amram's Twelfth Night and Robert Baksa's Aria da Capo, both in 1968, The Child by Jose Bernardo in 1974, and Alva Henderson's The Last of the Mohicans in 1977. He formed the Contemporary American Opera Studio in 1980 and introduced Opera-on-the-Lake in 1972.
From 1981 through 1985, Paulette Haupt-Nolen served as artistic director, initiating collaborations with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center to workshop new operas and Proctor's Theatre for a production of Man of La Mancha. She produced the company's first opera at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs, the world premiere of The Adventures of Friar Tuck by Glenn Paxton, and introduced the traveling Opera-On-Wheels Program in 1985.
The late 1980s welcomed artistic directors Brian Lingham (1986-87) and John Balme (1988-91), inaugurated the Opera-to-Go education program in 1986, and saw the world premiere of Mark Houston's Hazel Kirke, an opera set in the Hudson River Valley in the 1840s. The 1989 and 1990 seasons were performed at Adirondack Community College, while the Queensbury High School Auditorium underwent renovations.
In 1991, Susan T. Danis was appointed to the newly established post of managing director and the company returned to Queensbury. 1993 was a transitional year, with David Lloyd returning as interim artistic director, and during which the Opera featured many alumni in three gala concerts, but performing no fully staged productions.
Joseph Illick became artistic director for the next five summers, programming a variety of works that included Rossini's La Donna del Lago, Massenet's Cendrillon, Jorge Martin's Tobermory, Richard Wargo's The Music Shop, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the latter featuring the Boys Choir of Harlem as the Spirits in the Forest.
1998 brought major changes for Lake George Opera. Due to renovations at the Queensbury High School, the Company performed its summer season in the Spa Little Theater on the grounds of Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs. The 500-seat theater proved a perfect venue for intimate opera, and though the move was initially intended to be temporary, it has remained the company's main performance space since then. In 1998, the company also began performing operas in their original languages with projected supertitles.
In 1999, the company hired conductor Daniel Beckwith and stage director Marc Verzatt as co-artistic directors. Shortly thereafter, William Florescu joined the company as artistic director. The new team established a brand of intimate opera theater that would characterize the company’s productions going forward. Important projects during this period included notable productions of Ariadne auf Naxos in the Spa Little Theater, Madama Butterfly in partnership with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in SPAC's outdoor amphitheater, and the initiation in 2000 of a five-year Opera-to-Go education tour cycle of operas by John Davies.
In 2002, William Florescu assumed both executive and administrative leadership responsibilities. During the next three years, he reintroduced American operas into the repertory, showcased Apprentice Artists in concert programs with orchestra, initiated the Lake George Opera Summer Camp, and, along with event Chairs Ted and Carol Newlin, initiated the company's annual Opera Ball.
In 2005, Florescu moved to the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee, and Curtis Tucker became the company's eighth artistic director. In 2006, Tucker guided an expanded summer season that included the professional premiere of Ned Rorem's Our Town and a semi-staged Apprentice Artist performance of Menotti's The Medium. Tucker served in leadership roles for the company for nine seasons, overseeing the 50th season in 2011, and the formal name change to Opera Saratoga that same season. Among the successes of Tucker’s tenure were many critically acclaimed performances of works by Gilbert and Sullivan.
In 2014, the Board of Directors appointed Lawrence Edelson as the new artistic and general director of Opera Saratoga, effective July 1, 2014. Edelson’s leadership marked a new chapter in the company’s history, including greatly expanded community partnerships throughout the year, diversification of the company’s repertoire, and a reaffirmed commitment to both the presentation of American opera and the mentorship of emerging artists as core activities in the company’s programs each season. The 2020 summer season marks the sixth festival under his leadership.