Five Year Strategic Plan 2020 – 2024

“We are committed to the pursuit of these strategies as a road map towards Portland Opera’s bright future. We invite you to join us on this journey: explore our activations, inquire about our progress, and let us know what you think.” - Sue Dixon, General Director

During the 18/19 season, the Portland Opera Board of Directors and Metropolitan Group led the company through a strategic planning initiative, resulting in an exciting set of ideas for Portland Opera’s next chapter. On this page, we invite you to learn more about the three interrelated strategies at the core of the plan.

Please keep in mind that this is a living and changing plan—it is a roadmap. While we embark on this work, we will continue to listen, and to work with, our team and community—so that we can live our way into an evidence-based achievement of these goals and strategies.

If you would like more information, or have feedback to share with our team please email, or contact a member of our staff directly.

Strategy One

Immediate Impact: Patron Experience & Technology

Our first category contains short-term actions that Portland Opera can take to align more closely with patron and community feedback, and impact revenue. Specific actions to take in this strategy include:

Return to the fall/winter season

We heard our patrons’ preferences loud and clear! Our 21/22 season is designed to be a ramp out of COVID-19 impacts. It will follow our planned regular cadence of October – May inside the theatres (and streamed digitally); with many activities offered year-round, including community performances and events, Opera a la Cart, balcony concerts, collaborations, and educational programming. The plan is to continue with the cadence of an October - May season for 21/22 and beyond. 

Venue Mix

Our plan is to adopt a venue mix that reflects the desire for both grand and intimate experiences while improving the annual performance gross margin, and continue to present repertoire that balances classic and contemporary work. We learned a lot this spring from our partnership with OMSI and OBT to create the Jordan Schnitzer CARE Summerstage—and continue to be curious about bringing opera experiences to unique and unexpected places.

Present various scales of production

Opera is expensive to produce! We remain committed to presenting classic and contemporary work in various scales of production. As we navigate COVID-19 reopening guidelines, and plan for the 21/22 season and beyond, we will continue to refine our rhythm of performances in various venues, while keeping our breadth of scale in a fiscally responsible model.

We recognize that we don’t yet know the full impact of COVID-19; and we held a Board retreat to talk about how the pandemic has shifted some of our financial milestones outlined in the original strategic plan. The result of these conversations was the “ramp out” season that we’ve announced for 21/22. This new three-production model is not our vision for future seasons (though this is going to be a great season!) and we recognize the we need to be able to build back up, together. We hope to be able to add a few surprises to the 21/22 season, and ramp up the number of production in the following season and beyond.

Invest in technology and systems

A core piece of our first strategy is to invest in technology and systems to build clearer paths for ticketing and donation operations, as well as systems for company functionality and best practices.

During the pandemic, our team pivoted to utilize technology in ways that we hadn’t in the past. We modernized our processes and paper usage as we learned to operate remotely. We broadcast live digital performances; captured socially distant and safe recordings of our full chorus and orchestra for editing; and established Portland Opera Onscreen, a digital on-demand channel. We shared remote learning activities and programming through Opera Elements, and held virtual community forum, special event, and panel discussions. 

Redesign and transition digital services

In March of 2021, we launched a new website designed to share more transparency, community information, and artistic insight with visitors. We also successfully transitioned our ticketing and patron services database and systems to Tessitura, a platform that better serves our audiences and patrons, based on their feedback and preferences.

Artistic Administration management system

As we continue to modernize the way we work to adopt best practices, our Artistic Administration has also identified a management system that will enhance our workflows. We are currently implementing that software, and look forward to modernizing and streamlining our internal artistic and production communications as a result.

“As Portland Opera continues to evolve, we are looking to dig deeper into our community to inform our perspectives. The Community Engagement Working Group is about connection and building stronger communities for all. Together, with our growing group of partners (which includes civic, community, and organizational leaders) we are finding new and innovative ways to support our neighbors in the region, and each other.” - Hugh Harris, Board Member

Strategy Two
Positioning Portland Opera for the Future

The next strategy in this plan is part of a vision down payment for the future. The first set of actions is around amplifying the Portland in Portland Opera:

Transform and define an artistic point of view

One of our key goals in the strategic plan is to transform and define an artistic point of view that is a reflection of community, through production and ancillary programming choices that celebrate classic and contemporary works.

To this end, we are in the process of changing the role of artistic planning at Portland Opera, and expanding our processes to be more inclusive and community driven. In 2020, we welcomed artistic advisors Karen Slack and Damien Geter to the company. In addition, interim Artistic Director Daniel Biaggi has been working closely with General Director Sue Dixon to define the role of our permanent Artistic Director.

The search to fill the Artistic Director is currently underway. It has been highly competitive, and includes a diverse applicant pool of local, national, and international candidates.

While we can't share specifics of the search progress at this time, we can share that the search committee has designed the process to include the feedback of Portland Opera staff members, board members, orchestra and chorus members, union representatives, community leaders, and peers.

We hope to make an announcement regarding our permanent Artistic Director before Tosca.

More inclusive and community driven

Our Community Engagement Working Group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Hugh Harris, has been busy building connections and stronger communities as our region reopens from COVID-19 closures.

In a year when families, teachers and students were adapting to online learning—the good and the bad—Portland Opera partnered closely with Portland Public Schools to produce our Opera Elements program and curriculum.  Designed to be a joyful celebration of our art form and empower students to express themselves through song and storytelling, Opera Elements included all of the components of synchronous and asynchronous learning and leveraged technology to deliver our school programming when we could not be there in person. 

In April, the Community Engagement committee spearheaded the planning and facilitation of special digital events in conjunction with our production of Journeys to Justice. The first event was titled "Curating Songs of Love and Justice" and featured panelists Ithica Tell, Damien Geter, Chip Miller, and Derrell Acon. The discussion was centered on the curation of the six pieces making up Journeys to Justice, and explored questions around race within the experiences of both creating and observing art. 

The second event, was titled "You Are Here: Our Journey to Justice in PDX." This panel discussion featured Leroy Bynum, Eliza E. Canty Jones, and Dr. Carmen Thompson. The focus of the conversation was about contextualizing Journeys to Justice within a historical perspective, looking specifically at the origins of white supremacy, Oregon's racist past, and how current racism reverberates in the Black community today. 

Both events were recorded with full participants, and also made available to audience members and educators as part of the Journeys to Justice experience. 

This spring and early summer, we've also collaborated with Prosper Portland, Latino Network, IdeAl PDX, City Repair, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation to bring a colorful, vibrant, and very beautiful street mural to life in the cul-de-sac in front of the Hampton Opera Center and the Eastbank Esplanade entrance. The artwork was designed by IdeAL PDX (Yathzi Turcot, Jessica Lagunas, Daniel Santollo "TEKPATL," Alex Valle, José Solis, and William Hernandez). Special events and activations on the Plaza can be found here

While these wonderful partnerships come to live, the committee and staff of Portland Opera have also been in conversations about strategic goals for ongoing programs, and how best to measure engagement over time.

This committee meets weekly with community members, artists, educators, and stakeholders to develop a meaningful civic, social, and artistic practice for Portland Opera’s future.

Current community partners in this working group include Lisa Riggs of Gresham Barlow School District, Jenny Stadler of PHAME Academy, Jonathan Garcia of Portland Public Schools, and Dr. Leroy Bynum of Portland State University. In addition, the working group is comprised of Portland Opera Board members Curtis T. Thompson, MD, Linda Brown, Diana Harris, Hugh Harris, Christine Lewis, Carole Morse, and Greg Tibbles; as well as staff members Daniel Biaggi, Sue Dixon, Alexis Hamilton, and Tracy Wenckus

Harness the creativity and spirit unique to this place

Goal: curate collaborations or commissions that harness the creativity and spirit that is unique to this place.

  • The spirit of collaboration and sharing of resources as the hospitality and arts/culture sectors ramp out of COVID has presented unique opportunities for new types of meaningful partnerships. 

    • In collaboration with our neighbors at OMSI, and our friends at OBT, we co-created the Jordan Schnitzer CARE Summerstage, bringing live and socially distanced outdoor productions to the SE waterfront. This production was made possible by Carol Franc Buck Foundation, Jordan Schnitzer & The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), TriMet, and Orox Leather Co.
    • We've been proud to partner with some of Portland's most innovative arts organizations to create and plan for the Old Moody Stages at Zidell Yards in Portland's South Waterfront, helping to bring local and live performing arts experiences back this summer. 
    • We continue to share best practices, resources, and underscore the promotional activities of our peers around the region. We are working closely in arts and events forums to share and learn from insight, data, and trends in our field. 
Explore opera experiences that serve audiences in new ways

One of our strategic goals is to explore different opera experiences that may serve new and existing audiences in new ways, while continuing to honor the traditional repertoire that our art form is built upon.

In the summer of 2020, we performed 43 separate times; with 28 different performers total, and none of these events were in a traditional “operatic” setting on stage. From balcony concerts to community pop-ups, and live streamed free events; we have shifted our operations to meet the challenges of the day. 

We built upon those experiences with a free and public digital program featuring guest artists, as well as the Portland Opera Chorus and Orchestra for "An Evening with Portland Opera." Earlier in 2021, we shared Portland Opera Resident Artist recitals as part of free and public digital content.  

We also launched Portland Opera Onscreen, a digital channel that we will continue to use as a way to share programming. The initial offering available on Portland Opera Onscreen was our production of Journeys to Justice, which also included behind-the-scenes panel discussions, educational activities for remote learning, and more. Frida was performed for a live ticketed audience, and also made available on Portland Opera Onscreen for on-demand viewing with closed captions in English and Spanish, as well as an Audio Described digital production, for patrons who are blind or have low vision. 

We continue to learn about our growing digital audience, and to understand the opportunities that our digital channel presents in terms of audience access, and geographic reach. 

“While this year's season has been cancelled, the Opera is still focused on moving our strategic plan forward. The Real Estate Working Group is made up of staff, board members and a few interested stakeholders. Over this past year we've been meeting once a month by Zoom to start brainstorming our shared vision for a new venue on our site. Realizing this vision will be a long-term process but we've started building momentum in order to get there.” - Nicolai Kruger, Board Member.

Central Eastside Waterfront

The second big strategy in this section is exploring a longer-term vision and feasibility to redevelop the Central Eastside waterfront property that Portland Opera owns, through opportunities that could mutually help Portland Opera, other arts organizations, and the entire community.

We're delighted to announce that in 2021, we joined with our neighbors at OMSI and Portland Community College (PCC) to engage in master planning for our shared district. This collaboration creates new opportunities to align visioning for the future with our neighbors, through coordinated development and processes. 

In the coming weeks, we'll publish a webpage with additional information about the process thus far, what is coming next, and how our master planning activities can impact our strategic goals and help us achieve our mission, vision, and values. 

The Real Estate Working group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Nicolai Kruger, is focused on learning about long-term planning opportunities. Committee members include Portland Opera staff members Sue Dixon, Richard Seals, Laura Hassell; Portland Opera Board of Directors members Curtis T. Thompson, Bill Sweat, Nicolai Kruger, Matt Essieh, David Leif Ericksen; as well as Eric Friedenwald-Fishman (Metropolitan Group), Bob Hastings (TriMet), Guy Benn (TriMet), Suzanne Nance (All Classical Portland), and Scott Showalter (Oregon Symphony).

Strategy Three
Fundamental Progress

The final set of strategies are intricately linked to the success of the first two strategies and strengthen the organization by building on our existing efforts to connect with the community and deepening these relationships. Specific steps in this category include:

Update our mission, vision, values and brand

A core outcome of our strategic plan, and one which impacts all of our work as a company in the community, is to update Portland Opera’s mission, vision, values and brand identity to better reflect the work of the entire organization.

In 2020, we embarked on an exciting process to update our vision, mission, values and brand identity with our partners at Karma Agency. This included an audit of our current brand platform, a review of insights identified by Metropolitan Group, and more. We held more working sessions, Town Hall conversations, surveys, and key stakeholder interviews. Led by our consultants, the process involved the full Portland Opera Board of Directors, all staff, members of our chorus and orchestra, artists, partners in the community, and peers. After further brand equity review and community feedback, the staff voted to adopt our reenergized mission, vision, and values in December of 2020. You can learn more about them here.

We are energized by our new mission, vision, and values; and are beginning to navigate our work with these articulations as our North Star. 

Activate an organizational commitment to equity, diversity & inclusion

Activate an organizational commitment to equity, diversity & inclusion—in order to create the opera, and the Portland Opera, of the future.

  • In 2019, we activated an organizational-wide commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and the transformation of our company. You can learn more about our journey thus far here.

  • Key highlights since our most recent strategic planning progress report include:
    • A new mission, vision, and values statements for Portland Opera that align with our goals for transformation and change. 
    • The development and activation of an Equity, Financial and Strategic lens through which the Board of Directors and staff of Portland Opera make decisions regarding policy and program decisions. 
    • A list of 85 commitments and recommendations for transformation put forward by the Cultural Equity Planning Taskforce (comprised of staff and board members) for key areas of cultural equity impact across all departments and segments of the organization. 
    • An activation of the results of our company-wide assessment (February, 2021) that informs ongoing working sessions (and further recommendations) regarding empowerment and respect at Portland Opera.
“Portland Opera's Equity Task Force strives to create a culture for the staff, Board, artists, collaborators, patrons, and community members that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We are currently developing Cultural Equity Plan for Portland Opera."
- David Salerno Owens, Board Member

The leadership team of Portland Opera is so grateful to the board members, staff members, artists, musicians, community members, patrons, movers and shakers, and everyone who shared feedback about where we have been as an organization, and where we are headed.

Learn more about how our plan came together »