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 feedback@portlandopera.org, 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:

Move back to a fall–spring primary schedule

Starting with the 20/21 season, in response to overwhelming community, audience, and patron feedback; collaborate with chorus and orchestra members to determine how this will work.

Return to the fall/winter season

We announced a return to the fall/winter season in conjunction with our 20/21 Season Announcement. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made it impossible for us to continue with that season as planned. We are still committed to this schedule shift, starting with our “ramp up” 21/22 season: and beyond. We still look forward to opera events in the summer months—with our Opera a la Cart programs, balcony concerts and more, but we heard our patrons’ preferences loud and clear! We will return to a traditional season schedule as soon as we can.

Adopt a venue mix

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.

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.

Invest in technology and systems

Invest in technology and systems to build clearer paths for ticketing and donation operations, as well as systems for company functionality and best practices.

Offer a cadence of public programming

During our 19/20 season we worked with chorus and orchestra members to change our schedule of public programming beginning with the 20/21 season. Unfortunately, the ability to execute the vision for our 20/21 season was changed by COVID-19 cancellations. We remain committed to offering a cadence of public programming aligned with our community, audience, and patron preferences.

Redesign and transition digital services

In 2020 we also made meaningful progress in accomplishing two of the major milestones outlined in strategy one. We went through an RFP process to engage a website developer and designer, and successfully reimagined our website as a tool for engagement with our selected partners at Karma Agency. The new site launched in March of 2021. During this time, we also 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. As of March 2021, our team is beginning implementation, and we will share more updates soon.

“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

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.

More inclusive and community driven

We are 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 this position is currently in process. 

We've also created a Community Engagement Working Group to build connection and stronger communities for all. Our Community Engagement 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

Curate collaborations or commissions that harness the creativity and spirit that is unique to this place.

  • Our Community Engagement Working Group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Hugh Harris, continues to identify plans and partners for future collaborations, and our artistic and production teams are planning for an extraordinary 21/22 season. Members of this working group include
  • The opportunity to reimagine our 19/20 and 20/21 seasons in the time of COVID-19 continues to lead us to unlock partnership opportunities and performance opportunities in unexpected ways. As guidance has allowed, we’ve shared pop-up opera performances in Pioneer Courthouse Square, with Human Solutions in the parking lot of a shelter, and more.
  • During the challenges of 2020, our staff has also adapted our workflows in order to be better collaborators: we’ve worked with our restaurant and wine partners affected by COVID; we’ve led communications workshops for local non-profits to discuss best practices during times of crisis; and we’ve been part of national discussions for implementing new ways of working in the field, while developing safety guidelines and protocols for opera and the performing arts.
Explore opera experiences that serve audiences in new ways

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. COVID-19 has certainly challenged us to find new ways to share our programming, and we think that these lessons can help us in the future too!

“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.

During the 19/20 season, we formed a Real Estate Working group, led by Portland Opera Board Member Nicolai Kruger, to focus 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

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 vison, mission, and values in December of 2020. You can learn more about them here.

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. In fall of 2019, we connected with Keryl McCord and her team at Equity Quotient, whose insight and expertise has guided our processes. We developed a staff committee to work with Keryl’s team to bring a learning lab to a 2-day staff retreat and 1-day staff retreat in early 2020.
  • Due to the pandemic, our retreats with Keryl and her team were postponed and reimagined as a digital gathering. They were ultimately held in June 2020.
  • Our first scope of work with Keryl and her team focused on the genesis of race, connection, and self-reflection in the context of exclusivity, inequity, and white supremacy in our company and industry. After initial discussions about immediately needed changes, we also formed a staff and board committee, chaired by David Salerno Owens, member of Portland Opera’s Board of Directors, that meets every other week to develop recommendations and accountability systems in drafting a longer-term Cultural Equity Plan for Portland Opera.  Our work is focused on Governance, Policies and Practices; Company Culture; and Artistic Programming and Production areas.
  • The amazing team at Equity Quotient continues to guide our progress and process. They have also worked with the company in brand equity review, adding insight and expertise to our vision, mission, and values for the future.
  • We continue next steps: assessment tools, ongoing learning, discussions, visioning, and more. Our aim is to publish our Cultural Equity Plan in June of 2021, launched in tandem with institutional practices for accountability, sustainability, and transparency about our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“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
Strengthen connection to the community.

This might mean:

  • Developing new methods of volunteerism and sharing a more active role in support of other community organizations and causes.
  • Bringing opera experiences into unexpected places to meet people where they are and continuing to break down barriers to experiencing the beauty and breadth of the art of opera—and its power to inspire our imaginations and change our lives.
  • Exploring enhanced civic, social, and artistic practices

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

We’re working on adapting some of our current programs and initiatives, as well as adding new activities and opportunities for engagement. Learn more about upcoming events and projects as they are announced by visiting our Community page.

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 »