In 1978, Verity Bostick, a young singer and assistant professor of music at Montana State University at Bozeman, sparked the interest of a well-known New York opera producer, Anthony Stivanello, with her desire to form a first Montana-based opera company. For the inaugural performance of Verdi’s La Traviata in the Spring of 1979, Mr. Stivanello agreed to donate sets and costumes and his services to the production.
Gallatin Valley had its own resident opera star, Pablo Elvira, who was persuaded to share his talents. A leading baritone with the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera, he sang Germont in La Traviata. A full-fledged professional opera company in Bozeman, MT was born! With names like Elvira and Stivanello appearing, Montana suddenly caught the interest of Eastern opera circles. The prestigious opera magazine, Opera News, assigned a reporter to cover the advent of the Intermountain Opera Association’s first year.
During the second season, the Association produced The Barber of Seville, starring Pablo Elvira, and brought three stars from New York to sing leading roles. Anthony Stivanello again furnished sets and costumes and directed the production.
At this time, Mrs. Robert W. Martin, Jr. became a member of the Board and subsequently President of the Association. Under her guidance, fund raising and ticket organization systems were successfully initiated. A benefactor and patron of the arts with contacts throughout the country, “Ginny” solicited funds through organizations and individuals and gave her own generous support to meet the Association’s annual budgets.
Her financial and organizing contributions and her total commitment to opera in Montana have been invaluable to the basic structure and success of the Association. Mrs. Martin is now Honorary Chairman of the Board.
In 1996, Linda Curtis took over the role of Artistic Director from Pablo Elvira. As her schedule permits, Ms. Curtis attends auditions and performances around the country, listening for singers appropriate for roles in upcoming IOA productions. Since 1979 IOA has produced one opera each spring. In 2005, IOA began presenting a second opera in the fall.
The Association has continued to grow and to attract operagoers, not only in Bozeman, but from other parts of Montana and from neighboring states as well. An increasing number of volunteers and supporters aid the Association each year. All committee workers and board members are volunteers. Staff includes an artistic director, production coordinator, office manager and an executive director (all part-time positions).
The staff assists the Board of Directors in choosing the operas to be performed, hiring the director and conductor, casting and contracting with the performers, renting sets and costumes and renting the auditorium as well as with fundraising and publicizing productions and the company. Many other functions, such as transportation and housing of artists, costume fitting and coordination, makeup and hair-styling, ticket-selling, ushering and most fundraising remain volunteer functions. The orchestra and chorus are chosen from among the region’s most accomplished musicians including some students majoring in music at Montana State University. Our venue is the Willson Auditorium, part of the Bozeman school system.