Although Opera Idaho has been in existence, under one name or another, since 1973, the story of opera in Boise begins before that. As long ago as the early 1960’s, the Boise Philharmonic annually presented modestly produced operas featuring singers drawn from around the region. Other groups also produced small-scale operas from time to time. Sometimes the works presented were classics; sometimes they were more adventuresome.
In the late 1960’s the Philharmonic discontinued its annual productions. In response, Mrs. Hazel Weston and a large group of local opera enthusiasts formed the Boise Opera Workshop. The workshop’s initial goal is described in a contemporary story from the Idaho Statesman as being to “acquaint both musicians and audience with a great many operas, without the expense involved in staging a grand opera.” Early activities of the organization included workshop productions, monthly public lecture programs and group study of selected operatic works.
In 1973, reflecting the success of its initial efforts and the increasing emphasis on producing grand opera, the Boise Opera Workshop changed its name to Boise Civic Opera. By-laws were written and the organization was formally incorporated. By the 1977-78 season, Boise Civic Opera had begun to import professional singers to perform the principal roles in some of its productions. In 1983, the name was changed again, this time to Boise Opera, in order to recognize the increasing professionalism of the company’s productions. In the mid 1980’s Boise Opera added to its classic opera performances by presenting international opera stars in concert. Marilyn Horne and Sherill Milnes were among those artists. Presented by Boise Opera, Ms. Horne gave the concert that opened the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts. With the 1984-85 season, Boise Opera moved its main stage productions into the Morrison Center.
Boise Opera continued to produce classic grand opera at the Morrison Center and also added the occasional musical comedy. During the 1993-94 season, Boise Opera added operettas to it repertoire. Also during this decade, the company began to build educational and outreach programs, which, by 2000, would offer experience of and training in lyric theater to children and adults. This included the Opera Idaho Children’s Chorus, which was formally founded in 1993 and is now in its 20th season.
In 1997 the company changed its name again to Opera Idaho. The reasons for the change were two-fold: first, to recognize the company as the only professional company of its kind in the state; and second, to recognize the ambition to reach out to other areas of Idaho, beyond the Treasure Valley.
In the 2004-05 season, Opera Idaho showed its success and growth with the world premiere of Nosferatu. In recent years, Opera Idaho has moved to its new home at the historic Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise, a move which not only brought the opportunity for more intimate opera experiences for the audience but financially also for more performances of more productions. The 2010-11 season saw the beginning of the Made in the USA series, five American operas performed in five consecutive seasons. In 2016 Critical Mass Vocal Artists became part of Opera Idaho.