Students from Hillhurst School creating Doppel during Let's Create an Opera

Building generations of opera lovers.

Education programs are an essential part of what we do, enriching the experiences of our current patrons and building audiences for tomorrow through student and young people outreach. This includes great programs like Let’s Create an Opera that gives students the opportunity to create their own original opera, the Opera in Schools Tour that brings one-act operas into schools performed by Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artists, and Allegro Group for those opera lovers (or soon to be opera lovers) under 35. 


Discover everything you need to know about opera, and Calgary Opera.

This section will teach you everything you need to know about Calgary opera, and opera - from buying a ticket to shouting Toi Toi Toi! at the end of the performance, and everything in-between. You can also discover our Emerging Artist Development Program. Each season, Calgary Opera provides up to eight young singers with the opportunity to study and perform under a highly prestigious professional staff of teachers and performers. This program acts as a bridge between post-secondary education and the professional opera world.

We thrive with your support.

Ticket sales cover less than a third of the cost of producing live opera, even on sold-out shows. We rely on government funding, sponsorships from corporations, and charitable donations to ensure that opera is alive and well for our community. 


Ambur Braid & Adam Luther in The Magic Flute (Photo by Trudie Lee)

New to Opera?

The Cast of Turandot (Photo by Trudie Lee)

Stories That Sing

Opera is one of the most unique art forms.  Combining voice, theatre and orchestra set against a backdrop of amazing set design, Opera evokes emotion and touches all the senses.  If you’re experiencing opera for the first time, let’s break down the barriers and dispel some myths about Opera that you may not know!  As well, we have a series of videos that you may enjoy watching.

“Opera” is the Italian word for ‘work’, and is a story told through music and words.   An orchestra (in Calgary Opera’s case, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra), plays the music in a ‘pit’ under the stage.  Singers onstage bring the story to life through acting and sing the words (known as ‘the libretto’ instead of ‘lyrics’.)  What makes opera different from musical theatre is that the singers are ‘unplugged’, meaning there are no microphones, and their voices are carried through their superior trained vocal abilities and conditioning coupled with excellent acoustics.

Principals and Cast

The main characters of each story are sung by ‘principals’, who are often guest artists that are brought in because of their talent in performing that particular character.   It takes an enormous amount of dedication, practice and rehearsing to form a particular character for an artist.   Opera singers also tend to know more than one language, including Italian, French, German, or Russian!  

The Chorus

The principals, as well as supporting artists, are often accompanied by the Calgary Opera Chorus.  The Calgary Opera Chorus is a volunteer chorus, who devote their talent and skill to performing in all the productions, and rehearse for many evenings prior to a production.  In order to be a Chorus member, you must audition for the Chorus Director and Director of Artistic Operations of the Opera company.

Voice Types and Ranges

Soprano – This is the highest female voice and is often associated with the heroine in opera such as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly.  Famous sopranos include Maria Callas, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Kiri Te Kanewa, Anna Netrebko, Lesley Garrett. Examples of sopranos in popular music include Celine Dion, Julie Andrews, Diana Ross, Kristen Bell, Mariah Carey.

Mezzo Soprano – The middle female voice. A darker voice than a soprano associated with a range of different roles often used to portray female characters of great complexity such as Carmen. Famous mezzo sopranos include Cecilia Bartoli, Norine Burgess, Kimberly Barber, and  Judith Forst, Cecilia Bartoli.  In popular music, examples of Mezzo-sopranos include Alanis Morrisette, Sarah McLachlan, k.d. Lang.

Contralto – The lowest category of female voice.  Artists such as Maureen Forrester, Marie-Nicole Lemieux are contraltos.  In popular music, examples of contraltos include Adele, Amy Winehouse, Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Diana Krall.

Tenor – A high male voice. Most often associated with the hero in opera such as Rodolfo in La bohème and Alfredo in La Traviata. Famous tenors include Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carerras, Andrea Bocelli.  Examples of tenors in popular music are Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Bono, Elton John, Justin Bieber.

Baritone – The middle male voice. Baritones often sing the villain or comic roles, or the friend to the lead male character. Famous baritones include Sir Thomas Allen, Gerald Finley and Simon Keenlyside.  In popular music, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Blake Shelton, Eddie Vedder are examples of Baritones.

Bass – The deepest male voice. Often associated with villains or comic roles. Bryn Terfel is a bass-baritone.

Counter Tenor – The highest male voice which is largely used in Early Music and Baroque operas.  Famous Counter Tenors include James Bowman, Andreas Scholl and David Daniels.  In popular music, Adam Levine, Barry Gibb, Roger Taylor are considered countertenors for their falsetto abilities.

Top 5 Myths About Opera

Operas to Start With