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Spark Spotlight: Buffalo Opera Unlimited, Org of the Year Finalist

The Spark Awards celebrate and recognize outstanding individuals and organizations from across the Western New York arts community for their dedication, talent, and impact on the arts and cultural sector. This year’s presentation will be streamed for free on our YouTube page on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 7:00 pm.

Click here to learn more about the Spark Awards.


Founded in 1985 by artistic director Tim Kennedy, Buffalo Opera Unlimited (BOU) is dedicated to producing professional opera and a variety of other musical forms with an emphasis on regional artists. BOU is also committed to making opera more accessible to a broader audience and to providing education to develop future audiences. The company is proud to draw an audience ranging from youth to seniors from a broad cross section of the community who respond with enthusiastic positivity to the quality BOU productions. With BOU, both traditional and nontraditional audiences can “Expect the Unexpected.”

BOU’s Cydney

Since its first performance, Mozart’s one act comic opera The Impresario with piano accompaniment, BOU has presented challenging works and high quality performances of fully staged operas, providing job opportunities for local professionals to share their craft with appreciative audiences. BOU has provided jobs for hundreds of artists and tradespersons, from the singers to the set and stage crew, choreographer, costumer and the musicians accompanying the singers.

Highlights from the company’s more than 35 years include the world premiere of The Fall of Stag Lee, composed by native Buffalonian Darryl Glenn Nettles, the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night as part of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, and a performance of Viva Verdi (celebrating his 200th birthday), which featured Latino, Asian, African American and Caucasian performers. “Unlimited” productions celebrated composers such as William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein and Cole Porter.

BOU 35th anniversary logo

Their 2020 season was also BOU’s 35th anniversary year. With the shut down and subsequent challenges of producing opera in the middle of a pandemic, they had to get creative to continue sharing their work and reaching their patrons. Fortunately, they were able to partner with WNED to film a series of performances that would be aired on TV. BOU’s “On Stage with Buffalo Opera Unlimited” is a series of four programs featuring traditional opera selections from their 35 years.  Directing these programs presented its own challenges. Director Tim Kennedy called it his “COVID staging,” which had to keep the performers safe while also telling the story of the opera being featured.  For example, the opera Carmen is a rather torrid love story, and is not possible with social distancing.

Their partnership with WNED allowed them to employ local performers who were out of work due to the pandemic while reaching new audiences from across the region. The programs were seen by over 21,000 households in WNY and 20,000 individuals in Ontario.  Because of licensing restrictions, only the performances with arias from operas in the public domain can be available on the website. Looking ahead, BOU is planning to once again work with WNED to perform a complete opera later this year – Susannah, by Carlisle Floyd.

Buffalo Opera Unlimited owes its longevity to the passion of the artistic director, the hardworking board members and the support of the community.

Click here to visit their website and learn more about the amazing work they’re doing.

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