Enriching Lives Through Inspirational Productions
At its founding, Wichita Grand Opera became the first professional opera company in the state of Kansas. From our home at the Century II Performing Arts Center in downtown Wichita, we create inspirational productions of great works of art to enrich our community. We strive to develop artists, programming, and activities to carry the artistic vitality of opera forward into the 21st century.
Wichita Grand Opera founders, American soprano Margaret Ann Pent and European impresario Parvan Bakardiev, shared a vision to create a top-quality, professional opera company. They desired to serve a new audience and were eager to see live opera produced in their own hometown of Wichita.
In 2000, only two states in the United States lacked a resident professional opera company: South Dakota and Kansas. After exploratory visits, meetings with local leaders, and a feasibility study, they chose Wichita as the home for their new opera company. Wichita’s stable economy and vibrant medical and artistic communities made it a logical choice for the creation of a professional company. The idea became a reality on November 15, 2000, with the incorporation and founding of Wichita Grand Opera
To produce opera and opera education programs at the highest artistic level to enrich the cultural lives of Kansans
- Engaging superb artists to create and perform in fully-staged operas and gala concerts
- Continuing to enhance our talented, professional orchestra and chorus of locally-based musicians and singers to be the backbone of Wichita Grand Opera productions
- Providing performance and professional development opportunities for Kansas and regionally-based opera singers
- Offering educational and outreach experiences to students and communities throughout the region
Meet the Founders
Margaret Ann Pent
Wichita Grand Opera Founding Advisor Margaret Ann Pent is a soprano, stage director and designer. She holds degrees in voice from Chicago’s Roosevelt University and the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, Austria.
Winner of the Austrian Opera Competition, she made her European debut in Vienna as Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos,” followed by performances in the title role of “Die Schöne Galatea” (the “Beautiful Galatea”), Rosina in “Barber of Seville,” and Gilda in “Rigoletto.” Her American debut was as Matilda in Frank Corsaro’s production of Rossini’s “William Tell” at the San Antonio Festival, followed by Bernstein’s “Candide” and Rossini’s “Stabat Mater.” She was a featured soloist with the Florida Philharmonic, Greater Palm Beach Symphony, Austin Symphony, Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra, Capella Istropolitana and Houston Symphony, among others.
Ms. Pent served as Executive Director of Festival of the Continents and Deputy Director of the Monroe County Fine Arts Council. She served as a juror for the Ferruccio Tagliavini Vocal Competition and served as a stage director and designer for productions of the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, Festival of Continents, and Wichita Grand Opera.
In previous seasons, Ms. Pent has directed Puccini’s “Tosca,” starring Samuel Ramey, designed the set for “Faust,” designed costumes for WGO’s productions of “Pirates of Penzance” and “Faust,” and designed sets and costumes for “The Pearl Fishers,” and created production designs and concepts for WGO debuts “Otello” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” among others.
Founder/ Artistic Director
Wichita Grand Opera Artistic Director Parvan Bakardiev is a graduate of the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, Austria, and appeared with the Vienna State Opera, Bregenz and Salzburg Festivals, Florida Philharmonic, Symphony of the Americas, and San Antonio Symphony, among others.
Recipient of a fellowship with the San Francisco Opera, he moved to the United States and subsequently served as Artistic Administrator of the Houston Grand Opera, Founder/General Director of the San Antonio Festival, Artistic Director of the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, and Executive Director of the Monroe County Fine Arts Council in Florida. In addition, he served as consultant to the Kennedy Center, and the Boston, Berlin, and Sakai Operas. Prior to his arrival in Wichita, he served as director of the Greater Palm Beach Symphony.
Mr. Bakardiev has served as a juror for the “Ferruccio Tagliavini” International Competition for Opera Singers in Austria, the Mario Del Monaco International Competition in Italy, and the “Love is Folly” International Film Festival in Bulgaria.
November 15, 2000
Founding and incorporation of Wichita Grand Opera. Margaret Ann Pent becomes the company’s Founding Artistic Director and Parvan Bakardiev becomes the company’s Founding President & CEO.
April 6, 2002
WGO’s Inaugural performance, with Luciano Pavarotti. Debut of the WGO Orchestra.
December 7, 2002
WGO gala concert with Plácido Domingo. Debut of the WGO Chorus
September 2003 – Landmark performance of Carmen on the Lake at Bradley Fair. Founding of WGO’s Young Artists Program and Resident Artists Program.
October 23, 2004
Renowned American baritone Sherrill Milnes unveils WGO’s Founder’s Wall, commemorating the 78 members of WGO’s Founder’s Circle and honoring Luciano Pavarotti as WGO’s Founding Artist.
Kansas native Samuel Ramey makes his home-state professional operatic debut as Scarpia in Tosca with the WGO.
WGO presents its first ballet – Swan Lake, starring the Russian National Ballet Theatre.
Kansas native Joyce DiDonato makes her home-state professional operatic debut as Rosina in The Barber of Seville with the WGO.
WGO celebrates the 10th Anniversary of its founding by reuniting three world-renowned graduates of Wichita State University in concert: Samuel Ramey, Joyce DiDonato, and Alan Held.
WGO creates just the third new American production of Rossini’s William Tell in 85 years, starring Grammy-winner Lucas Meachem and Michael Spyres.
WGO expands and re-names its Young Artists Program as the Opera Academy of the Midwest.
Margaret Ann Pent becomes WGO’s Founding Advisor. Parvan Bakardiev becomes the company’s second Artistic Director. Edward J. Lada is named the company’s second President & CEO.
More About Wichita Grand Opera
- Productions and Events
- Produced over 50 opera productions at Century II from 2002 through today
- Presented 12 gala concerts, 15 Opera Balls, and 15 Sustainer Parties
- Annually produce “Opera on the Lake” at Bradley Fair, an outdoor gala concert as a gift to the community
- Presented 16 internationally renowned ballet and dance performances
- Took Wichita Grand Opera productions and artists on tour to theaters in Kansas and Florida in multiple guest appearances
- Opera Stars
Wichita Grand Opera has engaged internationally renowned opera stars including:
- Luciano Pavarotti
- Placido Domingo
- Samuel Ramey
- Joyce DiDonato
- Annalisa Raspagliosi
- Marcello Giordani
- Zvetelina Vassileva
- Alan Held
- Michael Spyres
- Lucas Meachem
- Steven Mercurio
- Global Reach
Productions Viewed Worldwide: Eighteen of Wichita Grand Opera full productions are viewed in more than 190 countries, with over 36,000 viewers every month.
Global Press Coverage: Wichita Grand Opera’s premiere of William Tell, the only United States production in 2014, received global coverage in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the United States, with extensive coverage on Michael Spyres as Arnold, the lead tenor role in William Tell, and as far away as Japan for many of its other productions.
- Annual Mainstage Auditions that attract singers from across the United States and beyond
- Opera Academy of the Midwest provides talented young singers from all over the United States and the world the experience they need to become professional performing artists
- Resident Artist Program provides local and regional professional opera singers with employment and opportunities to perform
- Wichita Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus engage local musicians and singers each season to perform in Wichita Grand Opera productions
- “Day at the Opera” programs allows groups of students to attend the opera at discounted cost, thanks to a 3-to-1 matching grant.