Our Mission Statement

“PORTopera is dedicated to producing creative, inspiring, and professional opera performances of artistic excellence.”
We achieve this mission by:

  • Promoting our opera performances and other events locally, regionally, and nationally.
  • Providing educational opportunities related to opera in local schools and other forums.
  • Fostering young operatic talent.
  • Reaching out to our audience, supporters, and community to share our enthusiasm for opera, and to collaborate with them in creating and enjoying our productions.

Our History

Bruce Hangen, Music Director of the Portland Symphony from 1976 to 1985, had the dream of forming an opera company in Maine, but there was no venue in Portland where opera could be performed in full production. Plans moved forward in 1994 when the State Theatre became available. Hangen assembled a group of friends and supporters to form the Portland Opera Repertory Theater, now known as PORTopera. He persuaded Dona D. Vaughn to act as the Stage Director for the fledgling company.


The inaugural production, held at the State Theatre in July 1995, was Carmen. It was an instant success with both critics and audiences. In 1996 the company presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly to great acclaim. The 1996 season also introduced PORTopera’s Young Artist Program—an educational endeavor to help the careers of emerging young singers. In 1997, PORTopera moved to the newly renovated Merrill
Auditorium in Portland with a fullscale production of Puccini’s Tosca. Both of the two performances sold out. The Young Artist Program was then expanded to include six operatic concerts in other parts of the state.

Since 1997, the company has produced a single mainstage production in July of each year in Merrill Auditorium, except in 2009 when a 15th anniversary concert of opera scenes was presented. Over the years, nearly 90 different singers have participated in the Young Artist Program, performing in the mainstage productions and taking semistaged operas to thousands of residents throughout Maine.

In 2003, Bruce Hangen, who had served as Artistic Director and conducted most productions, left PORTopera, and Dona D. Vaughn, who had directed every mainstage production for the company was named Artistic Director. She continues to fill the role of Stage Director. The PORTopera Orchestra is now led by guest conductors, including Stephen Lord, Giovanni Reggioli, and Israel Gursky.

Past Seasons

Over its twenty-two year history, PORTopera has presented many of the world’s favorite operas, from Mozart to Puccini. Under the artistic direction of Dona D.Vaughn and the musical direction of such internationally renowned conductors as Stephen Lord, PORTopera’s productions have been widely acclaimed. Our outstanding performers have ranged from rising young stars to Kate Aldrich and the legendary James Morris.


Our Leadership

PORTopera is a nonprofit performing arts organization led by a volunteer Board of Directors. An Advisory Board of Directors also provides valuable expertise and guidance. Our staff is headed by Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, Young Artist Program Director Richard Gammon, and Managing Director Caroline Musica Koelker.


Board of Directors

United by their love of opera and the desire to see opera flourish in Maine, the sixteen members of PORTopera’s Board of Directors represent a cross section of the community.