Happy Fourth of July! The holiday weekend brought welcome news to Pittsburgh Opera, which has received a hefty grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The Strip District company was awarded a $350,000 state grant to support its 2016-17 season, which includes the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg's "The Summer King." The opera centers on the life of former Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson, who spent most of his career in Pittsburgh.
Democratic Rep. Adam Ravenstahl of Allegheny County announced the grant, which was approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, on Friday.
"Funding for the grants stems from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund Program, which was established to fund community and economic development projects in Allegheny County through revenue generated from all casinos," according to a press release.
The company generally receives some funding — about $165,000 — from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, but Friday's announcement marked the first time it received this particular grant, general director Christopher Hahn said. Producing a world premiere adds to the already steep sticker price of the operatic art form, so the company made this request specifically for "The Summer King," he said.
"The costs of this season are a larger because of the world premiere," Mr. Hahn said. "We're very grateful indeed, and it allows us to expand into our outreach to the sporting community and the African-American community in ways we wouldn't previously be able to do."
Performances of "The Summer King" take place April 29-May 7, 2017, at the Benedum Center.
"The grant provides vital funding for the opera company's four mainstage productions on tap this fall and next spring," Mr. Ravenstahl said in the release. "It helps pay for everything from center rentals and wardrobe to paying the highly skilled professionals — conductors, orchestra, stage crews — who make the season so highly anticipated."