Setting the Stage: Emilee Syrewicze

Executive director, Opera Grand Rapids
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Emilee Syrewicze
Emilee Syrewicze. Photo by David Sparks

Forget everything you thought you knew about the opera because Opera Grand Rapids is changing how people view opera — or rather, millennials are changing the way it is viewed.

More than any previous generation, millennials have been attending performances at the Grand Rapids professional opera company, and they are discovering a new love through the classic productions.

According to newly hired Executive Director Emilee Syrewicze, “Millennials are starting to attend performing arts events and shows at a much higher rate simply because they value experiences over things much more than previous generations.”

The Opera Grand Rapids company is made up entirely of people under the age of 40, so they share the same young-minded vision. In a generation that values experiences, Opera Grand Rapids is sure to provide a great one. Unlike other performances, the opera offers a very unique experience for guests.

“Imagine combining every form of classical art in one show,” Syrewicze said. Opera performances give audiences the opportunity to enjoy the symphony, chorus music, acting, dancing and more, all in a single performance.

This experience is not new to Grand Rapids. Opera Grand Rapids has been part of the city for 50 years, and the professional company is unlike many of its kind. According to Syrewicze, there are only about 150 opera companies in the United States, and of these companies, many are small, community productions. For Grand Rapids to have such a grand, professional company is rare, and it’s something for the people of Grand Rapids to be proud of.

“For us to host a company like this is exceptional and really speaks to our community’s value of the performing arts,” Syrewicze said.

Grand Rapids values the performing arts — and it shows in the Opera’s ticket sales. Guests are encouraged to buy tickets early to ensure they get them before performances sell out. With big-stage performances in the fall and the spring, tickets start selling for both performances almost as soon as they’re announced.

The upcoming show, “The Mikado,” is the perfect show for first-time opera attendees because it’s a comedy and is performed in English. So, even if you’ve never been to the opera and you want to check out what millennials have been loving, “The Mikado” could be the best opportunity.

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