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Going higher: Opera Lancaster attendance up 40 percent

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Twenty months after hiring its first full-time executive director, Opera Lancaster has reported that attendance at its regular season is up 40 percent.

The nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1952, said in a news release that when its fiscal year ends on June 30, it expects increases from the prior year of at least 9.5 percent on total donations, 37 percent on grants and 34 percent on business support.

“Opera is thriving in Lancaster,” said Executive Director William Dewan. On a national level, he said, traditional opera is struggling a bit but niche opera companies are popping up all over the country, and Lancaster is navigating that transition.

"I feel like our mission in a small town is to really introduce people to opera," he said. "You come to our shows and see people in jeans."

A big part of that effort is "Opera Tales: The Three Little Pigs," a free in-school opera program that will have been seen by 1,000 children when it is completed later this month. Support for the first-year program is due to the generosity of Opera Lancaster's community, Dewan said, and he sees it as a long-term way to build audiences.

Counting that program, Dewan said, total opera attendance for the year will be about 3,000.

Dewan also noted that Dr. Robert Roschel, whom Opera America termed "a pivotal member of OperaLancaster's board of directors," has received the national organization's trustee award.

"Dr. Roschel's innovative and hands-on approach is ongoing and includes a new vocal competition slated for May 2015, designed to reach out to potential new audience members," Opera America said in a news release.

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