Opera in the Ozarks lands $34M Walton grant for new facilities

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,611 views 

A rendering from Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects shows a new theater in development for Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs.

A $34 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation will fund a new theater building for Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs.

The foundation was created in 1987 and is led by the family of Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton. Annie Proietti, one of their granddaughters, is the board chair. The Walton’s youngest son, Jim Walton, is Proietti’s father.

Foundation officials shared project details in a Thursday (May 4) news release.

“For seven decades, artists have traveled to Opera in the Ozarks on their music education journey,” Jim Walton and his wife Lynne Walton said in the release. “A new theater continues this legacy by offering generations of future musicians and singers a new stage to showcase their talents.”

According to the release, the grant will fund the design and construction of a facility that will include a 300-seat theater, rehearsal hall, expanded production shops, practice rooms and faculty housing.

The theater building and faculty housing units will be on the Opera in the Ozarks campus at 16311 U.S. Highway 62. Opera in the Ozarks owns the land. The current buildings will not be torn down, but detailed plans for those are in progress.

Construction begins this month. It is scheduled to be completed in mid-2025. Crossland Construction is the builder. The architect is Arkansas-based Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.

“A new theater will be transformational for our artists and audiences,” said Nancy Preis, general director of Opera in the Ozarks. “It will offer artists a stage worthy of their talents. Our new home will also be a welcoming space for audiences to enjoy an intimate and high-quality performance.”

Opera in the Ozarks is an opera training and performance program. It started as a summer camp in 1950 to provide students from various backgrounds access to music education. The program evolved into a music mecca, attracting students from across the globe.

Alumni of Opera in the Ozarks include notable stars Latonia Moore, Leona Mitchell and Mark Delavan. All have performed at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House. Distinguished alums have also performed on international stages in Vienna, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

“Opera in the Ozarks was the first place where I was able to sing leading roles. I learned what was needed as an opera singer in preparation, rehearsal and on stage,” said Justin Burgess, 2017-2018 Opera in the Ozarks alumnus and current student at Cafritz Young Artists at Washington National Opera. “A new theater will give students the opportunity to build roles and perform on a stage comparable to what the future holds for them.”