The History of Finger Lakes Opera
On a brilliant summer’s day in 2012 on the campus of the State University of New York at Geneseo, Finger Lakes Opera, Inc., was born. Artistic Director and Founder Gerard Floriano and then SUNY Geneseo President Christopher Dahl envisioned creating a summer professional opera festival in the heart of the Finger Lakes, where outstanding singers, designers and directors could come together to create bold new productions of grand operatic masterpieces resplendent with spectacular sets, dazzling costumes, inventive staging, all accompanied by a professional orchestra. Floriano and Dahl also envisaged the company enlivening the local community through its residency and by the potential 2000 plus attendees who would come for productions each summer. For three years, Finger Lakes Opera (FLO) presented fabulous productions under SUNY Geneseo’s umbrella.
In the middle of the 2016 Season, SUNY Geneseo opted not to continue the partnership. FLO’s advisory council believed in Floriano and Dahl’s original vision and was committed to its continuation. Thus, within several months, the council secured 501(c)(3) status to continue operating as a non-profit arts organization. A board was formed, by-laws were created, and articles of incorporation drawn up.
In addition to incorporating, FLO also needed to find a new performing home, and Canandaigua answered the call. Nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes, this community is a beautiful location for summer opera performances. The name Canandaigua is derived from the Seneca (Kanandarque, Ganandogan, Ga-nun-da-gwa, or Konondaigua). In a modern transcription, the historic village is rendered as tganǫdæ:gwęh, meaning the chosen spot. FLO believes both are well suited for each other. Performances are currently held in the state-of-the-art theater at the Canandaigua Academy.
During the first three years as a new, non-profit organization, the board functioned not only as passionate advocates and active volunteers but also essentially staff. They, along with Artistic Director Gerry Floriano, were responsible for the planning and production of FLO’s two headlining programs as well as the light program, currently called Opera HITS! In the 2018 Season, FLO introduced its Young Artist Program which serves as a training ground for pre-professional singers. FLO auditions and selects 6-10 singers to participate; in return, these artists commit to a modest fee that covers housing, vocal workshops, masterclasses and, of course, the opportunity to perform alongside the seasoned professional artists of FLO. During the 2018 Season, FLO offered its first children’s production, Little Red’s Most Unusual Day, as a means to broaden its audience and begin introducing opera to young people.
In 2018 FLO secured a grant from the New York Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to support its first staff person, a part-time executive director. In late February, Elizabeth G. Long was hired to assume this position. Long has over ten years of fundraising and management experience in the non-profit performing arts business and began her tenure March 1, 2019.
The following is a listing of all productions and principal artists, designers, and directors since FLO’s inception.