• Karin Cooper

We don’t see much opera in Charleston unless it’s Spoleto season, but that’s about to change. Opera Charleston is a new organization that’s making its debut with an event in March featuring renowned mezzo soprano Denyce Graves as well as performers from major opera companies across the country. They’ll be performing Bizet’s Carmen at the Memminger March 9 and 11.

The organization has some big names behind it, including Artistic Director Scott Flaherty, Principal Conductor and Music Director Louis Salemno, and Board of Directors President David Templeton. They’ve also amassed a 41-person chorus comprised of singers from across the Lowcountry.

Artistic administrator Matthew Gardner, who moved to Charleston from Pittsburgh to help launch the company, says that they’re mostly funded by private and corporate donations. Several of the group’s leaders have used their connections in the opera world to secure Carmen’s impressive lineup, which also includes principals from the New York City Opera, the Washington National Opera, and the San Francisco Opera.

They’ve partnered with PDA for the multimedia elements of the show, which Gardner describes as “a cross between a rock concert and a PBS holiday program.” Gardner also says that Opera Charleston already has a five-year plan mapped out, with upcoming events like a Menotti cycle and a free summer pops concert. The goal is to make it a full-time, critically renowned company. Find out more at