Our Mission…

The mission of Opera Theater Oregon is to create, develop, and produce new operatic work, with an emphasis on projects that engage the community on issues of environment and social justice.  With an emphasis on contemporary music and English language opera, we inspire new and younger audiences to experience opera in diverse ways, respecting tradition and innovation, and creating enjoyable performances of high artistic integrity.  We invite you to join us!

At OTO, the project is the story and the story is the project. And how and why we tell stories through music will continue to be a moving target in 2020 and beyond as the nation and world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. The performing arts are experiencing upheaval within changing social and political paradigms and we will continue to adapt our mission to create, develop, and produce new work. OTO intends to abide by its “plucky” reputation, adapting and staying flexible in uncertainty—the only way there is to make art. 


Founded in 2005 by Angela Niederloh and Amy Russell the company gained a reputation for out-of-the-box concepts for opera and small productions, including “mash-ups” with film and tv, and presenting opera in novel venues such as the Star Theater. Subsequent directors Katie Taylor and Erica Melton developed OTO’s identity and mission further with new commission such Patrick Morganelli’s Hercules vs. Vampires (2015) (later produced by LA Opera), Your Still as Beautiful, an original production synthesizing Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (2012) with French New Wave cinema, and Giasone and The Argonauts, “a high-brow/low-brow fusion of 17th century Venetian opera and 1960s mythic fantasy cinema” at the Hollywood Theater. OTO also frequently collaborated with Filmusik.

In recent years, OTO has increasingly focused on new work, performing and commissioning contemporary composers, with highlights feat. Justin Ralls outdoor opera, Two Yosemites: A Environmental Opera (2017), and Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince (2018), which OTO presented for the first time at Portland 5’s Winningstad Theater, with three sold-out performances. In 2020 OTO commissioned Damien Geter’s Invisible for our first “virtual” production.

Nu Nah-Hup: Sacajawea’s Story is OTO’s newest project and historic collaboration with Rose Ann Abrahamson and descendant of Sacajawea, the Agai-Dika/Lemhi-Shoshone woman who was a crucial member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We are honored to be collaborating with Rose Ann, and Shoshone-Bannock flutist and composer Hovia Edwards to co-create this intercultural work with support from National Endowment for the Arts and the Native Voices Endowment of the Endangered Language Fund.

Our Team…

Lisa Lipton / Executive Director

Lisa is the Executive Director of Opera Theater Oregon and recently appointed Executive Director of the Newport Symphony Orchestra as well as Principal Clarinetist for the Salem Orchestra. Having produced operas and song cycles such as The Little Prince by Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright, Two Yosemites by Justin Ralls, Songs for Joe Hill by Michael Lanci, and This Land Sings: Songs of Wandering, Love and Protest Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie by Michael Daugherty, Lipton often promotes and premieres new works on the West Coast; most recently she is curating Study Sessions, a series of jazz, avant-garde and contemporary classical premieres and events at Revolution Hall in Portland, Oregon. She worked at Ethos Music Center for four years as their roaming band director visiting over eight schools a week, and serving as summer camp director, strengthening her skills in community building and educational outreach. Of her chamber music performance for the March Music Moderne festival, Sam Reising wrote for I CARE IF YOU LISTEN: “Lipton…played clarinet in the piece, showcasing a wonderful sense of delicacy and awareness of the sound in time.”

Lipton studied Performance at Portland State University and attended the Central Chinese Conservatory. She is the recipient of awards and grants from New Music USA, The Regional Arts and Culture Council, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, The Herbert Templeton Foundation, and Portland State University.


Justin Ralls, Ph.D / Artistic Director

Justin Ralls, composer, conductor, writer, and educator hails from the Pacific Northwest and is inspired by the beauty of the natural world and elemental forms of creativity. An award winning composer, Ralls has conducted his works at the Lucca International Youth Orchestra Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Britt Festival at Crater Lake National Park, the Newman Scoring Stage in Los Angeles, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, as well as other venues in Salzburg, Rome, Portland, Boston, San Francisco and beyond. His music is featured on the Sierra Club and National Parks websites and NPR. SF Examiner remarked of Ralls’ orchestral work, Tree Ride, as “a whirlwind of thick orchestral textures…definitely establishing his own voice…” John Adams spoke of Tree Ride as “impressive…showing a mastery of orchestral technique,” also stating “your analogy to natural forces was done very well, your thunderstorm basically better than the Pastoral.” He has been described by artslandia.com as “a gifted melodist…[his music] a beautiful blend of natural and human-made music.” Ralls’ works have been performed by a variety of soloists and ensembles including Albany Symphony (NY), Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra, Third Angle Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, Fear No Music, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Jarring Sounds, Eugene Opera, Opera Theater Oregon, San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra, Esteli Gomez, Molly Barth and more. As a composer he explores an eclecticism encompassing many styles including natural soundscapes, improvisation, electronics, vocal, chamber, film, jazz, folk and orchestral forces. Ralls is an Artist-in-Residence at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, an Old Growth forest research site. His education includes The Boston and San Francisco Conservatories and as well earning a Ph.D from the University of Oregon.

Board of Directors

Lisa Lipton, Chair

Justin Ralls, Co-Chair

Anne Polyakov, Secretary 

John Lipton, Treasurer 

Christine A. Richardson

OTO is a 501c(3) tax exempt non-profit organization. The company was founded in 2005 by Angela Niederloh and Amy Russell, followed by Katie Taylor and Erica Melton. We rely on donations to continue to present new opera in Oregon, proudly featuring local talent and nurturing the careers of emerging artists. Find out more about making a tax deductible donation to OTO today!