Shortly after the New Jersey State Opera was founded in 1964, Alfredo Silipigni was hired as Artistic Director - a position he held until his untimely death in 2006. In 1965, the opera changed its name to Opera Theater of New Jersey, performing in Westfield and Scotch Plains/Fanwood High Schools. The company moved to Newark Symphony Hall in 1968, where it remained under its new name, the New Jersey State Opera (taken in 1974), until the move to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in 1998.
The New Jersey State Opera has had the good fortune to offer its audiences such wonderful operatic moments as Sumi Jo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Sherrill Milnes in Macbeth, Victoria de Los Angeles in her first Carmen, Beverly Sills in her first Norma in the New York/New Jersey area, Birgit Nilsson's farewell performance as Turandot (with a relative newcomer Placido Domingo in the cast), Eugenio Fernandi in La Traviata in the Garden State Arts Center, and Jerome Hines in his final performance as Boris Godunov. In 1989, the opera produced L'Elisir d'Amore with a legendary cast including Carlo Bergonzi and Roberta Peters, who brought down the house.
The complete list of great singers who have sung in productions of the New Jersey State Opera represents many of the greatest opera artists of our time. Many of opera's current stars, such as Samuel Ramey, were given their first opportunity to perform in the NYC/NJ metropolitan area by the New Jersey State Opera.
The New Jersey State Opera also has a dynamic education and outreach program geared to students in grades 5-12. In addition, there are programs for young artists, behind-the-scenes apprenticeships, internships, vocal competitions, and master classes.
Following the death of Alfredo Silipigni, the company entered a time of reorganization, embracing a "forward funding" policy. Guided by this policy in all undertakings, and by Opera America, the company will only produce main stage opera when the funds needed are secured in advance. The New Jersey State Opera remains committed to creating community-based performances and education programs. The company's most recent intimate performances held in Essex, Union, Morris, and Sussex counties have been very well-received by audiences and critics alike.