A scene from CU Boulder's production of "Pirates of Penzance" which opens Friday at Macky Auditorium. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Asakawa University Communications/CU Boulder)

The University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder) announced the establishment of a $2 million endowment for its opera program this week.
 
Businessman and longtime Boulder resident Paul Eklund has donated what the College of Music calls a “transformative” gift to CU Opera, which has now rebranded itself as the Eklund Family Opera Program. 
 
The new endowment for the Eklund Family Opera Program is $2 million. According to CU Boulder officials, at 4 percent, the fund will distribute $80,000 in its first year, and then a similar amount or more in perpetuity. 
 

Paul Eklund (left), CU Boulder opera director Leigh Holman, dean of the CU Boulder College of Music Robert S. Shay. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

“CU Opera will have something on an annual basis for income and it will go beyond my life," Eklund says. "I want it to flourish and be ongoing. I want to have it available for people who may not have been exposed to it. I want it for our culture here in Boulder.”
 
The $2 million endowment, which also includes a nominal amount from the CU Boulder Office of the Chancellor, will help to support the program’s three full productions a year as well as training efforts like the CU New Opera Workshop, which partners students with new composers. 
 
“It really feels like we’re going into an age when a lot of arts organizations are not making it,” CU Opera director Leigh Holman says. “But with this gift we have the stability and the foundation we need to keep growing.”
 
The ongoing financial support will also help with recruiting efforts, Holman says.

“It’s very encouraging, because I’ve heard forever that this is the art form of the elite, and it’s not,” Holman says. “The only reason that these emotions and this text are set to music is because the feelings are so strong in opera that you have to sing them, and anyone can relate to that. I don’t think it’s as far removed as some people once thought.”

Eklund, who works in real estate, has long been an opera fan.
 
When he was a child growing up in San Diego, his mother took him to outdoor opera productions in Balboa Park. He was inspired to make his gift after seeing a recent CU Opera production of Puccini's renowned opera "La Boheme."
 
“I was so impressed,” Eklund says. “I started listening to opera singers. Music is a constant now, and it makes for a fuller life.” 
 
Other Boulder opera makers see the endowment as positive news.
 
"This is good for the opera community," Boulder Opera Company founder and executive director Dianela Acosta says. "It will increase the pool of singers we can use for our productions."
 
Acosta says that her organization makes frequent use of CU Boulder singers in its shows. She says the company's upcoming family-focused production of "Hansel and Gretel" will feature several CU students, and that the students also regularly understudy roles in the company's main stage productions. 
 
"It's exciting to hear this news because the singers we use from CU Boulder get such great training from there," Acosta says.
 

The 2014 CU Opera season opens Friday with a production of “The Pirates of Penzance” at Macky Auditorium.