Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera is the city’s oldest fully professional performing arts organization. It started as the Italian Opera Chorus in 1933 and became the Florentine Opera Company in 1950.
Earlier this year, Maggey Oplinger joined the company as its newest general manager and CEO — only the seventh person to take the helm in the company’s 85-year history. Oplinger had been working for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as its director of community partnerships and director of shared experiences. Before that she worked for Johnson Controls. But it was the decade of her life before she landed in a business setting that made Oplinger the choice of the company’s board.
"In my former life I ran around Europe singing in teeny tiny houses," Oplinger says. "[I was] doing shows, eating ramen, and loving every minute."
The combination of musical and business experience gives her the perspective necessary to guide the Florentine into its next 85 years. And part of that guidance is building new audiences while retaining those already on board.
"One of our challenges is aligning our shows on stage with where our audience wants to meet us, and that means a lot of listening on our part," she explains. "While they’re listening to our beautiful singers, we’re listening to what is resonating with them when they come to our shows."