Butler Opera students perform in a production of Eugene Onegin

Butler Opera Center

The Butler Opera Center ranks among the top opera programs in the United States. Under the direction of Tamar Sanikidze, the program prepares emerging vocalists, vocal coaches and opera stage directors for careers in music. Each year, while pursuing academic classes, graduate students participate in at least three fully-produced mainstage operas accompanied by a full orchestra. With a curriculum based in both the traditional operatic repertory and progressive contemporary works, the program attracts students and faculty from a diverse background. Enrollment for each degree is limited to ensure personalized, intensive performance and training opportunities for each student.

Garnett Bruce

Resident Stage Director, Butler Opera Center

Read More about Garnett Bruce

Tamar Sanikidze

Director, Butler Opera Center

Division Head, Voice & Opera

Professor of Opera Studies
Principal Opera Coach

Read More about Tamar Sanikidze

Douglas Kinney Frost

Principal Conductor, Butler Opera Center

Read More about Douglas Kinney Frost

Elio Bucky

Teaching Assistant, Butler Opera Center

Read More about Elio Bucky


Butler Opera Center productions are primarily open to Butler students in an opera degree program.  



M-T-W-Th-F, 3:30-6:30p
PAC 3.412

M-W-Th, 1-2p
PAC 3.412



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Follow Helen Sohyun Park, a second year DMA student in opera directing, as she directs Georges Bizet's "Carmen." Under the guidance of Butler Opera Center's outstanding faculty, students at the doctoral level have the opportunity to direct their own major productions, providing them with invaluable first-hand experience.


We go behind the scenes to see how the Butler Opera Center's resident designer, Aaron Kubacak, creates costumes for shows. He designed all costumes for a recent production of "Elixir of Love," and will do the same for all of BOC's productions this season. Working closely with the show's director, Kubacak begins with research and drawings, then brings them to life.

The Story of the Butler Opera Center

The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music in the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin in 2004 received a $2 million gift from Dr. Ernest and Mrs. Sarah Butler to endow the Opera Theatre program. In recognition of this gift, the program was re-named the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Center.

The endowment provides a stable funding source for the Butler Opera Center, which already ranks among America’s best, making it possible for undergraduate and graduate students to work with outstanding faculty, accomplished composers,

librettists, guest conductors, and other opera professionals. The gift ensures that students will receive valuable training in opera, opera performance, opera directing, opera coaching, opera production and a comprehensive, professional-quality opera education, while also funding scholarships to attract outstanding opera interest talent to the School of Music.

“Over the years, opera at UT ranked as one of the prominent educational opera programs in the country,” said Dr. Robert DeSimone, former Director of the Butler Opera Center. “The confidence, investment and trust reflected in Sarah and Ernest Butler’s gift has insured continued quality and development of a greater vision for the program. Their endowment and scholarship funding continues to touch the lives of many emerging operatic talent at the university, and has supported the creation of the Artist Diploma program and most recently the addition of graduate degrees in Opera Coaching.”

This gift is the largest in a series of contributions the Butlers have made to The University of Texas at Austin. In the past years they have given more than $3.2 million to the university, including the current gift, six Endowed Presidential Scholarships for voice students in opera at the Butler School of Music, a gift for the dynamic Focus Gallery in the Blanton Museum of Art building, and numerous other contributions to various areas of the university.

“Ernest and Sarah Butler have been wonderful supporters of the arts in Austin for many years through gifts to the Butler Opera Center, Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music” said DeSimone. “They are extremely committed to nurturing young operatic talent and providing the best educational and performance opportunities for future singers.”

“Over the years we have followed the growth and development of Butler School of Music graduates, and particularly of those voice students who have participated in the opera program. Many of them have carried their talent to young artists programs and to national and international opera companies. We value the contributions and influence the Butler Opera Center program has had on Austin’s opera and beyond. The faculty, the students and professional guests are all a source of enrichment for our community,” said Sarah Butler. Because opera remains the most comprehensive of all the performing arts, endowing the university’s opera program was one of the primary goals of the capital campaign initiated by the College of Fine Arts in 1997.

“Opera production is a collaborative effort involving not only student singers, but other musicians, actors, and graduate talent in costuming, scenery and lighting design from across the College of Fine Arts,” said Robert Freeman, former dean of the college. “Opera brings to bear all the creative forces of music, drama, dance and visual arts.”

Upcoming Performances

An red-headed Queen of Spades emerging from clouds.

Butler Opera Center

Event Status

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 
Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky after Alexander Pushkin 

Garnett Bruce, director
Douglas Kinney Frost, conductor

Sung in Russian.

production photo, a man singing while demons surround him
Aristocrats in formalwear huddle around a newspaper to read a story
Two woman on stage amidst a wash of vibrant blue light
Three women in cartoonish buffants sing on a cartoon stage
A woman on the couch is serenaded by a man down on knee
A sad woman in a red dress on stage, flanked by two men in tuxedos.
Two Children kneel and pray with cunning smirks while adults fret in the background
A female ghost cries out
A woman in a black dress stands on stage with colorful silhouettes behind her
A cast of aristocrats in formal dress sing a big ending number

Previous Seasons


Les Contes D'Hoffmann
Jacques Offenbach

Proving Up
Missy Mazzoli 

Shakespear Gala
scenes from 
Romeo et Juliette
A Midsummer Night's Dream



Gaetano Donizetti
L'elisir D'Amore

Viktor Ullmann
Der Kaiser von Atlantis

Georges Bizet


W.A. Mozart
Don Giovanni

Jonathan Dove 
Mansfield Park

Benjamin Britten
The Turn of the Screw