Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Provided With Historic $45 Million Gift

By David Salazar

The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has received a $45 million bequest from Life Board Member Phyllis Brissenden. 

The gift, the largest in the company’s history and one of the largest in the history of any American opera company, will provide the company for financial stability as it heads into its 50th anniversary. 

Brissenden was born on March 31, 1933 and was a major supporter of Opera Theatre Saint Louis since its first season in 1796. He donated to the organization anonymously for decades, contributing a sum total of $2.5 million throughout her lifetime. 

“Phyllis championed Opera Theatre from its very beginnings, and remained a loyal, devoted fan and supporter throughout her life. Smart, knowledgeable, witty, and extraordinarily humble, Phyllis truly considered Opera Theatre her family,” stated OTSL Board Chairman Noémi Neidorff in a press release. “Every season, she made frequent trips from her home in Springfield, Illinois so as not to miss any performances, board meetings, master classes, rehearsals, or workshops. My fellow board members and I count ourselves fortunate to have known Phyllis. We will forever cherish her memory.”

The gift will be designated to the company’s general endowment, doubling it to close to $80 million. The company’s operating expenses are covered by ticket sales with annual support of more than 1,000 donors supplementing the yearly endowment distribution to finance mainstage productions, year-round civic programming, artist training, and educational programs. 

The company’s 2020 production of “Susannah” will be dedicated to Brissenden.