Nickel City Opera

The Nickel City Opera is the brainchild of Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone and Buffalo area native Valerian Ruminski, who launched his company in July 2009, with a production of The Barber of Seville.
Over it’s 9 year existence, NCO has garnered artistic praise and financial assistance and everyone involved is working hard to make sure that such success continues for years to come.
This was the opera's website for a number of years.
Content is from the site's 2010-2013 archived pages.

The current website for the Nickel City Opera is found at:

Founded in 2004, Nickel City Opera is a 501 c3 nonprofit and Buffalo’s only major opera company producing full-scale operas, complete with costumes, sets and a full orchestra.
Founder and Artistic Director Valerian Ruminski utilizes his extensive network of friends and colleagues  as well as his own experience as an opera and concert performer to cast NCO’s shows with talent Western New York audiences might not have the opportunity to see. 
“The one word that keeps coming up as I receive feedback on our productions is ‘value,’” said Ruminski.  Citing a region and era where dollars are tight, Ruminski says many different forms of entertainment compete to receive peoples’ hard earned money. “I’m proud to say we’re able to keep the ticket prices of our productions reasonable and still provide audiences with a quality show, including professional opera singers and musicians.”
Indeed, NCO’s productions have received favorable reviews from local media, which further underscore the surprise and delight in finding such a jewel amidst Western New York’s celebrated artistic organizations.
NCO primarily stages its shows out of The Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center in North Tonawanda, N.Y., but Ruminski relishes the challenges and opportunities of bringing NCO productions to other Western New York venues--both traditional and nontraditional--in his quest to bring opera to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. 
With the continued goal of producing high quality opera and a small but loyal following of patrons and supporters, NCO looks forward to building on its success through more acclaimed performances, innovative fundraising and community outreach.



Nickel City Opera Founder and Artistic Director Valerian Ruminski brings his passion for opera to Western New York audiences through NCO, but he also has a long and acclaimed history as a professional opera singer and performer. 

“I want to break the notion that opera is stuffy and only for the rich,” said Ruminski.  “The stories are timeless and the music will stick with you. Our shows are very ‘come as you are,’ whether it’s in an evening gown or jeans. We want audiences to walk away being proud they can experience such quality entertainment, right in their own backyard.”

A native of Cheektowaga, N.Y., Ruminski is a graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and has a BA in Voice from The State University of New York at Buffalo.  He’s currently on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for the 2010-11 season and recently finished a successful run as Nikitisch in Boris Godunov at the Metropolitan Opera and was seen on the HD broadcast worldwide as well as on Sirius Satellite Radio. Recent engagements include Hawaii Opera Theatre as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor and as Marquis D’Obigny in La Traviata at the Gasteig in Munich and the Musikverein in Vienna as part of the return of Edita Gruberova.
He has been engaged by The New York City Opera, Dallas Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera de Montreal, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Minnesota Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Calgary Opera, Opera de Quebec, Opera  Lyra Ottawa, Vancouver Opera, Opera Pacific, Opera Columbus, Nickel City Opera, Kansas City Opera, El Paso Opera, Opera de Monte Carlo, Opera Ireland, New Israeli Opera (Tel Aviv), Birmingham Opera, Festival Lyrique de Belle ile en Mer (France), Santa Fe Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, The Bard Festival and The Green Mountain Festival of Vermont.
Roles performed include Gremin/Eugene Onegin, Colline/La Boheme, Feniscio/Ermione, Ferrando/Il Trovatore, Figero/La Nozze di Figaro, Basilio/Barber of Seville, Geronte/Manon Lescaut, Zuniga/Carmen, Don Alfonso/Cosi Fan Tutte, Lt. Ratcliffe/Billy Budd, Sparafucile/Rigoletto, King & Ramphis/Aida, Sam/Ballo in Maschera, Frere Laurent/Romeo and Juliet, Masetto & Commendatore/Don Giovanni, Sarastro/Magic Flute, Banquo/Macbeth, Pubblio/Clemenza di Tito, Timur/Turandot and Inspector Budd/Albert Herring.
Ruminski is the recipient of the Lincoln Center Martin Segal Award for a Young Artist, the Richard Tucker Award, a Gerda Lissner Grant and was the First Place winner of the MacAllister Vocal Competition in Indianapolis.
Also at home in the concert venue, Ruminski has performed in the Monteverdi Vespers, Mozart Requiem, Verdi Requiem, Bach Cantatas and a concert of Shostakovich with the Bard Festival. He is featured on the soon to be released New World Records release of Victor Herbert: The New Generation and can also be heard on the Naxos release of A Night at the Opera with other Metropolitan Opera singers.  
Ruminski is also an adjunct professor of voice at the State University of New York at Westchester.
In describing his vision for NCO, Ruminski is simple and direct: “I want to produce the very best opera in the most cost effective manner.  I’m not looking to be the biggest, just the best.” He relies on his extensive network of renowned musicians and singers from around the world to come to Buffalo and perform in NCO’s productions.  “People are often surprised at the level of talent we attract,” he said, “but to me, there’s really no point in staging a full opera production--complete with costumes, sets and an orchestra--if it’s not done right.”
And when it comes to making opera fun and accessible fun for all audiences, Ruminski is constantly searching for out-of-the-box ideas, including staging a production of  Puccini’s Il Tabarro aboard the USS The Sullivans, docked along Buffalo’s waterfront at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park in June 2011.




by G. Donizetti
Valerian Ruminski as Don Pasquale
Benjamin Brecher as Ernesto
James Wright as Malatesta
Zulimar Hernandez as Norina
Nicholas Kilkenny as the Notary
Directed by David Grabarkewitz
Conducted by Michael Ching
June 28th, 29th & 30th
The Riviera Theatre
716 692 2413
featuring music by:
Gershwin, Baber, Ives, Floyd,
Herbert, Edwards, Foster plus
NEW music by local Buffalo
composer Persis Vehar fromĀ 
" Shot! " an opera about the
1901 McKinley assassination
MAY 19th 4pm
$20 at the door
Lancaster Opera House
716 332 0745 for info
June 3rd, 2013- 5th Annual NCO Dinner
call 716 332 0745 for reservations $50 pp
June 2013- Don Pasquale/Donizettiune
Nov 2013- Amahl & The Night Visitors
June 2014-TBA
Nov 2014- Amahl and the Night Visitors




Upcoming Engagements for
Valerian Ruminski:
Don Pasquale/Don Pasquale
Hawaii Opera Theatre - January 2012
Brahms Requiem
Springfield Symphony, MO - March 17, 2012
Luther/Tales of Hoffman
Canadian Opera Company - April 2012
Simone/Gianni Schicchi (cover)
Canadian Opera Company - May 2012
Colline/La Boheme
Nickel City Opera - June 2012
Colline/La Boheme
Ottawa Lyra Opera - Sept 2012


Nickel City Opera - WNY's Premiere Opera Company




The Nickel City  Opera Goes to Sea

Artvoice Magazine
July 11, 2011

Puccini in a unique setting

The Nickel City Opera is on a roll. After a small disaster regarding the upkeep of the venue - a cleaning contractor failed to stock the proper janitorial supplies, which led to restrooms without toilet paper and paper towels - the venue quickly recovered from this pr debacle. Last weekend’s performances of Verdi’s Il Trovatore featured the strongest production by the company in its three-year history. Director Henry Akina’s atmospheric staging at the Riviera Theatre was highly effective, while the singing of the principal soloists proved to be memorable. Hoping to keep that momentum going, Valerian Ruminski, artistic director of the NCO, decided to stage this weekend’s performances of Puccini’s one-act opera Il Tabarro, on Saturday, July 2, and Sunday, July 3, in a genuinely unique location: the stern deck of the USS The Sullivans, the destroyer permanently docked at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, at the foot of Pearl and Main streets, across from HSBC Arena.

While Puccini set Il Tabarro on a barge docked on the river Seine in Paris, Ruminski explained that he first got his idea when he read a newspaper article about a production of the work a few years back that was set on a ship docked in Brooklyn. “When I read about this production,” he says, “my mind started racing, and it only took me about five minutes to come up with the idea of putting on a similar production by the Nickel City Opera, but on the deck of The Sullivans.” That production, by the Vertical Player Repertory, an indie opera company, took place on the deck of a former oil tanker undergoing restoration, docked in the busy container port of Red Hook. The New York Times reported that “parts of the production married beautifully: both the story and the show begin at sunset. The cast had to adjust to the boat’s swaying, but even that proved well meshed. ‘You’re feeling the motion of the ship, and the music begins with this lovely rocking,’ said a member of the show’s chorus.”

Nickel City Opera’s performances also will begin at dusk, about 8:45pm, with some orchestral musical selections preceding Il Tabarro. The audience will be seated on the pier, while English supertitles will be projected onto a screen hanging on the USS Little Rock, docked in back of The Sullivans. Performers will be entering, in some cases through the seated audience, and exiting, via gangways, onto the Little Rock. In the event of rain, a concert version of the opera will be presented under a canopy on the Little Rock.

Ruminski is enthusiastic about his new production: “Anyone with a sense of excitement will want to see Il Tabarro performed on a destroyer. Has anyone in our audience ever seen an opera performed on a ship before? The sightlines from the audience seating area on the dock are very good, and I think that our production, set in the 1940s, during World War II, the time when The Sullivans was commissioned, benefits from being staged on this ship.”

Two of the principal soloists for Il Tabarro played a large part in the success of last weekend’s Il Trovatore. Baritone John Packard, a ruefully forceful Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, will be appearing in Il Tabarro as the deceived husband Michele. Soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs sang the demanding role of Leonora exquisitely in Il Trovatore, portraying a woman who kills herself rather than be unfaithful to her lover, but she gets to put the shoe on the other foot as Michele’s philandering wife Georgetta in Il Tabarro. Both Packard and Blancke-Biggs have sang their roles in Il Tabarro previously, and so did not need to start rehearsing these roles again until this week, while director Henry Akina recently mounted a successful production of Puccini’s Il Trittico, the three-part opera of which Il Tabarro is a part, at his Hawaii Opera Theatre home base.

The role of Georgetta’s unlucky lover Luigi will be sung by tenor Adam Klein, whose career highlights have included Tristan in Tristan und Isolde with the Seattle Opera and many appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, including as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, as Steva in Jenufa, as the Chevalier in Les Dialogues Des Carmelites, and as Elemer in Arabella, opposite Renée Fleming.

Bass Valerian Ruminski, who appeared as the first soloist in Il Trovatore, set a dramatic standard that the rest of the cast had to work hard to duplicate. In Il Tabarro he’ll sing the role of Talpa, husband to the faithful if eccentric La Frugola, who will be portrayed by NCO newcomer Gillian Cotter, a mezzo-soprano from the Fredonia School of Music, while Hawaiian tenor Jeremy Blossey will sing the part of Tinca. The Easter Festival Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Zachary Kampler.

Tickets are $50. For reservations, call 931-0591. Tickets also may be purchased at the Naval Park Gift Shop on the evenings of the performances, by cash or check


Waterfront Opera
The Buffalo News
July 1, 2011

'Il Trovatore' Very Finely Done
The Buffalo News
June 25, 2011

Opera is on the Upswing
The Buffalo News
June 21, 2011

Nickel City OPera Launches 3rd Season with Big Plans

Artvoice Magazine
June 17, 2011

Il Trovatore at The Riviera Theatre

by Jan Jezioro

On Friday, June 24, at 8pm, and on Sunday, June 26, at 2:30pm, the Nickel City Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s ever-popular tale of love and gypsy revenge, Il Trovatore, at the Riviera Theatre on Webster Street in North Tonawanda.

The Nickel City Opera exists due to the vision of its artistic director, Buffalo native and Metropolitan Opera bass Valerian Ruminski, who along with the company’s executive director, Eileen Breen, felt that there was both the need and the opportunity to continue the legacy of Gary Burgess’ groundbreaking Greater Buffalo Opera Company, which produced full-staged opera productions from 1986 to 1997 with an increasingly high level of professionalism. The first two Nickel City Opera seasons featured a thoroughly enjoyable inaugural production of the Barber of Seville, and a more ambitious production of Rigoletto last year, followed by a charming holiday production of Amahl and the Night Visitors on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which will be given a reprise this November.

While the first two seasons of the Nickel City Opera have to be considered as genuine successes, Ruminski feels that the organization has reached a turning point. “The Nickel City Opera is currently experiencing a growth spurt,” he says. “Something significant, maybe like an individual going through puberty. I have to consider our first two seasons to have been successful, but as we now expand, and plan on additional productions, beyond our core month of June time-frame, we definitely are hoping for a little box office bump for Trovatore, which, I think, is our strongest production, to date.”

As part of the company’s growth, Nickel City Opera is taking the bold step of producing a second summer opera, on July 2 and 3, at a most unusual location, when it stages Puccini’s Il Tabarro aboard the USS The Sullivans, the destroyer docked in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

The legendary tenor Enrico Caruso famously once said that all that it takes for a successful performance of Il Trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world. Perhaps with Caruso’s remark in mind, for this production Ruminski has assembled the strongest cast of soloists in the company’s short history.

The pivotal role of the gypsy Azucena will be sung by the internationally renowned Metropolitan Opera star Victoria Livengood, a Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano who is best known for her dynamic portrayals in well over 100 performances with the Met, where she has established herself as a house favorite. Livengood has also appeared throughout Europe, South America, Canada, and the United States, including many appearances at the Spoleto Festival, where she sang the title role in The Medium under the direction of the work’s composer, Gian Carlo Menotti. Her portrayal of Azucena in a recent production of Il Trovatore in Fort Worth, Texas drew high praise: “The real star of the production is the simply awe-inspiring Victoria Livengood as Azucena. Her potent mezzo includes a fearsome chest voice; a smooth, flexible middle voice; and a bright trumpet of an upper range that cuts through chorus and orchestra with amazing force.”

“I have a powerful voice,” Ruminski says, “and while I sometimes have had to rein in my volume level when singing with others, the only time that I have ever had to raise my voice was when I was singing with Victoria.”

The role of the doomed lover Manrico will be sung by the versatile tenor Eduardo Villa, who has appeared in the role more than 100 times. Villa is a regular guest star of the Metropolitan Opera, having appeared on the Met stage in the title roles in Verdi’s Don Carlo and Ernani, and as Radames in Aida, Rodolpho in Luisa Miller, Don Jose in Carmen, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, and Enzo in La Gioconda. He has also appeared as well as in other leading opera houses throughout Europe, Australia and North America.

Soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, most recently heard worldwide in the Sirius Satellite Radio Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of Puccini’s Tosca, with tenor Marcello Giordani, and in Verdi’s Macbeth, as Lady Macbeth, at Santiago, Chile’s Teatro Municipal, will appear in the role of Leonara, a women who unwittingly tempts men to their ultimate destruction.

John Packard, who has become the de-facto “house baritone” for the Nickel City Opera, following solid performances, both in the title role of Rigoletto and in the Barber of Seville, will portray the tragically libidinous Count di Luna, while Nickel City Opera artistic director Ruminski appears as Ferrando, loyal henchman to the Count, who Ruminski also characterizes as being “something of a father-figure” to that unlucky individual.

Ruminski had originally engaged an Irish director for this production, but after that individual was left scrambling due to the loss of his position, following a forced merger of his company, Ruminski was luckily able to engage Henry Akima, the director of the Hawaii Opera Theatre, a company with which Ruminski has sung for the previous three years, and with which he will again be appearing in February.

Wesley Krantz, former operations manager at the BPO, is the production manger and Zachary Kampler will once again lead the Eastern Festival Symphony Orchestra, and the large chorus of gypsies – a dozen women and a dozen men – all local singers, in the opera’s many well-known numbers, including the famous “Anvil Chorus.”



Center Stage
Business First
April 1, 2011

Nickel City Opera Performs Amahl & the Night Visitors
November 25, 2010

Valerian Ruminski is the Booming Voice Behind Buffalo's Nickel City Opera
The Buffalo News
August 21, 2010

Nickel City Opera's 'Barber of Seville' Deserving of Accolades

The Buffalo News
August 21, 2010

Want some popcorn with your opera? You can have it at the Riviera Theatre, where the new Nickel City Opera is in residence this weekend doing a bang-up job with Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

With so much good news surrounding the company’s first production, knowing where to begin is difficult. Friday’s performance of the slapstick opera by Gioachino Rossini featured tremendous voices, fine comic timing, lovely sets, sumptuous 18th century costumes and a competent orchestra. It topped the opera productions I have seen at the Chautauqua Institution. That was how good it was.

Earthy humor abounded. Directed by University at Buffalo graduate David MacAdam, the opera is being presented mostly in English, with a couple of arias in the original Italian. The words fit the music well, and the jokes were nonstop. This “Barber” had a youthful, populist feel, probably the way it did when Rossini wrote it.

From the beginning, you got the idea that the opera was in good hands. Benjamin Brecher, as the Count Almaviva, radiated the appropriate confidence. He navigated the twists and curlicues of the Count’s lines with clarity and panache.

This is high praise, but John Packard was the best Figaro I have ever seen, and others said the same thing. His singing is lusty, on the mark and marvelously expressive. He even does his own guitar playing, accompanying the count’s serenade.

As Rosina, Nadia Petrella is world class — beautiful and funny. Her high notes were clear as bells, her demanding lines dazzling. Even in the face of the treacherous “Una voce poco fa,” she projected humor and ease. That’s the crowning challenge of Rossini — you not only have to pull off challenging vocal derring-do, but you have to enjoy it.

A special bravo to Christopher Mallory, who made Don Bartolo a delight to watch and to hear. Making a bad-guy role consistently entertaining is challenging. Your eyes were always drawn to him.

Valerian Ruminski brought his usual vocal power and off-the-wall comedy to the role of Don Basilio.

Rosemaria Serrano was a fine Berta, and Brian Cheveries and Kendrew Heriveaux also distinguished themselves. The balance was good, and the ensemble work sparkled. One crowd scene involving a police force got as hilarious as a Marx Brothers movie. In a superb comic touch, one figure on stage slept all through it, his walking stick by his side. That is the kind of production this is. Nothing is neglected.

The Eastern Festival Symphony Orchestra, led by Zachary Israel Nobile Kampler, played well, especially considering it is a student orchestra. The violins’ pizzicato, the horns’ touches of color — it all admirably followed the breathless action on stage.

Finally, the Riviera itself was a star. It is a great place for opera, not too big or too small. The acoustics were good. A few members of OperaBuffs, who were out in force, pointed out that it reminded them of elegant European opera houses.

Opera Review

“The Barber of Seville”

Presented by Nickel City Opera, Friday night in the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda. Another performance at 2:30 p. m. today. For more information, call 692-2413 or visit


Magnificent 'Rigoletto' Proves Nickel City Opera is for Real
The Buffalo News
June 27, 2010

ADAMCZYK: For the Open-minded, the World is Wide Open
The Tonawanda News
July 2, 2010

Other Past Productions include:
Barber of Seville - June 2009
Al Jolson: Son of a Rabbi- Dec 2009

or call 716 692 2413   $24-59 pricing