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A person walks in front of Central City Opera House
A pedestrian walks past the entrance of the Central City Opera House during a matinée performance of "Othello" on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. The 550-seat opera house was built in 1878. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Central City Opera and its president and CEO Pamela A. Pantos have parted ways in the midst of the opera’s 2023 summer festival season. 

Scott Finlay, vice president of development at Central City Opera, confirmed that as of Monday, Pantos was no longer employed by the opera.  

“The company wishes her the best in her future endeavors and will begin a search immediately for a new president and CEO,” Finlay wrote in an email to The Colorado Sun. 

By Tuesday afternoon, Pantos’ name had been removed from CCO’s website. The classical music site Sharps and Flatirons reported that an internal memo had gone out Tuesday to company members, as well as administrative and festival staff, sharing the news of her exit just a year and a half after she was hired. 

Pantos stepped into the role in late February 2022. During the first summer festival under her leadership — and the first back in the iconic Central City Opera House since the pandemic upended the scheduleabout a week’s worth of performances were canceled due a COVID-19 outbreak among the performers. A contentious labor dispute between the artistic workers and opera management soon followed.  

Pantos had previously worked with organizations like Arts Consulting Group, an arts-focused recruitment firm that also helps with such services as strategic planning; Newport Classical, formerly known as the Newport Music Festival; and Opera North in New Hampshire. She spent the earlier part of her arts career performing as a mezzo-soprano. 

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In the new job, Pantos was expected to serve “as the company’s managing director, chief administrator and community ambassador in consideration of CCO’s dual role as both opera producer and owner of 27 historic properties,” the 2022 news release said, including the 145-year-old opera house where the company performs. 

She was supposed to oversee the opera company alongside Pelham “Pat” Pearce Jr., who was Central City Opera’s artistic and executive leader for more than 25 years. But a few months after Pantos was hired, just before the start of the 2022 season, Pearce left the company. He told The Denver Gazette the decision to say goodbye was entirely his and said at the time of that interview that he wasn’t ready to share details. 

Labor tensions boiled over late last year as opera management and the American Guild of Musical Artists, or AGMA, the union representing performance and production artists, butted heads while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement — the previous contract had expired in August. 

In a letter sent to the opera’s board of directors in December and shared on the union website, AGMA raised concerns about allegations from members including body shaming, sexual harassment, withheld pay and “overt threats of retaliation for union activity.” 

About a month later, several directors slated to work with the opera for the 2023 season sent a letter to CCO leadership asking that these accusations be taken seriously and addressed. 

Guests of the Central City Opera enter the Central City Opera House after intermission during an afternoon performance of “Othello.” (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“There is nothing personal against anybody at the company, but as artists, we have so few professional and personal protections, I deeply feel that I have to stand with my artistic colleagues,” director Ken Cazan wrote on behalf of himself and the two other directors. 

Central City Opera disputed the claims, putting out its own statement, saying CCO has “supported the talented performers and production staff who make our company what it is” throughout its history. 

The union and opera both ended up filing unfair labor practices claims with the National Labor Relations Board, and the dispute continued to play out in public view via statements and social media posts. 

AGMA and CCO reached a collective bargaining agreement on May 18, which will last until September 2027. 

A statement provided by AMGA’s director of communications, Alicia Cook, to The Colorado Sun on Wednesday said the union had heard the news that Pantos was no longer employed by the opera company. 

“But that’s all we currently know for certain, and we still have significant questions about what’s next at CCO,” the statement read. “We hope that this change in leadership signals a shift in CCO’s culture, a commitment to treating CCO artists with dignity, respect, and care, and an improvement to our working relationship with CCO. Should this be the case, AGMA stands ready to work in partnership with CCO for the betterment of both the artists who perform on its stages and CCO itself.” 

The statement also said the labor union will continue to move forward with “multiple outstanding grievances under the CBA and several unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board.”


Stephanie Wolf, who reported this story, was a member of AGMA while dancing professionally for the 2011-12 Metropolitan Opera season.

Stephanie Wolf is an audio producer and journalist and occasional photographer. She was an Arthur F. Burns Fellow in 2021 and recently returned to Colorado from Louisville, Kentucky.