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Officials of the Boston Lyric Opera and the Boston Opera Theater announced last week that they will be joining forces to establish an opera company of international standard.

The companies, which are currently the most prominent opera forces in Boston, will remain distinct, but will merge their board members in an effort to pool creative energies and begin long-range planning, a search for a new general director, and fund-raising.

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"The long-desired union of these two dedicated boards, with the support of the opera's well-wishers, can make Boston a genuine opera center," a press release quoted Phyllis Curtin, soprano and dean emeritus of the School for the Arts at Boston University, as saying.

The Boston Lyric Opera, formed in 1976, recently ended its world-premiere production of Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman," winding up a successful season in which all performances sold out.

The Boston Opera Theater, dedicated to innovative approaches to opera, produced its first production last year, Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." Directed by Peter Sellars and Craig Smith, the production set ticket-sale records but saddled the company with a substantial deficit.

Kenneth Freed, chairman of the board of the Boston Opera Theater, stated that the company has almost completed the settlement of its financial obligations and will wind up its affairs soon.

"The one fact everyone clearly recognizes is that only one organization producing major opera in Boston can succeed," Mr. Freed told the Boston Globe.

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