The music is the main event, of course. And the drama and the costumes, the art of the opera.

But, just for a minute, Patricia K. "Patty" Beggs, the Cincinnati Opera's CEO and general director, talks about bricks and mortar. The Opera's home is still very new. Or, more precisely, very old and very new, much like the 85-year-old institution itself.

The company left the Cincinnati Zoo and moved to Music Hall in 1972 to share the stage with the May Festival, the Ballet and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, not to mention artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Maria Callas, Jimmy Buffet, Luciano Pavarotti and Johnny Cash. But that was the public space. The office suite was like a neglected guest bedroom, cramped and windowless.

Not anymore.

The Corbett Opera Center, dedicated in January, has its own entrance, its own box office, its own lobby, and 47 bricked-over windows have been opened. "I keep pointing to the windows," Patty says, laughing. "It shouldn't be such a big deal." But besides the obvious advantages "” natural light and a view of the neighborhood "” a window is a symbol. An office with a window in the business world says something about your place in the organization.

The Opera's physical place is a four-story, $4 million restoration of 14,000 square feet in Music Hall's north wing, its history etched on exposed brick walls. The Opera's cultural place is no less colorful.

When Patty left a marketing job at a bank to promote the Opera in 1984, she says, "We were living beyond our means." Red ink. Sagging attendance. And a stuffy reputation. Patty's own husband groused that he could "sleep more comfortably at home." The Opera was about to issue a wake-up call.

"I like the stories," she says. "Opera has heart. It touches you. Maybe if we talked about that, we'd get people to give us a try." Ads began appearing. Billboards and bus cards read "Pretty Women," "Much Ado about Loving" and "Love on the Rocks." Carmen was Fatal Attraction and Aida was Jewel of the Nile. It was a fresh invitation: We're not your mother's opera. We're not your civic duty. We're a hot ticket.

That first year, attendance jumped 21 percent. Twenty years later, a $2.5 million company is a $6.8 million company. Black ink. Fannies in the seats. Windows. The marketing director became assistant managing director in 1991 and managing director in 1997. Last November, Patty assumed her current title. Startled and uneasy when it appears that someone might try to pin all the credit on her, she rattles off names: Paul A. "Gus" Stuhlreyer, managing director back when she handled marketing; former artistic director Nicholas Muni; various opera board presidents; staff. But she has been the continuous thread, both artistic and fiscal.

Pushed by financial realities, pulled by audience expectations. The art. The fund raising. The bricks and mortar. One foot in tradition, the other in the future. Luckily, the woman in charge has an exquisite sense of balance.

The Cincinnati Opera Summer Festival kicks off on June 16. See the Cincy Life calendar for details.