World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Opera Company of Boston

Article Id: WHEBN0000488865
Reproduction Date:

Title: Opera Company of Boston  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Esquire Jauchem, Beverly Sills, Boston Opera House (1980), Florence Louise Pettitt, Frank Ridley
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Opera Company of Boston

The Boston Opera House, formerly the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre, where the Opera Company of Boston performed from 1980 until 1990.

The Opera Company of Boston was an American opera company located in Boston, Massachusetts, that was active from the late 1950s through the 1980s. The company was founded by American conductor Sarah Caldwell in 1958 under the name Boston Opera Group.

At one time, the touring arm of the company was called Opera New England. Caldwell served as both director and conductor for most of the company's productions throughout its more than three decade-long history. Under her leadership, the company presented a repertoire of more than 75 operas that came from a wide array of musical periods and styles, including a large number of works previously unheard in the United States, and a significant number of contemporary operas.[1]

This commitment to innovative repertoire as well as Caldwell's brilliant stage direction garnered the company international acclaim and earned it a place among the world's leading opera companies during the 1970s and 1980s.[2] After 32 consecutive opera seasons, the company was forced to close due to financial difficulties in 1990.[1]


  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • 1958–1979 1.2
    • 1980–1990 1.3
    • Legacy 1.4
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4



In 1958, Sarah Caldwell and Linda Cabot Black, among others,[3] started the Opera Company of Boston with just $5,000, beginning with a production of Jacques Offenbach's Voyage to the Moon that was presented on Boston Common with a cast that included Adelaide Bishop as Queen Popotte. Hailed by The Boston Globe as a masterful production, the company was invited to present the work on the lawn of the White House in a performance attended by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On the heels of this success, Caldwell decided to stage a production of Puccini's La bohème.[1]


At this point the opera company did not have a home theatre. The fifty-year-old Boston Opera House had been in disuse for a long time and was torn down just months before Caldwell founded her company. Caldwell eventually settled on renting the Donnelly Theater for the company's performance of La Boheme, and that theatre became the company's performance venue until it was torn down ten years later in 1968.

After 1968 the company spent the next 7 years looking for a stable performing venue and lived a nomadic existence, performing at various venues including the Shubert Theatre, MIT's Kresge Auditorium, the Cyclorama, and the Tufts University Field House. Finally in 1975 the company settled on renting the Orpheum Theatre where it held performances for the next five years.[2]


Although the Orpheum Theater was adequate for the company's needs, Caldwell dreamed of having her own facility. In 1978 the company bought the B. F. Keith Memorial Theater, a former movie palace, on Washington Street in downtown Boston. The theater was acquired with the help of opera patron Susan Timken, the heiress to a prominent New England company fortune.[4] At the time of its purchase, the theatre was run-down but had a lot of potential, being able to seat 2,500 people and possessing both good acoustics and opulent architecture. However, the stage was only 35 feet deep, and therefore somewhat limiting. Further, a complete renovation of the theatre was impossible, as the company was not able to afford the expense of all the necessary repairs. In spite of these problems, Caldwell pressed ahead and the company moved into their new home in 1980, rechristening the theatre the Boston Opera House. Eventually the cost of upkeep on the building proved to be too much as more and more things began to break down. The company could not afford to maintain the building and sold it after the 1989/1990 season to a Texas developer. Although the company still technically existed for another year, they never produced another opera after this point.[2]


Throughout its history an impressive roster of singers have performed with the Opera Company of Boston (OCB). Even from the beginning years at the Donnelly, Caldwell was able to attract first rate artists, most notably Beverly Sills and Joan Sutherland, to the company's roster. She also had an eye for emerging talent with singers like James Billings getting their start with the company. Other notable singers to have sung in OCB productions include Eunice Alberts, John Alexander, Richard Cassilly, Plácido Domingo, Donald Gramm, Marilyn Horne, Eva Likova, Elaine Malbin, Éva Marton, Sherrill Milnes, Magda Olivero, Renata Tebaldi, Norman Treigle, Shirley Verrett, Anja Silja, and Jon Vickers among many others.

Likewise, a number of notable people have worked on the staff of the company or have served in some other artistic capacity. Ralph Lyford served as the company's associate conductor for a number of years[5] and Kent Nagano began his conducting career with the company. Laszlo J. Bonis served as its president (1967–1986), and Dar Williams worked as a stage manager for the company. Also many important designers worked with the company, including Rudolf Heinrich, Ming Cho Lee, Herbert Senn, Helen Pond, Gilbert Vaughn Hemsley, Jr., and David Sharir. Ballet dancer Pat Colgate performed with the company on a number of occasions. Associate Director, Esquire Jauchem went on to found The Boston Repertory Theatre (with Sarah Caldwell's assistance) produce, direct and design opera, theater and television.

During its 32-year history, the Opera Company of Boston gained international acclaim for its innovative programming. Under the leadership of Caldwell, the company staged the American premieres of such operas as Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace, Hector Berlioz' Les Troyens and Benvenuto Cellini, Luigi Nono's Intolleranza 1960, Alban Berg's Lulu, Roger Sessions' Montezuma, and Peter Maxwell Davies's Taverner to name just a few.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Richard Dyer (March 25, 2006). "Sarah Caldwell, impresario of Boston opera, dead at 82". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c  
  3. ^ "Linda Black Is Married". The New York Times. January 29, 1989. Retrieved July 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ Tom Long, "Susan H. Timken, 53; was patron of literary, operatic arts in Boston". Boston Globe, November 14, 1997.
  5. ^ "Who's Dancing Now". 

External links

  • Eichler, Jeremy, "Boston overdue for a proper opera house", The Boston Globe, 20 September 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.