The Library is proud to be the new custodian of the Cincinnati Opera Archives, a responsibility we inherited in 2006 from the Cincinnati Historical Society. The archives, which extend from 1883 to 1994, include a wealth of material chronicling the history of the Opera. It contains photographs of the many legendary stars and conductors who performed with the company along with historic programs, posters, scores, librettos, scrapbooks, newspaper articles and clippings, and other documents.
To see treasures from the archives, ask at the Genealogy and Local History Department service desk for The Cincinnati Opera, 1883-1994, a highly detailed catalog of the contents. In addition, the department maintains a card index to the Opera’s productions as well as bound programs from past productions.
About the Cincinnati Opera
The Cincinnati Opera Association was founded in 1920, although the Queen City had hosted opera production since the last quarter of the 19th century. The company is the second oldest in the United States. For much of its history, it was called Cincinnati Summer Opera, and still presents its season during the summer.
Until 1973, the many great singers who performed with the Summer Opera did so al fresco at the Cincinnati Zoo Pavilion. Cincinnati Opera then moved to the magnificent and newly renovated Music Hall, the fourth largest hall in the United States and a National Historic Landmark.
Many renowned singers, conductors, and corps de ballet dancers have been associated with the Opera over the years. Individuals of note include: Kathleen Battle, Beverly Sills, James Levine, Suzanne Farrell, Placido Domingo, Renata Scotto, Sherrill Milnes, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Franco Corelli, Dorothy Kirsten, and Renata Tebaldi.
- Cincinnati Opera: From the Zoo to Music Hall by Eldred A. Thierstein
- Opera in Cincinnati: The Years Before the Zoo, 1801-1920 by Larry Robert Wolz
- Cincinnati’s Music Hall: A Brief History of the Grand Old Lady of Elm Street, in Timeline Form by Ashley Ford
Opera with Significant Local Connections
- Carmen [sound recording]
Cincinnati Opera performance
- Bel Canto: Kathleen Battle Sings Italian Opera Arias [sound recording]
Kathleen Battle, soprano, CCM graduate
- The Compact “Ring” [sound recording]
Kathleen Battle, soprano
- James Levine’s 25th Anniversary: Metropolitan Opera Gala [sound recording]
James Levine, Cincinnati native
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream [sound recording]
Sylvia McNair, soprano, Mansfield, Ohio
- Margaret Garner [videorecording]
Co-commissioned by the Cincinnati Opera
Classic Opera Conductors and Directors
- Carmen: Oper in vier Akten [videorecording]
Franco Zeffirelli, stage director; Placido Domingo, tenor
- Der Fliegende Hollönder [sound recording]
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
- La Forza del Destino [videorecording]
James Levine, conductor; Leontyne Price, soprano
- I Want Magic!: American Opera Arias [sound recording]
James Levine, conductor
- La Travíata [videorecording]
Franco Zeffirelli, director
Notable Opera Performances
- The Art of Beverly Sills [sound recording]
- The Three Queens [sound recording]
- In the Shadow of the Stars: The Lives of Singers [videorecording]
- Iolanthe [videorecording]
- Lakmé [sound recording]
- Nixon in China: An Opera in Three Acts [sound recording]
- The Salzburg Festival [videorecording]
- Wiener Opernfest 2005 [sound recording]
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
- Out with the Stars by James Purdy
- Puccini’s Ghosts by Morag Joss
- Tenor of Love by Mary Di Michele
On the Web
- Cincinnati Opera: History. A good starting point if you’re looking for an overview of the Company’s history.
- Society for the Preservation of Music Hall. Non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining and improving Music Hall. Site contains a timeline, history of the building, historic pictures, etc.
- Cincinnati Opera Performance Schedule. Make plans to attend an upcoming production!
- Sites by Subject - Opera. A collection of websites that have been selected by our reference librarians.