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Opera has long been part of the musical culture of New Orleans, Louisianamarker. Operas have regularly been performed in the city since the 1790s, and for the majority of the city's history since the early 19th century, New Orleans has had a resident company regularly performing opera in addition to theaters hosting traveling performers and companies.

The Old Opera House

Operas were staged at a variety of theaters in the city, but the most famous for generations was the New Orleans Opera House, better known in its later decades as the old French Opera House. It was located on Bourbon Street in the French Quartermarker, and opened in 1859. New Orleans' social life, whether high or low, imported or indigenous, found a receptive audience in this cosmopolitan city.

The theater burned down in 1919, causing severe disruption in opera in the city. As attempts to arrange finances to rebuild did not succeed, the company disbanded and for a generation most opera in New Orleans was put on by touring companies at various theaters in the city.

The Modern Era

In 1943, the New Orleans Opera Association was formed, and succeeded in securing a resident company in the city. Among the celebrated singers who have appeared with the company are Licia Albanese, John Alexander, June Anderson, Victoria de los Ángeles,Charles Anthony, Karan Armstrong,Salvatore Baccaloni, Fedora Barbieri, Carlo Bergonzi, Bianca Berini, Jussi Björling, Rockwell Blake, Inge Borkh, Patricia Brooks, Débria Brown,Montserrat Caballé, Lisa della Casa, Richard Cassilly, Vivian della Chiesa, Boris Christoff, William Cochran, Eugene Conley, Dominic Cossa, Fiorenza Cossotto, Mary Costa, Muriel Costa-Greenspon, Phyllis Curtin, Gianna d'Angelo,Cristina Deutekom, Michael Devlin, Justino Díaz,Plácido Domingo, Mignon Dunn,Marc Embree, Lucia Evangelista,Ruth Falcon, Eileen Farrell, Vicki Fisk, Kirsten Flagstad, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Elizabeth Futral,Marisa Galvany, Jon Garrison, Nicolai Gedda, Leyla Gencer, Giuseppe Giacomini, Enrico di Giuseppe, Susan Graham, Greer Grimsley, Paul Groves,Mack Harrell, Jerome Hines, Rita Hunter,Siegfried Jerusalem, Raoul Jobin,Raina Kabaivanska, Dorothy Kirsten,Flaviano Labò, Anthony Laciura,Mario Lanza, Evelyn Lear, Luis Lima, Chester Ludgin,Cornell MacNeil, John Macurdy, Virginia MacWatters, James Maddalena, Jean Madeira,Catherine Malfitano, Matteo Manuguerra, Susanne Marsee, Enzo Mascherini,Yuri Mazurok, James McCracken, Dennis McNeil, Johanna Meier, Robert Merrill, Zinka Milanov, Sherrill Milnes, Mario del Monaco, James Morris, Patrice Munsel,Carol Neblett, Herva Nelli, Birgit Nilsson, Jarmila Novotná,Lisette Oropesa,Ticho Parly, Jan Peerce, Roberta Peters, Marguerite Piazza, Ezio Pinza,Paul Plishka,Louis Quilico,Judith Raskin, Benjamin Rayson, Regina Resnik,Katia Ricciarelli, Natalia Rom, Nancy Ross,Sylvia Sass, Bidú Sayão, Audrey Schuh, Nancy Shade, Rita Shane, Beverly Sills, Diana Soviero, Eleanor Steber, Giuseppe di Stefano, Risë Stevens, Thaïs St Julien, Dame Joan Sutherland,Italo Tajo, Harry Theyard, Lawrence Tibbett, Lawrence Tibbett, Giorgio Tozzi, Norman Treigle, Phyllis Treigle, Richard Tucker,Giuseppe Valdengo, Astrid Varnay, Shirley Verrett, Richard Versalle, Jon Vickers, Ramón Vinay,Leonard Warren, Claire Watson, Robert Weede, Ruth Welting, Gran Wilson, Ingvar Wixell, Sheryl Woods andVirginia Zeani.

The Opera Association has presented two world premieres: Carlisle Floyd's Markheim (with Norman Treigle and Schuh, 1966) and Thea Musgrave's Pontalba (conducted by Robert Lyall, 2003).

Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, flooded the Theatre for the Performing Arts and the season was canceled, but the New Orleans Opera has since returned.

Also based in New Orleans, though short-lived, The New Opera Theatre (1986-1990) presented two world premieres as well as experimental productions of standard repertory. Their staging of Dido and Æneas toured to New York (Symphony Spacemarker), where it was acclaimed. Featured singers with this ensemble included Phyllis Treigle, Tracey Mitchell, Cyril and Libbye Hellier, St Julien, Susannah Waters and Rom.

Since World War II, various companies have toured to New Orleans. In 1947, the Metropolitan Opera visited with their productions of Le nozze di Figaro (with Pinza and Steber), La traviata (with Sayão) and Lucia di Lammermoor (with Munsel). They returned in 1972, with Otello (with McCracken and Milnes), Faust (with Domingo and Ruggero Raimondi), La traviata (with Anna Moffo) and La fille du régiment (with Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti).

In November 1967, the American National Opera Company presented two operas in New Orleans: Lulu and Tosca (the latter with Marie Collier), both in productions staged by Sarah Caldwell.

As part of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, the English National Opera gave performances of Rigoletto (in Sir Jonathan Miller's well-known production), Patience and Gloriana.

In 1992, New York-based Opera Quotannis brought their production of New Orleans-born composer Louise LaBruyère's Everyman to the Crescent City, with Mitchell in the title role.

On 2009 January 17 the New Orleans Opera, directed by Robert Lyall, performed with Placido Domingo in a gala reopening of New Orleans' Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts. The master of ceremonies was New Orleans native Patricia Clarkson.


2006-2007 The Marriage of Figaro Lucia di Lammermoor La Boheme
2007-2008 Faust Il Trittico Rigoletto West Side Story
2008-2009 Manon Lescaut Don Giovanni Carmen La traviata
2009-2010 Tosca Roméo et Juliette Verdi Requiem Der fliegende Holländer


  1. Theodore P. Mahne, "Star Emcee Patricia Clarkson Shares in the Excitement over Tonight's Opera Gala" in The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 January 17, pp. C1, C3.
  • The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia, edited by David Hamilton, Simon and Schuster, 1987. ISBN 0-671-61732-X
  • New Orleans Opera

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