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The History of Florida Grand Opera and The Opera Society

Florida Grand Opera, celebrating its 77th anniversary season of continuous performances, stands as one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Florida. Florida Grand Opera is one of the resident companies of The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County where it presents its Miami performances in the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House. Fort Lauderdale performances are given at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Florida Grand Opera was formed in June 1994 by the merger of Greater Miami Opera, founded in 1941, and The Opera Guild Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, founded in 1945.

The Opera Society, one of the oldest cultural organizations in Fort Lauderdale, is an affiliate of Florida Grand Opera.  It  was established in 1978 to support the opera in Broward county.  Twenty-two women and one man have served as President of this prestigious organization since then.  The Founders’ Committee includes Mrs. Louis Miller, Mrs. Russel Carson, Mrs. Clinton Gamble, Mrs Albert J.M.  Novak and Mr. Leonard Robbins.

The Greater Miami Opera was founded by Dr. Arturo di Filippi, a voice teacher at the University of Miami. The first production, held at Miami Senior High School in 1942, was a single performance of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, performed in English, with Dr. di Filippi singing the role of Canio. In 1945, Dr. di Filippi appeared in a production of Il trovatore at Ft. Lauderdale Central High School, representing the first production of the The Opera Guild, Inc. Florida Grand Opera has a rich history of presenting internationally acclaimed artists such as Robert Merrill, Dorothy Kirsten, Richard Tucker, Renata Tebaldi, Roberta Peters, Franco Corelli, Renata Scotto, Montserrat Caballe, Jon Vickers, Sherrill Milnes, Nicolai Gedda, Birgit Nilsson, Anna Moffo, Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Evelyn Lear, James Morris, Thomas Stewart, Diana Soviero, Justino Diaz, Simon Estes, Elizabeth Futral, Helen Donath, Deborah Voigt, and Fernando de la Mora. Luciano Pavarotti made his American debut in 1965 with the company’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

At the core of Florida Grand Opera’s mission is a commitment to training emerging opera professionals and educating young people about opera while embracing the diverse cultural heritage of the South Florida community. Each year, established education programs, including the School Dress Rehearsal Program and the company’s education festivals expose thousands of children and students to opera’s many facets. Florida Grand Opera’s renowned artist training program, the Young Artist Studio, nurtures gifted young singers and provides them with the skills and experiences necessary to move beyond their training at universities and music conservatories into successful careers in the professional opera world.