Fonds 84 - University of Toronto Opera Division fonds

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Reference code



University of Toronto Opera Division fonds


  • 1945-2022 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3.8 m of textual records and other materials

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Name of creator


Administrative history

In the Fall of 1946, Arnold M. Walter, started the Opera School under the auspices of the Senior School of the Royal Conservatory of Music. The University of Toronto Faculty of Music assumed administrative and budgetary responsibilities for the Opera School in 1968 and it was officially renamed the "Opera Department of the Faculty of Music" in 1969, overseen by Chairman Ezra Schabas (1969-1978). In 1978, it became the "Opera Division" under Dean Gustav Ciamaga.

In a brief to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences in 1949, Walter described his initial aims for the Opera School: " a school it undertakes to train young singers and to make them familiar with all phases of operatic production; as an operatic company, it presents those artists so trained in productions which depend exclusively on Canadian talent."

The School's first full-length production was Smetana's The Bartered Bride (April 1947) at the Eaton Auditorium, following an opera excerpts concert on December 16, 1946 at Hart House Theatre. The School relocated to the Edward Johnson Building when it opened in 1963, and the Opera School performed Albert Herring's Benjamin Britten as part of the opening ceremonies (March 4, 1964) in the MacMillan Theatre, the new home of Opera School productions.

The new facilities offered further opportunities for training and performance, and in 1964, Wallace A. Russell began a course in theatre technology, offering instruction in technical direction, stage and production management, lighting, scenic and costume design. This program was cut in 1974, with a decision from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities that technical theatre training belonged at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. In 1969, the university introduced a two-year post-graduate professional diploma in operatic performance, and the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra started accompanying opera productions.

The opera program produced two fully-staged operas per year until 1985, when budgetary restrictions forced a reduction to one per year, supplemented by staged operatic excerpts with piano accompaniment. Its productions include a number of premiere performances, including Raymond Pannell's Aria da capo (1963); the English-language premiere of Humphrey Searle's Hamlet (1969); stage premiere of Healey Willan's Deirdre (1965); and Canadian premieres of Paisiello's Il Mondo della Luna (1962), Orff's Die Kluge (1961), Cherubini's The Portuguese Inn (1966), Holst's The Wandering Scholar (1966), Rossini's The Turk in Italy (1968), Robert Ward's The Crucible (1976), Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulphur (1976), Janacek's Katya Kabanova (1977), Paisiello's The Barber of Seville (1977), Vaughan Williams' Sir John in Love (1984), and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (1989).

The directors, musical directors, and stage directors of the opera program have included: Arnold Walter (director, 1946-1952), Ettore Mazzoleni (director, 1962-1966), Peter Ebert (director, 1967-1968), Anthony Besch (director, 1968-1969), Georg Philipp (director, 1969-1972), Richard Pearlman (director, 1972-1973), Nicholas Goldschmidt (musical director, 1946-1958), Ernesto Barbini (musical director, 1961-1975), James W. Craig (musical director, 1976-1990), Felix Brentano (stage director, 1946-1948), Herman Geiger-Torel (stage director, 1948-1976), Andrew MacMillan (stage director, 1952-1967), Werner Graf (stage director, 1963-1966), Peter Ebert (stage director, 1967-1968), Anthony Besch (stage director, 1968-1969), Leon Major (stage director), Giuseppe Macina (stage director, 1969-1974), Constance Fisher (stage director 1972-1978, coordinator 1978-1983, associate coordinator 1987-), Michael Albano (stage director 1977-1982, coordinator 1983-1987, associate coordinator 1987-), and Sandra Horst (co-director, director).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Transferred to the Music Library from the University of Toronto Opera Division (A2023-03 and A2023-12).

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the records of the University of Toronto Opera Division, including promotional materials, production files, costume designs, and photographs.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Fonds is arranged in five series: (A) Administrative and financial records; (B) Promotional materials, including posters, programs, brochures, press releases, and photographs; (C) Production records, including costume and set designs; (D) Reference and research materials; and (E) Student records.

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Related units of description

Also see:

  • Series F "Opera School" of the Faculty of Music collection (OTUFM 04), which contains correspondence, press clippings, notes on performances, tour schedules, role assignments, rehearsal schedules, notes on props and furniture, budgets, and internal memorandums.
  • Music Library Collection of Faculty Events (OTUFM 51), which includes some recordings of and programs from performances by the University of Toronto Opera Division.

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