Opera Guild of Montreal Inc

Opera Guild of Montreal, Inc. A non-profit operatic society founded in 1941 by Pauline Donalda 'to give recitals and concerts, and to present or arrange for the presentation of operas, musical comedies, symphonies or musical works of all kinds and descriptions.

Opera Guild of Montreal, Inc

Opera Guild of Montreal, Inc. A non-profit operatic society founded in 1941 by Pauline Donalda 'to give recitals and concerts, and to present or arrange for the presentation of operas, musical comedies, symphonies or musical works of all kinds and descriptions.' Pauline Donalda was president and artistic director, and Sara Berne honorary secretary-treasurer and administrator 1941-69. During its existence the guild presented 29 different works in 28 seasons in a total of 33 productions and 65 performances.

Its first production, Cavalleria Rusticana and scenes from Carmen and The Barber of Seville, was presented at His Majesty's Theatre 3 May 1942, with Mary Henderson in the roles of Santuzza and Carmen, supported by Canadian and US singers. Gabriele Simeoni conducted and Benjamin Altieri directed the staging. Subsequently one or two productions were presented annually (each usually for two performances) at His Majesty's until 1964, and thereafter in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of the PDA.

Emil Cooper (b Kherson, Russia, 20 Dec 1877, d New York 16 Nov 1960) was the conductor of most of the productions 1944-70. Other conductors were Wilfrid Pelletier, Jean Vallerand, Julius Rudel, Otto-Werner Mueller, Henry Lewis, Mario Bernardi, and Bryan Balkwill. Marcel Laurencelle conducted the chorus.

The works presented were Così fan tutte (1943, 1945), Le Coq d'or (Canadian premiere 1944), Hansel and Gretel (1944), The Magic Flute (1945), Fidelio (Canadian premiere 1946), Madama Butterfly (1947, 1965, 1969), The Abduction from the Seraglio (1947), Rigoletto and Samson et Dalila (1948), Il Trovatore and Otello (1949), La Bohème (1950, 1966), The Consul (Canadian premiere 1951), The Love of Three Oranges (Canadian premiere 1952), Louise (1953), Boris Godunov (1954), Un Ballo in Maschera (1955), Don Carlo (Canadian premiere 1956), Tosca (1957), Falstaff (Canadian premiere 1958), Macbeth (1959), Carmen (1960), Roméo et Juliette (1961), La Traviata (1962), Faust (1963), Don Giovanni (1964), The Marriage of Figaro (1967), and The Barber of Seville (1968).

Many leading roles and most of the supporting roles were given to Canadian artists, notably Pierrette Alarie, Clarice Carson, Fernande Chiocchio, Maureen Forrester, Marguerite Gignac, Marguerite Lavergne, Marthe Létourneau, Gwenlynn Little, Louise Roy, Mary Simmons, Micheline Tessier, Napoléon Bisson, Maurice Brown, Gérald Desmarais, Yoland Guérard, Jean-Pierre Hurteau, Jules Jacob, Joseph-Victor Ladéroute, Claude Létourneau, André Lortie, Cornelis Opthof, Louis Quilico, Joseph Rouleau, Léopold Simoneau, André Turp, and Richard Verreau. The stage directors included Armando Agnini, Victor Andoga, Roberta Beatty, Bill Butler, Irving Guttman, Herbert Graf, Vladimir Rosing, Leopold Sachse, Lothar Wallerstein, and Dino Yannopoulos. Among the non-Canadian singers were Herta Glaz, Marilyn Horne, Anna Kaskas, David Lloyd, Blanche Thebom, Hugh Thompson, Margaret Tynes, Astrid Varnay, Elizabeth Vaughan, and Frances Yeend.

The company was financed through gifts from individuals and corporations, but during the final years of its operation it also received subsidies from the MACQ and the Greater Montreal Council of Arts (now Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal). Mme Donalda's illness and her death in 1970 brought about the end of the Opera Guild's activities. The company's assets were placed in a reserve fund and the proceeds - about $2000 per annum - have been distributed in bursaries to young singers and instrumentalists, thereby perpetuating the name of the Opera Guild and its founder. The Guild's records are held at the National Library of Canada.

A different Montreal Opera Guild, founded and directed by Victor Brault, presented Carmen and Roméo et Juliette in Montreal in 1939.


Further Reading

  • Brotman, Ruth C. Pauline Donalda (Montreal 1975)

    Barrière, Mireille. L'Opéra Français de Montréal, 1893-1896: l'étonnante histoire d'un succès éphémère (St-Laurent, 2001)