The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type



College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

R. Keith Michael

Second Advisor

Frederick Breckenridge

Third Advisor

Roger Barrett

Keywords and Subject Headings

History of Civic Opera



This thesis is a history of the Saint Paul Opera Association. It examines how the organization was conceived, developed, grew and finally ceased to exist as a civic institution.

The primary emphasis is on the overall structure of the organization and how this structure was altered to meet the demands set by the social and economic state of the community, by personalities involved in its operations and by other major events and developments.

Major areas of concern include: the civic foundations of the organization; the Opera's ability to service a public need; the internal structural development of the association; the development of new programs to meet audience demands; the effect of personalities on the Opera's development; overall financial and artistic trends; the final re-assertion of a civic-consciousness; the movement away form a civic orientation; and finally the forced professionalism which brought an end to the existence of the company as it was originally conceived.


No important periodical article, pamphlet, book, or other document has ever been written tracing the development of the organization. Two short papers of under ten pages in length have been prepared on aspects of the company's history, but neither of these provides adequate documentation or critical comment of any substantial value.

This work is based primarily upon minutes from past Board of Directors meetings of the Association, program notes, newspaper and magazine articles concerning events in the opera's past and personal interviews with individuals who were instrumental in the formation and advancement of the company.

The Board of Directors' minutes were quite complete, though initially disorganized; all past programs were available for scrutiny; microfilm files of past newspaper articles were available at the St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Libraries; the Minnesota Historical Society provided helpful general information concerning the community during the years of the opera's existence; and many, individuals instrumental in the formation and advancement of the organization were available for interviews.


The findings of this thesis indicate that the persistence and success of the Saint Paul Civic Opera Association has been determined to a great extent by its ability to relate to local audiences as well as the social and economic climate of the community.

Its birth was the result of a specific community interest and need; its growth the result of its flexibility in relating to the changing tastes and artistic demands of the community, and its demise the result of a less civic oriented social structure and the growing financial demands of total professionalism.

The organization existed, for the most part as a result of, rather than in spite of, the demands of the times in which it formed and grew.


The loss of a civic affiliation and the growth of professionalism as here described indicates a natural trend consistent with the times. Skepticism as to whether or not this trend should have necessarily resulted in the near total negation of community affiliation is, however, expressed. The intense community participation evidenced during the trials of depression and war did lag in later years. The growing

professionalism did limit participation to all but the most accomplished of the community's artists. There is indication, however, that by ignoring the interests of the community the company may have lost sight of a crucially important source of future support.