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San Diego Opera Guild Records

Identifier: MS-0476

Scope and Contents

The San Diego Opera Guild Records (1939-2000) documents the organization and activities of the San Diego Opera Guild (SDOG), the early growth and development of San Diego Opera, and the productions brought to San Diego by the SDOG. It includes annual reports, clippings, correspondence, reviews, minutes, programs, photographs, and scrapbooks. The collection consists of four major series: Administrative Files (1950-2000), Programs and Publications (1939-1977), Photographs (1965-1974), and Scrapbooks. The Administrative Files have five sub-series:  General Files (1950-2000), Minutes (1950-1988), Opera Season Books (1954-1964), Membership Rosters (1953-1974), and Artist Card File (n.d.). The Photographs are filed in two sub-series: Production Photographs (1965-1974) and Workshops and Events (1973-1974).

The Administrative Files (1950-2000) include four subseries: General Files (1950-2000), Minutes (1950-1988), Opera Season Books (1954-1964), Membership Rosters (1953-1974), and Artist Card File (n.d.). These files document the SDOG's work in bringing opera performances to San Diego, and in part the early growth and development of San Diego Opera. The bulk of materials date from 1955 to 1974. The General Files (1950-2000) document regular SDOG operations, and include annual reports, some clippings, budgets and financial documents, correspondence, and information on fundraising. It is filed alphabetically by file name. The Minutes (1950-1988) document the discussions and actions of SDOG itself, as well as the Production Committee, and the SDOG's Board of Directors. Minutes are filed chronologically.  The Opera Season Books (1954-1964) document SDOG's early work in bringing various operatic productions to San Diego. Each book details one show, and includes information on publicity, events, committee reports, treasurer's reports, and ticket sales information. They are filed chronologically.  The Membership Rosters (1953-1974) document SDOA's membership and committee service. Created annually, each roster is a booklet which contains information on SDOA officers, the board of directors, various committees, the SDO's season for that year, and an alphabetical listing of all SDOA members.  Rosters are filed chronologically. The Artist Card File (n.d.) is filed alphabetically by artist's name, and includes a listing of which productions and roles each individual played.

The Programs and Publications (1939-1977) document productions staged at numerous west coast opera companies, and opera in the US in general. They usually include general background information about individual shows, photos of the production, a cast list, biographies of actors and production staff, the name of the production's theater, background information about the show, and advertisements. Separate programs are sometimes included for San Francisco Opera productions that were performed both in Los Angeles and San Diego. Programs are filed chronologically.

The Photographs (1965-1974) include two subseries: Production Photographs (1965-1974) and Workshops and Events (1973-1974). The series documents some of the special events and programming organized by SDOA, and the opera productions performed in San Diego. The Production Photographs (1965-1974) document finished San Francisco Opera performances as they were staged in San Diego. The subseries contains production stills only, and is filed chronologically. The Workshops and Events (1973-1974) subseries documents some of the special events and supplementary programming organized by SDOG. Photographs are filed chronologically.

The Scrapbooks consist of numerous scrapbooks documenting Guild history, activities, programs, and social events, as well as the operas the Guild brought to San Diego. Clippings, photos, and other materials documenting the Guild's early existence, including original board members, are included.


  • Creation: 1939-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1955-1974


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

The San Diego Opera Guild (SDOG) was a non-profit organization founded in 1950 by thirty San Diegans interested in enriching San Diego's cultural community through promoting appreciation and support for opera, especially music, drama and other associated performing arts. Starting in 1951, the SDOG sponsored performances in San Diego of San Francisco Opera Company productions. Sponsoring between one and three performances a year, the productions were so well received by the local community that the arrangement continued for 15 years.

In 1963 a committee comprised of SDOG members studied the feasibility of ending the relationship with San Francisco Opera, and instead forming an opera company in San Diego. With financial difficulties forcing the San Francisco Opera Company to cancel its tours, as well as the opening of the new Civic Theatre in San Diego scheduled for 1965, the Guild voted to establish the San Diego Opera (SDO) in 1964. They hired Walter Herbert, formerly of the San Francisco Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and an internationally-recognized conductor and opera administrator, as Artistic Director. Herbert became General Director in 1969.

The new San Diego Opera's activities were largely governed by the San Diego Opera Guild during these years. In 1966 a separate Board, San Diego Opera, Inc., responsible to the Guild Board, was created to replace the Guild's Production Committee, and handle all problems related to the production of operas, including fiscal and liability issues. The Guild Board continued to work at such activities as fundraising with the Combined Arts and Education Council of San Diego County (COMBO), outreach and education especially via the Youth Opera Program, and numerous other outreach programs and projects.

By 1970, the Guild boasted over 2300 members. In 1974, with the San Diego Opera experiencing steady success and sell-out performances, the San Diego Opera Guild was dissolved in the interest of streamlining operations and introducing public memberships. The San Diego Opera Association, a new entity which took on the responsibilities both of the Guild and of San Diego Opera, Inc., was formed at that time.


25.59 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Administrative Files, 1950-2000

     a.) General Files, 1950-2000

     b.) Minutes, 1950-1988

     c.) Opera Season Books, 1954-1964

     d.) Membership Rosters, 1953-1974

     e.) Artist Card File, n.d.

II. Programs and Publications, 1939-1977

III. Photographs, 1965-1974

     a.) Production Photographs, 1965-1974

     b.) Workshops and Events, 1973-1974

IV. Scrapbooks

Custodial History

The San Diego Opera Guild Collection was originally donated to the San Diego History Center from 1984 to 2008.  In 2008 it was transferred by the San Diego History Center to San Diego State University Library and Information Access.

Source of Acquisition

San Diego History Center

Accruals and Additions

2008-029, 9999-231

Related Materials

San Diego Opera Association Records (MS-0474)

San Diego Opera Office Records (MS-0477)

San Diego Opera Guild Records
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US