Skip to main content

San Diego Opera Office Records

Identifier: MS-0477

Scope and Contents

The San Diego Opera Office Collection (1968-2004) documents the administration, creative history, development, and growth of the San Diego Opera (SDO). It includes correspondence, memoranda, clippings, minutes, photographs, budgets, financial records, and detailed documentation of numerous productions. The collection consists of three major series: Administrative Files (1968-2004), Production Files (1973-1995), and Publicity (1980-2007).  The Administrative Files have three sub-series: Correspondence (1976-2004), General Files (1975-2000), and Rental Files (1968-1996).  The Production Files are filed in two sub-series: Production Binders (1973-1990) and Production Photographs (1974-1995).

The Administrative Files (1968-2004) include three subseries: Correspondence (1976-2004), General Files (1975-2000), and Rental Files (1968-1996). These files document SDO's general operations, activities and functions, interaction with the public, and the company's growth and development over several decades. The Correspondence (1976-2004) subseries documents some of SDO's interactions with the public. It primarily consists of letters sent to SDO from audience members and reviewers in response to performances, show selection, and other topics.  Responses from San Diego Opera staff, especially Director Ian Campbell and Artistic Administrator Marianne Flettner are sometimes included.  Letters sometimes include clippings, and the sub-series is filed chronologically.  The General Files (1975-2000) document daily operations, work with various performers, and early production preparation. It includes clippings, brochures, receipts, internal correspondence, correspondence exchanged with performers and other opera companies both in the US and abroad, photos of former Director Tito Capobianco, performer head shots, and audition forms, and is filed alphabetically by file name. The Rental Files (1968-1996) document the San Diego Opera's Scenic Studios rental relationships with various opera and production companies around the US who have used sets designed and created by San Diego Opera in their own productions. It includes set rental forms, diagrams, photographs, slides, rental agreements, correspondence, and shipping forms, and is filed alphabetically by file name.

The Production Files (1973-1995) include two subseries: Production Binders (1973-1990) and Production Photographs (1974-1995).  These files document the creation and performance of SDO's regular season productions.  The Production Binders (1973-1990) include materials originally stored in large 3-ring binders, and document the complex and detailed processes necessary to stage an opera production. The subseries includes casting information, correspondence with principal performers, information on orchestral musicians, choruses, dancers, sets, props, contracts, costumes, technical staff, rehearsal schedules, rental documentation, handwritten notes, correspondence, set diagrams, and some photographs, and is filed chronologically. The Production Photographs (1974-1995) document finished opera performances as they were staged at SDO. The majority of photographs are from performances staged in the 1970s and 1980s, though some productions are undated.  The subseries includes production stills only, and is filed chronologically.

The Publicity (1980-2007) series documents the SDO's coverage in various print media outlets, and consists primarily of published reviews of SDO performances. Clippings were gathered by the San Diego Clipping Service from various local and national publications including the San Diego Union, Evening Tribune, San Diego Daily Transcript, La Prensa, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Los Angeles Times, and numerous others.  The series is filed chronologically.


  • Creation: 1968-2007


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

San Diego Opera, with roots back to the formation of the San Diego Opera Guild in 1950, took its present administrative form in 1974, with the creation of the San Diego Opera Association. The San Diego Opera Office's work focuses on the company's production and performance of opera both during the regular season and for special programs and series.

In 1976, with the passing of founding Director Walter Herbert, the San Diego Opera Association hired Tito Capobianco, formerly of the New York City Opera, as General Director of the San Diego Opera. Capobianco's tenure saw the San Diego Opera gain international renown. He introduced an annual summer Verdi Festival, which usually featured two operas, one a late composition and the other from Verdi's "galley years." Capobianco also expanded the regular season to six productions, and brought such renowned opera superstars as Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Beverly Sills to San Diego opera audiences.

In 1983, the SDOA hired a new General Director, Ian Campbell, formerly of Opera Australia and the New York Metropolitan Opera. Campbell restored fiscal stability to the San Diego Opera, and has worked throughout his tenure to increase San Diego Opera's audience. While the Verdi Festival only continued through 1985, he expanded the regular season, and introduced a new concert program designed to bring internationally renowned opera stars to San Diego. His work with the North American Voices Project adds contemporary American operas to the traditional repertoire performed at San Diego Opera each year.

Notable artists who have performed with San Diego Opera include Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge, Richard Leech, Placido Domingo, and Renee Fleming.  San Diego Opera has staged the World Premieres of numerous productions, including Myron Fink's The Conquistador, Gian Carlo Menotti's La Loca, and Alva Henderson's Medea. Also significant are the United States Premieres of such operas as Daniel Catan's Rapaccini's Daughter, Hanz Werner Henze's The Young Lord, Ricardo Zandonai's Giulietta e Romeo, and Emmanuel Chabrier's Gwendoline. Other notable performances include Beverly Sills' farewell performance opposite Joan Sutherland in Die Fledermaus, and the commissioned Zandra Rhodes productions of The Magic Flute and The Pearl Fishers.

San Diego Opera is ranked by OPERA America as one of the top 10 opera companies in the United States, and was recently honored as one of 13 "Cornerstone Arts Organizations" by the James Irvine Foundation. In addition, San Diego Opera is the only San Diego arts organization to receive an almost perfect ranking from both the California Arts Council and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture.


12.68 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Administrative Files, 1968-2004

     a.) Correspondence, 1976-2004

     b.) General Files, 1975-2000

     c.) Rental Files, 1968-1996

II. Production Files, 1973-1995

     a.) Production Binders, 1973-1990

     b.) Production Photographs, 1974-1995

III. Publicity, 1980-2007

Custodial History

The San Diego Opera Office 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


Related Materials

San Diego Opera Association Records

San Diego Opera Guild Records

San Diego Opera Office Records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

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