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San Diego Opera Guild (1950-1974) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: San Diego Opera Guild (1950-1974)
Variant Name: The Guild, SDOG

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.

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