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Virginia Opera Records

Collection ID: MG 85

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection includes the records of the Virginia Opera Association, the Virginia Opera Guild, the Virginia Opera Docents, and information on the Harrison Opera House. The Friends of Virginia Opera and a split off group called Lyric Opera Virginia are also represented. Material in the collection includes administrative records, budgets, and correspondence; season programs and marketing materials; news articles and newsletters; membership information; educational materials; multimedia including video tapes, cassette tapes, compact discs, and record albums; photographs; and artifacts.


  • 1970-2020, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 05/09/2006



50.9 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Founded in 1974 by Edythe C. Harrison, the Virginia Opera Association was launched with two productions at the Norfolk Center Theater. In 1975, Peter Mark signed on as conductor for the Virginia Opera, a position he held for 35 years. His wife, the Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave, has composed many of her works for the Virginia Opera. In 1977, the Virginia Opera began performances in Richmond with the encouragement of then-Governor Mills Godwin and Mrs. T. Fleetwood (Anna) Garner who helped form the Richmond Friends of the Opera. By 1983, the Richmond and Central Virginia Board of Virginia Opera was formed and a Richmond office was opened. In November 1992, the Virginia Opera presented its first main stage performance at the Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax. Today the Opera has an operating budget of $6 million and performs 36 main stage performances yearly in Norfolk, Richmond and Fairfax. Performances reach nearly 50,000 attendees, and there are over 3,000 contributing donors to the Opera. In addition, the Virginia Opera reaches more than 200,000 students and community members yearly through its Education and Community Outreach Programs.


The Norfolk Center Theater began as a concrete-block structure near the Chrysler museum that originally served as a USO for armed forces personnel during World War II. The Norfolk Center Theater was renovated in 1993 and became the Edythe C. and Stanley L. Harrison Opera House, dedicated to the Virginia Opera's founder and her husband. The Harrison Opera House has 1,632 seats. The Virginia Opera also plays at two other major venues in Virginia: the historical Landmark Theater in Richmond and the George Mason University Center for the Arts. The Landmark Theater, formerly known as the Mosque, was the Acca Temple Shrine in 1926 until it was bought by the City of Richmond in the 1940s. In the early 1990s it was transformed into the theater it is today. The George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax is located on the George Mason campus, and also offers ballet and music concerts.

The Virginia Opera Guild

The Virginia Opera Guild plays a supporting role to the Virginia Opera. Members share an appreciation for opera, attend social events that provide insight into opera productions, and sponsor fundraising events that benefit Virginia Opera programs.

Education and Outreach

The Virginia School System has joined up with the Virginia Opera Association to bring educational value to the opera. Each year thousands of students visit opera houses across Virginia to be entertained as well as educated. Virginia Opera Educational Outreach Programs bring opera into the community by offering free admission to people less fortunate or setting up small operas in the community. These programs reach more than 200,000 students and community members each year.

Programs include an In-School Touring Program that brings opera programs to schools and communities throughout the year; Student Night at the Opera offering discounted tickets to students on special nights and Student Matinee's that allow students to attend matinee performances at an affordable price; and Operation Opera offering free presentations to community venues throughout Virginia.

Also offered are age-appropriate study guides created to correlate with the Virginia Standards of Learning. These guides include background information, student worksheets, library activities that encourage educators to incorporate the arts into existing curriculum.

The Virginia Opera Docents serve as speakers to schools and community organizations as part of the Education and Outreach Program. These volunteers share their knowledge and insight about the opera providing free programs on a first-come-first-served basis.

Note written by Mel Frizzell, Special Collections and University Archives Assistant.

Language of Materials



Consists of Virginia Opera programs, guides, newspaper clippings, magazine articles. Also includes administrative records, correspondence, audio-visual materials, artifacts, and posters.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into ten series: Series I: Virginia Opera Association; Series II: Virginia Opera Guild; Series III: Virginia Opera Docents; Series IV: Harrison Opera House; Series V: Personalities; Series VI: Related Organization; Series VII: Miscellaneous; Series VIII: Multimedia; Series IX: Artifacts; and Series X: Opera Production Books.

Source of Acquisition

Eleanor J. Bader

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A2006-05

Accruals and Additions

Material is added to the collection periodically.

Related Materials

Virginia Symphony Orchestra Records (MG 81-A).

Processing Information

The collection was reprocessed by Mel Frizzell, Special Collections and University Archives Assistant, from 2020 to 2021.

A Guide to the Virginia Opera Records
Mel Frizzell
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US