Mission & History

Kentucky Opera seeks to reach and reflect our entire region through opera, promoting a more empathetic, compassionate, and just community through the power of the arts.

History

Moritz von Bomhard founded Kentucky Opera in 1952. During his tenure, Maestro Bomhard made it a practice to present at least one premiere each year. During the 1950s alone, Kentucky Opera presented five world premiere works. That spirit of innovation survives today.

Under Bomhard’s direction, Kentucky Opera grew from a small organization, one of the first in the nation, to become a strong, innovative and respectable company that presented quality productions for appreciative audiences. After 30 years of tenure, Bomhard retired in 1982. The Bomhard Theater at the Kentucky Center for the Arts is named in his honor.

Tosca — conducted, directed, and designed by Moritz von Bomhard. Columbia Auditorium, 1953.

Theaters & Opera Houses

Kentucky Opera has had several performing homes during its 70-year history. The first performances were presented in the Columbia Auditorium. Even though this venue had no orchestra pit, it remained Kentucky Opera’s home for over ten years. In 1963, the company moved into the Macauley Theater, now known as the Brown Theatre, which had completed a major refurbishment.

The Kentucky Center for the Arts, opened in 1983, became a part-time home for the company. Larger works were performed in Whitney Hall, medium scale productions were presented in the Brown Theatre, and small chamber pieces were often performed in the Bomhard Theater. Beginning with the 2000-2001 season, all of Kentucky Opera’s productions were presented in Whitney Hall. Kentucky Opera returned to its “home” at the Brown Theatre in the 2009-2010 season. 

In 2021, Kentucky Opera moved its administrative offices to the new Opera Center located at 708 Magazine Street, in downtown Louisville. This space also serves as the rehearsal facility for all Kentucky Opera performances, as well as a second performance venue for chamber operas.

The State Opera of Kentucky

In July 1982, the Kentucky General Assembly designated Kentucky Opera as the state opera of Kentucky to, among other objectives, enhance the reputation of the Commonwealth as a major area of arts activity in the United States and throughout the world.

Kentucky Opera is a frequent collaborator with arts organizations in and around Kentucky. Kentucky Opera partners regularly with the Louisville Orchestra, Louisville Ballet, Bourbon Baroque, and other arts organizations.

Enemies, A Love Story, 2018

Developing Emerging Artists

Committed to increasing its young audience, Kentucky Opera developed several educational initiatives including Bravo Time, Overture, and Youth Opera Project.

As early as 1998, Kentucky Opera was committed to serving apprentices with the implementation of the Rudd Program for Young Artists. Kentucky Opera serves as a training ground for young artists now through the Barbara & Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program. The Studio Artist program provides unique training experiences and career guidance for emerging opera singers. Sandford Studio Artists take part in mainstage productions singing or covering principal roles, singing comprimario roles, or singing in the chorus. In addition, Studio Artists have the opportunity to sing in recitals, concerts, participate in master and studio classes, and represent Kentucky Opera in various community and patron cultivation programs.

Kentucky Opera is financed by ticket sales, corporate sponsors and individual donors, the Fund for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, and local fundraisers. From its humble beginnings in 1952 — when the budget of $10,000 produced three operas — Kentucky Opera has grown to a respected professional regional company with an annual budget in excess of $2.4 million. With the addition of the Kentucky Opera Studio Artists Program and other growing outreach educational programs, the company is well positioned to take its place as a leader in the region and the nation in the dynamic landscape of modern opera.

Our Founder


Moritz von Bomhard (1952-1982)

Kentucky Opera General Directors


Barbara Lynne Jamison (2018-present)
Ian Derrer (2016-2018)
Bill Blodgett (interim, 2015-2016)
David Roth (2006-2015)
Deborah Sandler (1998-2005)
Thomson Smillie (1982-1997)

Repertoire 1952–present


1952–53

The Medium & The Telephone – Gian Carlo Menotti
La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi

1953–54

The Spanish Hour – Maurice Ravel
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Transposed Head – Peggy Glanville-Hicks*

1954–55

Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo
Double Trouble – Richard Mohaupt*
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Wish – George Antheil

1955–56

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
The School for Wives – Rolf Libermann
The Impresario – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Merry Wives of Windsor – Otto Nicolai

1956–57

Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Faust – Charles Gounod
Street Scene – Kurt Weill

1957–58

La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss II
The Holy Devil* – Nicolas Nabokov

1958–59

Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi
Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck
Orpheus in the Underworld – Jacques Offenbach

1959–60

Beatrice* ** – Lee Hobby
Amahl and the Night Visitors – Gian Carlo Menotti
The Soldier’s Tale – Igor Stravinsky
La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti

1960–61

Cavelleria Rusticana – Pierto Mascagni
The Spanish Hour – Maurice Ravel
The Bartered Bride – Bedřich Smetana
Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti

1961–62

The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
Down in the Valley – Kurt Weill
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
Aida – Giuseppe Verdi

*World Premiere
**Commissioned by Kentucky Opera

1962–63

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Clever One – Carl Orff
Il trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi

1963–64

Carmen – Georges Bizet
The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Gianni Schicchi – Giacomo Puccini
Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi

1964–65

Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss II
Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Oedipus Rex – Igor Stravinsky
The Tales of Hoffmann – Jacques Offenbach

1965–66

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
A Masked Ball – Giuseppe Verdi
The School for Wives† – Rolf Libermann
Faust – Charles Gounod

1966–67

The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Telephone – Gian Carlo Menotti
Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo
Orpheus and Eurydice – Christoph Willibold Gluck
La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi

1967–68

Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
Boris Godunov – Modest Mussorgsky
The Merry Widow – Franz Lehar

1968–69

The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti
Il trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi
Ariadne auf Naxos – Richard Strauss
The Bartered Bride – Bedřich Smetana

1969–70

Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti
Roméo et Juliette – Charles Gounod
The Rape of Lucretia – Benjamin Britten
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini

1970–71

The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
Carmen – Georges Bizet
Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi
Manon – Jules Massenet

1971-72

Turandot – Giacomo Puccini
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi
Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss II
The Elixir of Love – Gaetano Donizetti

†English Premiere

1972–73

Aida – Giuseppe Verdi
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti
Jenůfa – Leoš Janàček
La bohème – Giacomo Puccini

1973–74

Otello – Giuseppe Verdi
The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Susannah – Carlisle Floyd
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini

1974–75

Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Flying Dutchman – Richard Wagner
Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
Il tabarro – Giacomo Puccini
La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi

1975–76

Salome – Richard Strauss
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Katya Kabanova – Leoš Janàček
Faust – Charles Gounod

1976–77

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
The Ballad of Baby Doe – Douglass Moore
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
A Masked Ball – Giuseppe Verdi

1977–78

The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi
Peter Grimes – Benjamin Britten
The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1978–79

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi
The Elixir of Love – Gaetano Donizetti
Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo
The Impressario – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1979–80

Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti
Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck
Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss II
Il trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi

1980–81

The Tales of Hoffmann – Jacques Offenbach
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
The Crucible – Robert Ward
Carmen – Georges Bizet

1981–82

La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
Ariadne auf Naxos – Richard Strauss
The Bartered Bride – Bedřich Smetana
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Victor Borge in Concert

1982–83

Alceste – Christoph Willibold Gluck
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1983–84

The Turn of the Screw – Benjamin Britten
La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti

1984–85

Turandot – Giacomo Puccini
The Italian Girl in Algiers – Gioachino Rossini
Albert Herring – Benjamin Britten
The Pearl Fishers – Georges Bizet

1985–86

Fidelio – Ludwig van Beethoven
The Merry Widow – Franz Lehar
Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell
Trial by Jury – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Luciano Pavarotti in Concert

1986–87

Aida – Giuseppe Verdi
The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
The Golden Cockerel – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Porgy and Bess – George Gershwin

1987–88

Salome – Richard Strauss
The Mikado – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Il trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi
The Fall of the House of Usher – Philip Glass

1988–89

Gilbert and Sullivan Festival:
The Yeoman of the Guard, The Mikado, Trial by Jury, Cox and Box
Falstaff – Giuseppe Verdi
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Benjamin Britten
Carmen – Georges Bizet

1989–90

The Soldier’s Tale – Igor Stravinsky
La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
The Stone Man* – Daniel Dutton
The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Embarrassed Tutor – Gaetano Donizetti

1990–91

Otello – Giuseppe Verdi
The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
The Pirates of Penzance – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Norma – Vincenzo Bellini

1991–92

My Fair Lady – Frederick Loewe
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
The Impresario – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Words and Music – Antonio Salieri
Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti

*World Premiere
Commissioned by Kentucky Opera and the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA

1992–93

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Turn of the Screw – Benjamin Britten
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti

1993–94

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
H.M.S. Pinafore – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi

1994–95

A Masked Ball – Giuseppe Verdi
La Cenerentola – Gioachino Rossini
Side by Side by Sondheim – Stephen Sondheim
Cavalleria Rusticana – Pierto Mascagni
Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo

1995–96

Carmen – Georges Bizet
Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck
Albert Herring – Benjamin Britten
Requiem – Verdi

1996–97

Don Carlo – Giuseppe Verdi
Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Mikado – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
The Elixir of Love – Gaetano Donizetti

1997–98

La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini

1998–99

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini
Roméo et Juliette – Charles Gounod

1999–2000

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Susannah – Carlisle Floyd
Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss II

2000–01

Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi
The Daughter of the Regiment – Gaetano Donizetti
Turandot – Giacomo Puccini

2001–02

Carmen – Georges Bizet
Falstaff – Giuseppe Verdi
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2002–03

La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
Don Pasquale – Gaetano Donizetti
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2003–04

Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
Salome – Richard Strauss
Così fan tutte – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2004–05

Thaïs – Jules Massenet
La Cenerentola – Gioachino Rossini
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini

2005–06

Eugene Onegin – Peter Tchaikovsky
Little Women – Mark Adamo
The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini

2006–07

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Lucia di Lammermoor – Gaetano Donizetti
The Pearl Fishers – Georges Bizet

2007–08

Turandot – Giacomo Puccini
Il trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi
Dialogues of the Carmelites – Francis Poulenc
Samson and Delilah (concert) – Camille Saint-Saëns

2008–09

Otello – Giuseppe Verdi
The Pirates of Penzance – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Down Quixote (Baroque showcase) – Wilhelm Kienzl
Werther – Jules Massenet
Iolanta (concert) – Peter Tchaikovsky

2009–10

La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
Of Mice and Men – Carlisle Floyd
Hansel and Gretel – Engelbert Humperdinck

2010–11

Cavalleria Rusticana – Pierto Mascagni
Pagliacci – Ruggero Leoncavallo
The Elixir of Love – Gaetano Donizetti
Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini

2011–12

Carmen – Georges Bizet
The Prodigal Son – Benjamin Britten
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Merry Widow – Franz Lehar

2012–13

Tosca – Giacomo Puccini
Cendrillon – Jules Massenet
Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2013–14

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Simon Boccanegra – Giuseppe Verdi
Roméo et Juliette – Charles Gounod

2014–15

Fidelio – Ludwig van Beethoven
La fanciula del West – Giacomo Puccini
A Streetcar Named Desire – André Previn
A Woman in Morocco* – Daron Hagen

2015–16

Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi
Three Decembers – Jake Heggie
Show Boat – Jerome Kern

2016–17

Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
The Abduction from the Seraglio – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Mikado – W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

2017–18

Ariadne auf Naxos – Richard Strauss
Dead Man Walking – Jake Heggie
The Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini

2018–19

The Magic Flute – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Enemies, A Love Story – Ben Moore
Rigoletto – Giuseppe Verdi

2019–20

Carmen – Georges Bizet
Glory Denied – Tom Cipullo
The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2021–22

Orpheus and Eurydice – Christoph Willibold Gluck
An American Dream – Jack Perla

2022–23

La bohème – Giacomo Puccini
Marìa de Buenos Aires – Astor Piazzolla
The Gift of the Magi – David Conte
La Cenerentola – Gioachino Rossini

*World Premiere