Florida Grand Opera stands as the oldest performing arts organization in Florida. FGO was formed in June 1994 by the merger of Greater Miami Opera, founded in 1941, and The Opera Guild Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, founded in 1945. The Greater Miami Opera was founded by Dr. Arturo di Filippi, a voice teacher at the University of Miami. The first production, held at Miami Senior High School in 1942, was a single performance of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, performed in English, with Dr. di Filippi singing the role of Canio. In 1945, Dr. di Filippi appeared in a production of Il trovatore at Ft. Lauderdale Central High School, representing the first presentation of The Opera Guild, Inc.
Florida Grand Opera is a resident company of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, where the company presents Miami performances in the Ziff Ballet Opera House. Fort Lauderdale performances are held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Au Rene Theater. For the 2019-20 Season, FGO will also perform at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium.
Florida Grand Opera has a rich history of presenting internationally acclaimed artists such as Robert Merrill, Dorothy Kirsten, Richard Tucker, Renata Tebaldi, Roberta Peters, Franco Corelli, Renata Scotto, Montserrat Caballé, Jon Vickers, Sherrill Milnes, Nicolai Gedda, Birgit Nilsson, Anna Moffo, Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Evelyn Lear, James Morris, Thomas Stewart, Diana Soviero, Justino Diaz, Simon Estes, Elizabeth Futral, Helen Donath, Deborah Voigt, Lauren Flanigan, and Fernando de la Mora. Luciano Pavarotti made his U.S. debut in 1965 with the company’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor.
In May 1997, the company presented the world premiere of Balseros, an opera by Robert Ashley with libretto by world-renowned Cuban writer María Irene Fornés. Balseros was commissioned as a co-production by Florida Grand Opera, Miami-Dade Community College, and the South Florida Composers Alliance. Another world premiere was seen with Robert Ward’s Minutes Till Midnight in 1982. U.S. premieres include Gioachino Rossini’s Bianca e Falliero and the final revised version of Alberto Franchetti’s Cristoforo Colombo.
In April 2007, Florida Grand Opera presented the critically acclaimed world premiere of David Carlson’s Anna Karenina, with libretto by Colin Graham. Anna Karenina was commissioned as a co-production by Florida Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
With the arrival in 2012 of Susan T. Danis as FGO’s General Director and CEO, the company instituted a “Made for Miami” series—modern works aimed at connecting with South Florida’s diverse communities. Company premieres in this series include Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul, Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra, Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger, Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls, Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida, and in 2020, Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage).
Florida Grand Opera offers several highly successful outreach and educational programs, including the internationally recognized Studio Artist Program. Offering aspiring artists the opportunity to train and enhance their professional skills, the program reaches more than 20,000 South Floridians annually through educational initiatives and community outreach programs. In addition, the young artists perform and cover lead roles in main-stage productions throughout the season.