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Our History


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Since 1949 Guild Opera Co. has been bringing the exciting world of the unamplified human voice to schools in the Southland, and to the community through performances featuring both young and established artists.


Millions of children have been introduced to this magical art form, children who would not have had this opportunity had it not been for Guild Opera, the second oldest opera company in California. 

Picture: Guild Opera’s “La Cenerentola” (Rossini) at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, 1957.

In the past, students were bussed to theaters such as the Shrine Auditorium and Glendale High School Auditoriums to experience fully staged operas such as The Bartered Bride and Hansel and Gretel. Beginning in 2000 Guild Opera Company changed their presentation model and began taking shorter contemporary operas, specifically written for elementary school children, directly to the schools to accommodate the schools who wanted to keep their students on school grounds.

Picture: Mary Costa in Guild Opera’s “La Cenerentola” (Rossini) at the Shrine Auditorium, 1958.

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Our alumni have included such world famous singers as Metropolitan Opera star mezzo Marilyn Horne, baritone Heinz Blankenburg, actress and soprano Mary Costa, who spoke and sang the role of Princess Aurora in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and many other Disney films, and voice over artist Marnie Nixon, whose film career as a dubbing singer includes The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and dozens more.

Picture: Marilyn Horne and Heinz Blankenburg in Guild Opera’s “La Cenerentola” (Rossini), 1957.

Guild Opera Remembers Heinz Blankenburg (October 15th, 1931 to June 23rd, 2022)


Baritone, Heinz Blankenburg sang for most of the world’s major opera companies, including those in San Francisco, Seattle, Berlin, Rome, Venice, Paris, Vienna Staatsoper, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, among others. While at the Hamburg State Opera, he was one of 19 individuals in 287 years to be awarded the honorary title of “Kammersänger.” Andrew Porter in The New Yorker wrote: “Blankenburg is a vivid and brilliant artist incapable of a wrong or dull inflection, glance, or gesture. He is a master of timbre and of timing, someone whose performances are to be collected and prized.” His career is further documented in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, which summarizes him as “an excellent comic actor, [who] used his flexible voice with considerable artistry.” Heinz Blankenburg was a professor of music at Cal State University Los Angeles as well as at UCLA, where he headed the foreign language diction program for singers. He authored three foreign language diction books, was a stage director, and was Artistic Director for Guild Opera Company for many years.

Picture: Heinz Blankenburg as producer & director of Guild Opera’s “The Magic Flute” (Mozart), 1990.

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Metropolitan Opera Star - Marilyn Horne

Marilyn Horne’s five-decade career in opera, concert, and recital has been celebrated throughout the world for the power and artistry of her unique and dazzling mezzo-soprano coloratura, and for her revival of many forgotten Rossini, Handel, Vivaldi and Bellini operas.

Miss Horne made her operatic debut with Guild Opera as Hata in “The Bartered Bride” in 1954, directed by the legendary Carl Ebert. From her autobiography, “Marilyn Horne My Life” she asks: “How did I feel at my debut? How would you feel singing in front of sixty-eight hundred kids? Truthfully, I can’t remember my debut state, other than that I was tremendously excited over having learned and performed an entire operatic role, and at being able to combine dramatic and operatic skills for the first time. (Ebert)must have been pleased, too, because I was hired to appear again the next year in “Hansel and Gretel”. Miss Horne continues: “In 1957, Ebert called me back to Los Angeles to repeat my first starring mezzo role as Cinderella, the Guild’s English-language version of Rossini’s “Cenerentola”.

One of the greatest operatic mezzo sopranos in history, Horne launched the Marilyn Horne Foundation in 1994 to support young singers and the art of the song. She is Vocal Program Director at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. In addition to MAW, each season she is engaged for master class residencies at the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music Lyric Opera of Chicago and the University of Maryland at College Park.

(some material courtesy of Columbia Artists Management, Inc.)

The Voice of Disney's Sleeping Beauty - Mary Costa

At Glendale High School, Mary auditioned and was awarded the leading role in a revival of the 1902 operetta “The Prince of Pilsen.”  In 1952, she was chosen by Walt Disney to sing the lead in ‘Sleeping Beauty” however the production was first released in 1959, seven years after Mary had recorded her role.


Meantime, Mary Costa made her opera debut. In 1958, at the huge Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, she played the lead in Guild Opera’s “The Bartered Bride” (Smetana), following the lead of opera star Marilyn Horne, who also received her first opera paycheck in a Guild Opera performance.

Mary enthusiastically recalls: “I still have a special picture on my wall showing me taking my first opera bow, in front of nearly 7,000 applauding children. To this day, I’ve never had a bigger thrill.”

Guild Opera led her to Glyndebourne in England, then to the famed San Francisco Opera, and, in 1964, to her well-remembered debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Violetta in “La Traviata”. In addition to 43 major opera roles, Mary Costa was, for years, the opera world’s most-in-demand Violetta.

Picture: Mary Costa's first opera bow as Smentana in Guild Opera's "The Bartered Bride" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, 1958. 

(Some material courtesy of Glendale News Press)

The Barber of Seville by Rossini

The Barber of Seville by Rossini
The Barber of Seville by Rossini
The Barber of Seville by Rossini
The Barber of Seville by Rossini
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