History of Harvard College Opera


For over 25 years, we have made it our mission to introduce Harvard College to the art of opera and to provide opera performance opportunities to undergraduates.

Harvard College Opera's history stretches back to the early 1990s, when a group of students in Dunster House of Harvard University, led by Ethan Sperry '93, began an annual tradition of staging operas in the Dunster House dining hall. 

The Dunster House Opera was thus formed in 1992 as a house organization, in conjunction with the production of its first opera, Bizet's Carmen (1993). Since the beginning, we have oriented ourselves toward the future: our inaugural production was introduced by Sperry as “the first annual production of the Dunster House Opera Society." Years later, the company was officially recognized as an organization and “society” in 1997. For 20 years, the tradition of annual operas staged in the Dunster House dining hall continued,  beginning with Carmen in 1993 and lasting until Massenet's Cendrillon in 2013.

Since 2014, we have produced annual operas in the historic Agassiz Theatre. After the end of our twenty-year residency in Dunster House, we assumed the name Harvard College Opera to reflect our orientation toward undergraduate-centered opera at Harvard University. Our 2018 production of Die Fledermaus marked our fifth year in the Agassiz Theatre.

Throughout our twenty-five-year history, our productions have been praised by critics for their quality and inventiveness. Our 2007 production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro reimagined the Count and Countess Almaviva as 35th President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy, while our 2013 production of Massenet's Cendrillon depicted Cinderella's stepsisters as a pair of Mean Girls-esque sisters dressed head to toe in Juicy Couture. In 2018, our production of Strauss's Die Fledermaus introduced Orlofsky's masked ball to the twenty-first century as a wild office party, set against a visually striking backdrop of scintillating gold, garnering warm reviews from critics. Of our dramatically modern Fledermaus, a critic from The Boston Musical Intelligencer declared, “despite my prejudices in favor of the more traditional approaches to staging, which in general remain firm, I make an enthusiastic exception for this boisterous Fledermaus." 

Most recently, our productions have ranged from time-honored classics, such as Mozart's Così fan Tutte (2014), to modern masterworks such as Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (2015). We approach all of our operas — old and new — with a sense of vision and of the deep potential for newness presented by even centuries-old masterpieces. We look forward to welcoming you to our 2019 production.