About Mobile Opera

Mobile Opera is a dynamic and innovative regional opera company producing exceptional quality main-stage opera, educational programs, and community connections on the Central Gulf Coast. It is the oldest performing arts organization in Alabama and one of the oldest professional opera companies in the nation. 

Mobile Opera also takes its role as an educator seriously, opening its doors to students, providing master classes and recitals by visiting artists, and producing in-school tours to introduce a new generation to the arts of classical singing and theater. School programs have included commissioned original works such as Fable, The Forest Bully, and Pigaro’s Diner – a program on child nutrition that reached over 50,000 school children. The Willson Scholarship Program and Rose Palmai-Tenser Voice Competition provide aspiring singers with scholarships to pursue their dreams. 

Mobile Opera’s mainstage productions attract national and even international artists each season to repertoire that is varied and includes the most popular operas ever written, lesser known works of merit, as well as new compositions of current impact.  The Winter Gala, recitals, cabarets, and various, musical events throughout the year round out a full season for Mobile Opera.


This is but a brief history of Mobile Opera’s more than 7 decades of great performances, quality education programs, and community growth. It would be impossible to produce an inclusive list of the many, many individuals, businesses, and foundations who have supported Mobile Opera to make its success possible. It is likewise impossible to include all of the myriad events that have influenced Mobile Opera’s importance in our community. 

Here are a few highlights.


The nucleus of a professional opera company is formed as the Mobile Opera Guild. Madame Rose Palmai-Tenser and friends are the founders creating fully-realized opera productions at the Murphy High School auditorium. In 1955 The Guild becomes the 8th in the nation to become affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera Guild of New York. Mobile Opera is soon incorporated and the Mobile Opera Guild Auxiliary is founded to complement the production company, a relationship lasting more than 50 years.


Leontyne Price, in a 1987 SRO performance, draws an audience together in an enriching solo recital. Supertitles (projected above the stage) are introduced, allowing operas to be offered in their original language. The KIDS CREATING OPERA educational program wins a 1989 Opera Guild Award as “Best Resource Program”. General Manager, Pelham G. Pearce, Jr. expands the repertoire of Mobile Opera, promoting American opera with The Ballad of Baby Doe, 1991’s touring production of The Story of Harriet Tubman, the company’s first forays into musical theater, and six major opera debuts.


The Mobile Opera Guild continues to grow in community support and professional quality, and in 1965 takes residence in the new Mobile Civic Center Theater. A grand production of Aida brings up the first curtain. The founding of the Rose Palmai-Tenser Scholarship Competition in the same year gives talented singers financial aid to further their musical training. Contestants have gone on to noteworthy careers on stages around the world.


Mobile Opera continues to expand a distinguished alumni group of singers who go on to prominence on national and international stages under the leadership of General Director, Jerome Shannon. The season again expands to four productions including American Musical Theater and gala concerts by artists of note. Mobile Opera moves its operations and rehearsals into the state-of-the-art Larkins Music Center.


Mobile Opera increases community outreach to a tri-state area with opera INFORMANCES. Educational opportunities for students expand with the help of corporate sponsors. In conjunction with America’s Bicentennial Celebration, Mobile Opera produces Susannah with stage direction by the composer, Carlisle Floyd.


Education programs take on an even more prominent role in Mobile Opera’s planning. Pigaro’s Diner, an operetta about nutrition, tours Alabama for a three-year run. It is seen by more than 50,000 school children, and earns a “Best Practice Award” by the Alabama State Dept. of Education. Scott Wright becomes General Director. As the future of the Mobile Civic Center is drawn into question, Mobile Opera makes the bold move to The Temple Downtown, introducing table seating, offering a new and more personal way to experience opera.


Under the leadership of Katherine S. Willson, the company rises to national recognition and adds a second mainstage production to the season, creating contrasting depth to the opera experience. PREVIEWS, offering memorable highlights of upcoming opera selections, are offered throughout the region, and the matinee for students makes its debut. In the production of The Tales of Hoffman, Mobile Opera first makes use of new backscreen projection technology.


The history of our future is still being written as Mobile Opera continues to be a cultural leader on the Central Gulf Coast, bringing excellent, professional productions, quality education programs, and pride to a community that looks to the future, emboldened by an illustrious past.