Skip to main content

Kentucky Opera Association Records

Identifier: 1976_093-UA

The KOA records document the company from its founding in 1952 until the late 1960's. The overwhelming amount of material dates from 1964-1969.

The records are particularly relevant to the Louisville cultural community, for they trace the history of a one-man operation that developed into one of national recognition. These records are important because they establish the initial struggle in building support for a fledgling opera company, which is now flourishing and prosperous.

The collection contains evidence of the many aspects of opera production. The record group includes contracts, abstracts, photographs, material relating to public relations and the history of the company, and the personal and business correspondence of Moritz Bomhard. The Bomhard correspondence indicates the difficulties involved in operating an opera company. For example, the problems associated with settings and costume rentals, public relations in the day of society editors, and fund-raising are documented. There is extensive and detailed correspondence regarding orchestra schedules, casts, and contracts with singers and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

The records reflect the dedication and achievements of Moritz Bomhard, KOA's first and to date only artistic director.

There is little material relating to the financial affairs of the KOA. Minutes from meetings of the boards of directors are missing. There is no correspondence with Moritz Bomhard during his leave of absence, and there is no mention of Karlos Moser, who replaced Bomhard during that period.

The Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws are included. These provide factual information on the format of the opera company.

The photographs reveal the wide range of operas performed by the KOA. However, not every opera is represented. There is a unique picture of a performance (pre-KOA days) in the private amphitheatre of a local opera devotee.

Accessions 1976-093 and 1977-118 are combined in this finding aid.


  • circa 1952-1975


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Louisville and there are no additional restrictions.


7 linear feet (5 - rc box; 1 - mss box; 1 - 0.5mss box Unprocessed material: 36 RC boxes,1 large flat, 2 small flats, 1 large irregular box, 3 scrapbooks, 6 cassette boxes (President's Council tapes and one box of "sampler" cassettes), oversized posters and costume design drawings)

Organizational history

The Kentucky Opera Association (KOA), a Louisville-based company, was founded and incorporated in 1952, for the purpose of bringing opera to the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A group of citizens under the direction of Moritz Bomhard, stimulated by the highly successful opera workshop performances of the University of Louisville School of Music, organized the KOA. The ties between the School of Music and the KOA remain close. In 1967, the Koa became a regional opera company.

A major portion of the records is material relating to Moritz Bomhard's involment in the KOA. Bomhard, the first and only artistic director of the KOA, was born in Germany, where he first studied law, then graduated from the Leipzig Conservatory of Music. He came to the United States in 1935, received a fellowship at Julliard School of Music, and a Master's degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. Bomhard formed his own touring company, The New Lyric Stage, and in this capacity came to the University of Louisville School of Music to direct its operas. In 1952, he disbanded the touring company and settled in Louisville to organize the KOA. In 1960, he took a year's leave of absence to go to Hamburg's State Opera. Karlos Moser, of New York City, stood in during his absence. In 1963, Bomhard went as a representative of the Ford Foundation to Berlin to establish a cultural program. Louisville's "Salute to the Arts" honored him in 1966 as the "founding father of opera as an art form in this area." Bomhard is the only man to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Ursuline College. Since 1964, he has produced annually an opera for the Memphis (Tennessee) Opera Theatre.

Between 1961-1963, Moritz Bomhard planned, produced, and hosted "Excursion," a monthly WAVE-radio, non-commercial program series. These were developed to promote and stimulate "cultural permeation of everyday life as opposed to an esoteric hobby." Bomhard also produced and hosted a WAVE-television series, "Artist in Residence," in 1967, designed to give recognition to the importance of performing artists who lived in Louisville and to introduce them to the television audience. During the past twenty-seven years, the KOA has produced 72 operas. With few exceptions, all were designed, staged, and conducted by Moritz Bomhard.

Cast of the KOA productions are chosen from local and out-of-town singers. The opera orchestra is composed of members of the Louisville Orchestra. The range of operas staged go from the 18th century's "Orfeo and Eurydice," by Gluck. through the 20th century's "Katya Kabanova," by Janscek. Six commissioned operas were premiered by the KOA between 1954 and 1958. Five of these were part of a Rockefeller Foundation grant to the Louisville Orchestra. When WAVE-television and radio opened its new building in 1959, the station celebrated with a commissioned opera, "Beatrice," by Lee Hoiby. The KOA performed this opera and recorded it for the Louisville Orchestra Commissioned Series in 1960..

In 1952, KOA became a member of the Louisville Fund and still receives its major income from that source. An auxiliary organization of interested supporters, called the Friends of Opera, was founded in 1957. It serves in various volunteer capacities.


Guide to the Kentucky Opera Association Records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752