Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 01/31/2021

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Kimber, Marian Wilson

First Committee Member

Cook, Robert C.

Second Committee Member

Platte, Nathan


For the majority of summers between 1917 and 1925, May Valentine presented popular operas to receptive audiences on the chautauqua circuits, conducting and managing her own operatic troupe for the Redpath Chautauqua Bureau from 1923 to 1925. During this time, Valentine produced and conducted “light opera”—English-language operettas such as DeKoven’s Robin Hood, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and The Gondoliers, Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier, and Michael William Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl—throughout much of the United States to chautauqua’s demanding, predominantly rural crowds. That her company maintained relative operational autonomy, saw steady ticket revenues and an enthusiastic press reception, and garnered regular appearances in period entertainment magazines while on the summer circuits suggests that Valentine was a successful conductor and impresario.

A case study of the May Valentine Opera Company, this thesis explores processes associated with the chautauqua-based dissemination of opera in order to address broader operatic tastes of the 1910s and 1920s in the United States. The capitalist enterprise of the chautauqua circuits proved to be an ideal outlet for the large-scale dissemination of a vernacular operatic repertoire. Throughout her career, Valentine expressed her egalitarian vision for opera in the United States and, with tour stops in upwards of forty-seven states, furthered her cause through the day-to-day operations of a touring, commercial troupe. Valentine’s public persona as a female operatic conductor further inspired a press reception that often focused on her position as a harbinger of the period’s increased attention to female participation in public music making. The chautauqua-circuit career of May Valentine represents not only a now-forgotten continuation of touring English-language opera, but an early twentieth-century operatic phenomenon propagated by standardized chautauqua-circuit business practices, both grounded in and promoted with period ideals of social edification and cultural egalitarianism.


chautauqua, English-language opera, opera, Redpath


vii, 107 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 99-107).


Copyright © 2018 Cody Andrew Norling

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