In 1948, five Tulsans, Bess Gowans, Ralph and Ione Sassano, Mary Helen Markham and Beverly Bliss, formed the Tulsa Opera Club. On 4 December 1948, the organization performed Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata. The company initially presented light operas and operettas twice yearly with one or two paid professional singers. By 1953, the company had renamed itself Tulsa Opera, and had given its fully professional production in November 1953, of Madama Butterfly, directed by Ralph Sassano, where professional singers were brought to Tulsa for all principal roles. In 1977, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center was built. Since that time, nearly all operas have been presented in the Center's Chapman Music Hall.
Former directors of Tulsa Opera include Carlo Moresco, Edward Purrington, Bernard Uzan, Nicholas Muni, Carol I. Crawford, and Greg Weber. From 2008 to 2016, the company’s Artistic Director was Kostis Protopapas, who had previously served as Associate Conductor and Chorus Master under Carol I. Crawford. The current general director and CEO of the company is Ken McConnell, who was initially appointed as interim general director and CEO in July 2018. The current artistic director of the company is Tobias Picker, who was named to the post in 2016.
In May 2019, Tulsa Opera presented a new staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni with Lucia Lucas in the title role, becoming the first American opera company to feature a transgender woman in a principal role.
- James D Watts Jr (2018-07-05). "Tulsa Opera names new interim executive director". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- James D Watts Jr (2016-05-27). "Tulsa Opera names Tobias Picker artistic director". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- Robert Rowat (2019-05-02). "Tulsa Opera's Don Giovanni makes history with trans woman in title role". CBC. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
- Tulsa Opera Chronicles, by Jack A. Williams & Laven Sowell, 1992.