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Leon Major papers

 Collection 0209-SCPA

Leon Major (b. 1933) is a Canadian-born theater and opera director, who has directed and taught internationally. Major was the first Artistic Director of The Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he worked from 1987 to 2013. The materials in this collection, which includes production files, book materials, and programs, date from 1860 through 2016.


  • 1860-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1957-2012

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room during SCPA’s operating hours. Please contact the curator for an appointment or if you have questions related to digital access of the materials.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Copyright was not transferred to the University of Maryland with the gift of any copyrighted materials. All rights remain with the creators and rights holders. The University of Maryland Libraries is granted permission for the use in scholarly research by the Libraries’ patrons under fair use in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act.

To inquire about duplication of materials for research or for publication, please contact SCPA’s curator.


13.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Leon Major papers cover the period from 1860 to 2016; the bulk of the materials date from 1957 to 2012. The collection consists of personal and professional papers, including programs from shows directed by and attended by Major, newspaper clippings of advertisements and reviews of his productions, rehearsal notes, personal research materials and notes, stage and costume sketches and photos, production photos, annotated scores and scripts, and correspondence related to Major's work as a theater and opera director, working with organizations such as Washington Opera and the Kennedy Center, Boston Lyric Opera, Lake George Opera Festival, the Canadian Opera Company, and De Nederlandse Opera, as well as related to his work as a professor at the University of Maryland.


Born in Canada in 1933, Leon Major is an internationally recognized opera and theater director. Major attended the University of Toronto, where he received his B.A. in 1955, and completed further studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Major's early career was focused on directing plays. He served as Artistic Director of the Crest Theatre in the 1950s, and in 1963, founded the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he served as Artistic Director until 1968.

Major's first opera production was Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, which he directed in Toronto in 1961. Subsequent positions with the Lake George Opera Festival and the Kennedy Center established Major refocused his career on opera rather than theater. Major served as the Artistic Director for the Boston Lyric Opera from 1998-2003 and Artistic Consultant for Opera Cleveland from 2003 to 2007. He has directed plays, operas, and musicals around the world as an independent director, working with companies such as the New York City Opera, Washington Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, and Florentine Opera. In 1987, Major became the Artistic Director for the new Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he remained until his retirement in 2013. During his time at the University of Maryland, Major directed numerous operas and assisted with the commission of new works, including Shadowboxer by John Chenault and Frank Proto (2010), Later the Same Evening by Mark Campbell and John Musto (2007), and Clara, by Kathleen Cahill and Robert Convery (2004).

In addition to his teaching experience at the University of Maryland, Major has given master classes across the United States and internationally, in locations such as Shanghai and Tel Aviv. His book, The Empty Voice: Acting Opera was released in 2011, in which Major describes his methods for teaching developing opera singers.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. Files
  2. The Empty Voice: Acting Opera
  3. Programs
  4. Related Items

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Leon Major, received on May 28, 2015.

Related Material

Major, Leon and Michael Laing. The Empty Voice: Acting Opera. Milwaukee: Amadeus, 2011. [PAL Stacks MT956.M35 2001]

Schabas, Ezra. There's Music in these Walls: A History of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2005. [PAL Stacks MT5.T6 R7399 2005]

Processing Information

Original order was maintained for the first two series. Materials are processed at the item-level. Description is at the folder-level, except for Series 3: Programs, which is at item-level. For Series 1 and 3, titles were transcribed as they appear on programs; Library of Congress Name Authority File was employed to resolve discrepancies.

Leon Major papers
Roslyn Brandes
July 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States