Starlight Opera

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Starlight Opera was an annual summertime light opera series presented outdoors at the Munger Bowl stadium at Birmingham-Southern College beginning in 1943.

The series was produced by a non-profit group whose executive board was headed by Birmingham-Southern President George Stuart with Birmingham News city editor Vincent Townsend, Mrs E. T. Bozenhard of the Birmingham Music Club and insurance executive Hugh Abernethy. Sponsorships from civic groups, arts and education organizations, media outlets and businesses helped offset the costs of production.

The local players who made up the supporting cast, many of them students at the college, were directed by Cecil Abernethy. Raymond Anderson led the orchestra as music director. Lily May Caldwell served as artist and press agent. Ralph Errolle was hired as producer and Leila Crabtree as choreographer and ballet mistress.

The series was successful, with more than 32,000 tickets sold during the 1948 season. Canadian soprano Ruby Mercer, who starred that season, was also booked by Caldwell to sing the national anthem for the opening of the 1948 States Rights Democratic Party convention. She drew a large cheer when she followed immediately with the first two verses of "Dixie".


  • 1943:
  • 1944:
  • 1945:
  • 1946: June 24-27: "Mlle. Modiste" with Evelyn Case, Harry Stockwell, and Tim Herbert
    • July 9-12: "Naughty Marietta" with Leila Crabtree and Tim Herbert
  • 1947
  • 1948: -July 10: "The Fortune Teller" with Mimi Benzell, Donald Gage, Johnny Silver and Virginia Johnson
    • July 19-: "New Moon" with Ruby Mercer, Arthur Kent, Johnny Silver and Virginia Johnson
  • 1949
  • 1950: July 25-28: "The Chocolate Soldier" with Brenda Lewis, Ralph Herbert and Franklin Syme


  • "Birmingham Opera Third Season Set For Biggest Sked." (October 27, 1945) Billboard
  • "Birmingham Operettas Boffo" (August 7, 1948) Billboard