In the decade following World War II, the only grand opera to be enjoyed in West Michigan was when a touring company passed through or a local Viking was carried away by valkyries. That's why, in the mid-1950s, a group of opera enthusiasts started the St. Cecilia Music Society, focused on modest productions with high-culture aspirations. Meanwhile, a group known as Opera Association Committee began laying the foundations of something larger by seeking partnerships with Grand Rapids Civic Theater and the Grand Rapids Symphony. By 1966, these organizations joined their formidable forces, and Opera Grand Rapids was born. Today, under the direction of Artistic Director Robert Lyall, who's held that position since 1989, the opera specializes in full-scale productions of classic masterpieces such as Madame Butterfly and newer works such as A Streetcar Named Desire.