Upon her retirement, Donalda opened an impressive teaching studio in Paris, where she taught gifted singers from 1922 until 1937. The studio had excellent acoustics, seating for over 100 people and a stage equipped with lighting, sets and props.19 Well-known composers like Paul Dukas and Vincent D'Indy regularly visited Donalda's studio to hear her students, many of whom developed into talented performers.
Although most of Donalda's professional experiences and successes had taken place abroad, she expressed a desire to return to Montréal, in order to develop a tradition of first-rate opera performance in that city. Donalda arrived in Montréal in 1937 and by 1941, had helped to found The Opera Guild Inc., an organization whose mandate was "to give concerts, recitals and to perform or to cause to be performed operas, musicals, symphonies and/or musical plays of all kinds or descriptions; to increase the public interest in music of all kinds, [and] to stimulate the public interest in arts and music".20
The first production of the Opera Guild occurred on May 3, 1942, with scenes from Cavalleria Rusticana, Carmen and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. With Donalda as President and Artistic Director, the Guild produced operas for 28 consecutive seasons before it ceased operations in 1970.21 Many Canadian singers like Clarice Carson, Robert Savoie and Maureen Forrester had the opportunity to perform in the 29 different operas presented by the Guild, which included operas by Puccini, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Verdi and Mozart.
In 1966, The Montreal Citizenship Council recognized Donalda with the Outstanding Citizen Award for her leading role in the Opera Guild and her commitment to the development of music in Montréal. She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from McGill in 1954 and the Order of Canada (Service Medal) in 1967.22 By the time of her death in 1970, Donalda had spent over 30 years in Montréal and, through her teaching and her involvement with the Guild, had contributed significantly to Montréal's operatic scene.
Donalda attributed much of her success to hard work and a lifelong appreciation of music. She said, "Art is a life study and the study of music exalts life. The voice, besides being a thing of beauty when properly used, is an index to culture. Add personality to hard work and you have the main ingredients of a potential singer. . . . My last words: You must work, work, work!"23
Through her remarkable vocal talent and her unflagging devotion to opera, Pauline Donalda experienced a rich and rewarding life, and touched the lives of opera lovers worldwide.
For more information on Pauline Lightstone Donalda's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.