It was established in 1950 as the Royal Conservatory Opera Company, by Nicholas Goldschmidt and the late Herman Geiger-Torel. Lotfi Mansouri was the COC's director for 12 years. It was during this time that the COC introduced surtitles (supertitles), which are English translations (English and French in Ottawa; French in Montréal and Québec City) of foreign libretti projected above the stage during performances. This soon caught on with many opera companies around the world. Theatre companies have started using this feature to show foreign plays in their original languages.
Arguably, the COC's greatest triumph was its many performances featuring Dame Joan Sutherland.
The COC makes its home in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects. The COC's new home opened with a run of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. On April 15, 2006, the COC had made its final performance at the Hummingbird Centre with Bellini's Norma, ending a 40 year partnership between the company and the performance centre.