For 40 years until April 2006, the COC had performed at the Hummingbird Centre. Nicholas Goldschmidt and Herman Geiger-Torel founded the organisation in 1950 as the Royal Conservatory Opera Company. Geiger-Torel became the COC's artistic director in 1956 and its general director in 1960. The company was renamed the Canadian Opera Association in 1960, and the Canadian Opera Company in 1977. Geiger-Torel retired from the general directorship in 1976. Lotfi Mansouri was the COC's general director from 1976 to 1988. In 1983, the COC introduced surtitles (supertitles) to their productions, the first company to use them in the opera house. Productions included Joan Sutherland's first production singing Donizetti's Anna Bolena.
Brian Dickie served as the COC's general director from 1988 to 1993. Dickie named Richard Bradshaw the COC's chief conductor and head of music in 1989. Elaine Calder was the COC's general director from 1994 to 1997. In 1998, Bradshaw was named general director.