Despite opera's well-known exclusivity, the genre has in fact consistently been the target of popularizing initiatives, a point often overlooked in accounts of its history. This dissertation identifies and explains trends in efforts to democratize opera in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Examining both traditional live performance and opera's dissemination through new media formats, this research is the first to illuminate patterns in the great variation in the presentation style of popularly oriented opera in America over the last century, revealing novel source materials that challenge existing views of the genre. I argue that these little-explored democratizing initiatives have been dominated by ideals of uplift (1895-1920), integration (1920-1970), and authenticity (1970-present). Three case studies represent the prevailing trend of each era: Henry Savage's English Grand Opera Company (1895-1912), the NBC-TV Opera Theater (1949-64), and the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD broadcasts (2006-present ). I also show how changing ideologies about the role of "high culture" in society, sociodemographic shifts in the composition of the middle and upper classes and the immigrant population, and technological advances in mass media such as TV and HD satellite broadcasts have informed the emergence and character of these opera popularization strategies.