Thursday, March 02, 2006

Opera - Not Oprah!

Every once in awhile I like to get off my high horse and give kudos where kudos are due. Today it's a big one for the folks at Opera Plus! for their in-school program that was reported in today's Press. To introduce opera to kids in the third grade is terrific. It teaches them what fun it can be rather than dull and boring.

I have an alternative e-mail account with Opera mail and more often than not I've been asked if it's spelled Oprah. Opera has a bit of a recognition problem it would seem!

Ahhh, the memories. I was in college and dating a very sophisticated older man. He must have been all of 25 to my 20. A road company came to campus for a single performance of Don Giovanni. Eh.

Years later I found my guy LOVED opera. We had season tickets when we lived in the San Francisco area. Nothing like being indoctrinated by one of the best companies in the world! I really immersed myself, studying the librettos ahead of time so I could follow the story without understanding the language. It didn't take long to realize what great theater Grand Opera can be. It's like soap opera set to music. But what music; the incredible control the singers have over their voices and the majesty of the music they are able to produce.

Where else can you sit through nearly a full act with the heroine dying in full voice? Of course in San Francisco, the theater doesn't stop on the stage. Intermissions were spent at the wine bar in the lobby listening to a biker in full leathers, talking to the server, with more knowledge of the nuances of the performances than the critics. Or the guy in drag, always black, and legs like a gorilla's. He walked in heels better than I did though. San Francisco.

From there on to Houston where I really got involved in the organization. In that fair city they came looking for you. How novel. I had a mentor; I was blessed. She got me involved in fund raising. When they found I had a knack for getting big bucks from able contributors my stock rose. The more involved I got the better the perks were. Open rehearsals, private recitals.

About ten years prior to our stint in Houston there was a horrible murder for money scandal. A book was written about it called "Blood and Money". It centered around the murder of a socialite and her father's obsession to make her husband, a prominent surgeon, pay. The surgeon, John Hill, remarried; a music teacher named Connie. They had a mansion in River Oaks with a full floor music room with absolutely perfect acoustics. John had been murdered in the entry way but Connie kept the house. By the time we arrived on the scene she was hosting the private recitals for the Opera in-crowd.

Wow. This was heady stuff. And this was Houston. Yes, this was Texas. It's also where I honed my social skills among the rich and famous.

A good story aside, however, I think back on the wonderful organization Houston Grand Opera was at the time and remains today. Meeting the performers was wonderful; I'll never part with my autographed copy of Beverly Sills' autobiography. But more important was their commitment to take the art to the young people of the city. Their in-school program was wonderful. Texas Opera Theater was a training ground for up and coming performers. We loved to go to their performances and listen to them as they developed their skills and cheer them on. It's a beautiful, exciting, exhilarating art form.

So to Opera Plus! and sponsors Knudtsen Chevrolet, Target, First Bank and Underground Expressions - Bravi! Thanks for recognizing the value of introducing opera to our kids!

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