Friday, November 19, 2010

Opera Theatre of St. Louis Announces $2 Million Gift from Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation

OTSL General Director Timothy O'Leary


Largest-ever gift to Opera Theatre will benefit endowment and establish the "Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize," recognizing extraordinary potential in early-career artists

General Director Timothy O'Leary announced a $2 million gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation to help endow Opera Theatre's acclaimed professional development programs which train more than 60 of the country's finest emerging singers, technicians, and administrators each year. The gift represents the largest-ever single contribution that Opera Theatre has received in its 35-year history.

The gift also makes possible the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize, recognizing extraordinary artistic potential in early-career artists and providing support for their continued artistic and professional development. Each year, beginning in the 2011 season, a committee comprising Opera Theatre's artistic leadership, management, and board representatives will select an artist with outstanding potential to make a significant contribution to the art form of opera. The award recipient will receive a $10,000 grant, which may be applied to expenses that will further his or her artistic and professional growth.

In honor of this extraordinary gift, Opera Theatre will establish The Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Young Artist Education and Development Programs as the title of its comprehensive professional development initiatives, including the Gerdine Young Artist Program, the Emerson Behind the Curtain Program, the graduate study awards for Monsanto Artists-in-Training participants, and several others.

"We are deeply grateful for the tremendous generosity and transformational support of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation," said General Director Timothy O'Leary. "Helping to endow these programs, which are at the very core of Opera Theatre's mission, will have a profound impact on our ability to identify, nurture, and launch the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation, as well as for generations to come."

The Foundation hopes this gift will encourage others to support St. Louis's greatest cultural assets, while honoring the generosity and compassion of Mabel Dorn Reeder. "Aunt Mabel was an inspiration, and believed in preserving things for future generations," said Mabel L. Purkerson, M.D., who is co-trustee of the Foundation, a professor emerita of medicine at Washington University, and a member of Opera Theatre's board of directors. "I try to honor her wishes with the Foundation."

Looking Ahead to 2011

"A strong endowment is especially crucial as we look ahead to a challenging funding environment in 2011 and beyond," said Spencer Burke, chairman of Opera Theatre's board of directors. "This tremendous gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation provides an important boost at a critical point in our development, and will endow in perpetuity the annual support the Foundation has provided in recent years. We could not be more grateful."

Opera Theatre relies on generous support from the community to sustain quality and innovation. While many opera companies of a similar size generate nearly 40% of their operating budgets from ticket sales, Opera Theatre's ticket revenue is limited to just 26% of the budget by the beloved intimacy of its theater, even in the most successful year at the box office. Contributed revenue has increased more than 10% since 2008, helping the company to continue its tradition of balanced budgets despite the economic downturn. This year, Opera Theatre must raise more than $450,000 in new and increased support to make up for daunting institutional and governmental funding cuts and sustain a balanced budget for 2011.

About the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation

Mabel Dorn Reeder (1908-2007) grew up in the small town of McCormick, South Carolina, and was passionate about making a better world for future generations. The daughter of a prominent businessman and state senator, Mrs. Reeder graduated from Greenville Women's College and attended graduate school at Columbia University in New York. She then taught elementary school for several years before marrying Thomas H. Reeder and moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived until her death at 98. Today, her passions for music, education, photography, animals, travel, and history are carried on through the work of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions featuring the finest American singers, sung in English, and accompanied by members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. As of 2010, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 22 American premieres -- which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company. Described by The Sunday Times of London as "one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare," and by Opera Today as, "the leading summer opera destination in the United States," Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 47 states and 10 foreign countries in 2010. Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winter Opera Saint Louis Featured on the Cover of the Ladue News

Pictured on the cover: tenor Benjamin Bunsold and soprano/artistic director Gina Galati in a scene from Gianni Schicchi.

Winter Opera Saint Louis was featured on the cover of the December 2010 issue of the Ladue News. Here's the complete article re-posted with the kind permission of the Ladue News.
Season of Song
by Tony DiMartino

Opera is full of unexpected plot twists, and so is the story of how a former business major, Gina Galati, became an opera singer. “I flunked an economics course when I was 19,” recalls Galati, artistic director of Winter Opera Saint Louis (formerly New Opera St. Louis). “I was at loose ends until my mom said, ‘You’ve always loved music. Why not switch majors?’ ” Mom was right: Galati went on to earn a master’s degree in opera, then studied in Italy. Soon, she was performing in operas here and abroad.

But her local ties were strong -- Galati’s family owns Dominic’s Ristorante on the Hill and Dominic’s Trattoria in Clayton. So Galati came home in 2007 and started her own nonprofit opera company. “I wanted St. Louisans to be able to enjoy opera all year round, not just during the summer months when Opera Theatre and Union Avenue Opera were in session,” she explains. The first production, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, sold out every performance three weeks before it opened. “It was encouraging to see so many people support a brand-new company,” she says.

Winter Opera Saint Louis begins its fourth season Nov. 12 through 14 with Opera Extravaganza!, a concert featuring famous opera choruses, duets and arias with piano accompaniment. Like many of this season’s shows, it takes place at different venues each night: Villa Maria Winery in Illinois, the St. Louis Woman’s Club on Lindell Boulevard and St. Ambrose Church on the Hill.

Next comes Holidays on the Hill, a program of Christmas music presented Dec. 8 and 15 at Dominic’s Ristorante. “It’s a special event, not part of the regular season,” Galati explains. The $150 ticket price includes a five-course dinner for two. The season continues Feb. 13, 18 and 20 with Verdi’s La Traviata, presented at Villa Marie Winery with piano accompaniment and the St. Louis Woman’s Club with orchestra. Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, performed with orchestra, closes the season March 12 and 13 at St. Ambrose Church.

New this season is music director Steven Jarvi, currently associate conductor at the Kansas City Symphony. “We’re so happy he’s joining us--he guest-conducted Barber of Seville last year, and impressed us with his energy, enthusiasm and creativity,” Galati says. Jarvi, too, was impressed: “Gina’s commitment to bringing only the best music and performers to St. Louis is absolute, as is her mission to extend the opera season,” he says. Jarvi, hailed by critics as “decisive and eloquent” and “potentially one of the greatest conductors of this century,” has worked with Washington National Opera, Baltimore Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, and New World Symphony in Miami Beach under Michael Tilson Thomas.

“We want opera to be accessible to everyone,” Galati says. “We strive to keep ticket prices low--from $20 to $40, and even less for student tickets, which are available the day of the performance. We’re attracting a lot of young people.” Eventually, she wants to find a permanent venue for the company, which is made up of local and international performers. “But for now, we’re enjoying the opportunity to change the perception that opera is stuffy and hard to understand,” she says. “Like reality TV, opera is full of quirky characters, sex scandals and lovers quarrels. The difference is, opera is set to some of the most beautiful, exciting music ever written.”