Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Brünhilde Parties Being Planned

If you make one resolution for the coming new year, commit to attending a Brünhilde Party with the Toledo Opera Guild!

These fun events -- hosted by guild members as passionate about supporting the Toledo Opera as Brünhilde was for Siegfried in Wagner's "Ring" -- are smaller-scale fundraisers that also introduce prospective members to the Toledo Opera Guild's mission and fellowship.

Guild president Cindy Niggemyer, guild members Shirley Joseph and Waafa Hanna, and Toledo Opera executive director Suzanne Rorick are among the hostesses planning teas, brunches, yoga sessions, art workshops, and other gatherings.

Chairman Laura Draheim is on the hunt for more party organizers. She is especially counting on Brünhilde Parties to keep the guild's momentum going strong through the spring, between the "Susannah" opera production (mid-February) and the Phashion of the Opera event (April 29).

Show your strength and prowess and become your own Brünhilde, generously donating your time and resources to plan and underwrite a gathering. The guild can help design invitations and promote your event. Small ticket fees or other money collected by guests will go straight to the Toledo Opera.

For questions or to volunteer, contact Laura at ldraheim3434@att.net or 419-475-1720.

It ain't over until ... the Toledo Opera Guild throws some more parties!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

RSVP for Celebrity Wait Night 2015 by Jan. 20

Space is limited for our fabulous Celebrity Wait Night fundraiser Jan. 26 at La Scola Italian Grill, so make sure to send in your RSVPs as soon as possible. You can download and print out the cards below.

Please indicate your entree choice and celebrity waiter, if you have a preference for a table. See you there!

Links: Menu; Waiter List

Call event chairman Barb Bettinger at 419-392-8020 with any questions.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Celebrity Waiters to Collect 'Tips'

The Toledo Opera Guild's upcoming Diamonds and Denim Celebrity Wait Night -- Jan. 26 at La Scola Italian Grill -- will feature some special guests as waiters.

Mary Bilyeu, food editor for The Blade newspaper; John Tharp, sheriff of Lucas County; and Sanna Orra and Jay Berschback, reporter and chief meteorologist, respectively, for WTVG-TV, will join other Toledo Opera supporters and guild members as head waiters at tables full of hungry and happy guests.

Mailed invitations will be arriving after the holidays. Please indicate on your RSVP card at which waiter's table you would like to sit.

Other waiters include:

Carol Sizemore (with Sheriff Tharp)
Barbara Brown
Mike and Sharon Sordyl
Barbara Baker
Janna Lake and JoAnn Phipps
Sandra Honemann
Beth Bowman and Jane Wurth
Susan Conda
Diane Rusk and Marina Lung
Sandra Seiple
Dan and Rebecca Kleiboemer
Alexandra McMaster and Melissa Noe Freeman

Click here for La Scola's menu for the evening, which includes an entree choice of manicotti, steak, fish or chicken. A house salad and caramel pecan tiramisu will bookend the lovely meal, which starts at 7 p.m. following a cocktail hour at 6 p.m. at the restaurant's cash bar.

Entertainment will be provided by The Pickers, a group of guitarists from the northwest Ohio area. Guests are encouraged to wear fancy denim dress as the guild continues its Diamonds and Denim theme for the season.

Tickets are $45, which will mainly cover the cost of the delicious dinner. The major fundraising portion of the evening are the "tips" the celebrity waiters will collect from their tables. Who do you think can raise the most money? It's on!

And fear not, none of our celebrities will have any wardrobe malfunctions. They will be wearing fantastic aprons produced by Big Daddy Graphics in Perrysburg.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rock the Block at Paula Brown Shop



Suzanne Rorick, executive director of the Toledo Opera, encourages us all to "shop local" and get an opera treat as well.

Rorick, speaking at a gathering of the Toledo Opera Guild board of directors today, said patronizing the locally owned businesses in the downtown area is an important way to support all that Toledo has to offer.

The Rock the Block event this evening at Paula Brown Shop will be a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Toledo opera stars will offer holiday favorites as well as preview songs from the upcoming "Susannah" opera.

Cocktails and nibbles will be offered at The Pub at Paula Brown, 912 Monroe St. RSVPs are appreciated by calling 419-241-8100 or emailing paula@paulabrownshop.com, but walk-ins are most welcome as well.

Enjoy the festivities, and then shop around the whole block!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra to Present 'Amahl and Night Visitors'

Childhood is a wonderful time to begin a lifelong love of opera, and the holiday season lends an extra special magic to the memories.

The Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra will help you and your families create those memories with a free production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" on Dec. 12 at Zoar Lutheran Church in Perrysburg.

When Italian-born composer Gian-Carlo Menotti was commissioned in 1951 by NBC to create a children's opera for television, he came up with the one-act piece from his childhood holiday memories of the "three kings" -- the magi who visit the Christ child in the biblical story.

In "Amahl and the Night Visitors," a young shepherd boy and his mother receive the traveling visitors for a night's stay. Destitution prompts the mother to steal for her crippled son some of the gold meant for the Christ child, but mercy and forgiveness propel the family to generosity and reverence for the prince of peace.

The Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra will offer the free concert and performance at 7 p.m. that Friday at the church, 314 E. Indiana Ave., Perrysburg.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Diamonds and Denim a Glittering Success

Tom and Traci Schwann take a spin at Diamonds and Denim.

There are countless facets on the gem of gratitude the Toledo Opera Guild has for everyone who came to the recent Diamonds and Denim fundraiser and who helped make it such a glittering success.

The event Dec. 8 at the Toledo Club netted nearly $24,000 for the Toledo Opera, including $1,700 that will help bring Opera on Wheels to three more schools in the Toledo area.

Auctioneer Richard Leonard and his crew raised $1,700 for a mink-trimmed black leather trench coat donated by Roth Furs and $1,000 for the president's suite at a University of Toledo basketball game donated by Shirley Joseph. Mr. Leonard made the night extra exciting by enticing folks to dig into their jeans pockets and outdo each other with cash donations. Hundred dollar bills started flying and generous donations in the thousands of dollars were made, totaling $12,000.

ICE in ice.
Hot tickets among the silent auction merchandise in the Grand Lobby included gift certificates to area businesses and a vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle helmet. Co-chairmen Shelli Jacobs and Traci Schwann appreciate everyone's generosity and give special thanks to Kelly Rechtenwald for making the tables look so festive.

The handsome wine auction tables presented by "stellar cellar" ladies Barbara Baker and Diane Rusk transformed the Centennial Room into a rustic winery in the heart of France. They offer a toast to Marcy McMahon for her help and to the generous donations of bottles from Toledo Opera Association board members, guild members and wine connoisseurs. Great Lakes Lighting did a great job illuminating their efforts.

Congratulations to Paula Hudson, of ShapeMyJeans, whose flute of champagne from Soto Signature Loft and Spa contained the real loose diamond from Jeffrey Mann Fine Jewelers.

Grand Lubell Photography captured guests' imaginary cruises astride a custom Chopper motorcycle loaned by Charlies' Automotive. Owner Charlie Ferhrenbach is now qualified for the circus after the stunning ride of faith he took off the photo stage at the end of the evening. It's not every day that one sees a motorcycle rolling through the club.

I <3 Toledo Opera.
The buffet tables were laden with delectable dishes from Chef Michael Rosendaul, including burger sliders, savory meatballs, grilled cheese-bacon-apple sandwiches, spinach cream-filled phyllo cups, boursin cheese-filled deep-fried mushrooms, pita and hummus, crudites with blue cheese dip, and dessert of chocolate truffles, carrot cake and berry tarts. In the middle of it all was a stunning ice sculpture from Ice Creations featuring the logo of ICE Restaurant and Bar.

Guests danced the night away to the toe-tapping tunes of Calvin Hughes Jazz Band and to the hip-shaking rock 'n' roll of Second Wind.

Parting gifts included a diamond-topped bottle opener, chocolate-dipped spoons from Toledo SOUP, magnetic clips from Charlies', and promotional material and discount coupons from ICE, Soto, ShapeMyJeans and Metroparks of Toledo. Perhaps the most endearing, if not enduring, souvenirs were the temporary tattoos from Kodi Klo of Toledo Tattoo Company of music notes, flowers, diamonds, and a heart declaring love for the Toledo Opera.

Many thanks to event co-chairmen Bonnie Milano and Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer and the rest of the committee, which also included Cindy Niggemyer, Mary Beaber, Barb Bettinger, Patty Etue Stephens, Linda McBee, Carol Sizemore, Judith Conda, Susan Conda, Barbara Brown, Lexie Schwann, Laura Draheim, Judith Landry and Eleanore Darmofal.

Blade society editor Barbara Hendel's write-up of the event can be found here, and Girl in the Glass City's photo gallery can be found here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Save the Date: Celebrity Wait Night Jan. 26

Save the date on your calendar and save some room on your plate -- the Toledo Opera Guild is planning a great Celebrity Wait Night on Jan. 26, 2015, at La Scola Italian Grill in west Toledo.

Mary Bilyeu, food editor for The Blade, will be a special guest waiter. Other guild members and notable folks from the community are organizing tables as waiters, and they will be working hard to earn "tips" -- donations to the guild's efforts to support the Toledo Opera.

A cash bar will be available and live music will entertain guests.

La Scola will prepare a delectable menu of salad, choice of entree and dessert:

Salad Di Casa ("Our House"):

Mixed greens, tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese tossed in white balsamic vinaigrette

Choice of Entrees:

Cheese Manicotti: rolled pasta filled with herbed ricotta and topped with marinara, alfredo and pesto sauces

New York Strip Steak: 12-ounce center-cut choice steak topped with porcini mushroom butter sauce and served with seasonal vegetables and potato lasagna

Lake Superior Whitefish: fillet sauteed with crunchy pecan-polenta crust topped with porcini mushroom butter sauce and balsamic glaze and served with seasonal vegetables

Chicken Marsala: sauteed and flamed with Marsala wine, wild mushrooms and shallots and served with seasonal vegetables

Fine Dolci (dessert, "Sweet Ending"):

Caramel Pecan Tiramisu: espresso-dipped lady finger cookies layered with sweet marscarpone, caramel, pecans and whipped cream

Tickets are $45 per person. Cocktail hour will begin at 6 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. at the restaurant, which will be open only to our guests that evening.

Invitations will be mailed after the holiday card rush, and details will be posted on this blog. Make a New Year's resolution to attend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Diamonds and Denim: Gifts Galore in Silent, Live Auctions

We all have those folks on our holiday shopping lists who are impossible when it comes to figuring out a good gift. Let the Toledo Opera Guild help out with that.

This sparkling gem and stone necklace
embodies the Diamonds & Denim theme.
The silent and live auctions at Saturday's Diamonds and Denim fundraiser for the Toledo Opera are bursting with fabulous items, many locally produced and all donated by generous supporters.

Got a sister who couldn't live without a cup of caffeine in the morning? Bid on the Keurig single-cup coffee maker. Have a parent who likes to go out to eat? Snap up one of the several gift certificates to area restaurants. Is a friend getting married soon? Get a beautiful piece of glass art.

Do you need to really make up for the vacuum cleaner you gave your wife last year? You'd best bid high and bid often on the jewelry, the purses, the boots and the hats.

Several gift baskets in the silent auction are wrapped and ready to give to that someone special. They're stuffed with homemade goodies like fresh bread and candied nuts, jellies and jam, barbecue sauce and spice rubs, and popcorn and cookies.

This basket of homemade goods
includes a Thirty-One tote.
Speaking of cookies, one Christmas-themed basket comes with a promise to home-bake and deliver all of the delicious treats you'll need for your seasonal festivities.

Go ahead and treat yourself by bidding on a spa package or a tattoo. We won't tell.

Silent auction bidding will be open through 9 p.m., when auctioneer Richard Leonard will take over and elicit your support for Toledo Opera in the live auction portion of the evening.

Bid on a gorgeous lamb leather and mink fur coat from Roth Furs, donated by Phil Roth; the President's Suite for University of Toledo Athletics, thanks to guild member Shirley Jacobs; and the chance to have the opera's own Resident Artists perform at your function. These talented young people have been presenting "Orpheus and Eurydice" as part of the Opera on Wheels program in area schools.

Don't forget, the event boasts a superb wine sale as well. Pick a bottle from California, Oregon, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Lebanon, Greece, Israel or Australia. Or one from everywhere!

Cash, check and credit card payments will be accepted. The proceeds raised directly benefit the Toledo Opera.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Diamonds and Denim: ShapeMyJeans After Party

Alicia Lawson, left, and Arlinda Williams work away in the midst of
their transition from this mall location to their new Holland shop.

Show us someone who found a pair of jeans that fit her body exactly right, and we'll show you someone who had them custom-made at ShapeMyJeans.

Mother-daughter shop owners Alicia Lawson and Arlinda Williams, with seamstress Paula Hudson, create specially fitted denim clothing such as jeans, trousers, skirts and even formal dresses.

Williams said they do not use patterns, pinning the material as they fit it right on the customer's body, putting the curves where they should be and the slim lines where they will flatter most.

All sizes, all shapes, all styles are available in more than 20 kinds of denim material.

Arlinda Williams sews a pair of denim jeans.
The company has gone through a period of evolution, culminating in the shop's move from Franklin Park Mall to its own home in Holland, Ohio, as House of ShapeMyJeans.

It will be here, at 1106 S. McCord Road, where Diamonds and Denim VIP guests and guild committee members will gather Nov. 13 for an After Party to our Nov. 8 fundraiser.

It's not too late to get your ticket for Diamonds and Denim. Guests who purchase a $200 2 Carat level ticket will be invited to the ShapeMyJeans After Party, as well as receive a ticket to Toledo Opera's Feb. 11 performance of "Susannah."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Diamonds and Denim: Ragazza Brings the Dazzle

Katie Maskey models a black sequined top with blue jeans at Ragazza.


Ragazza Boutique is celebrating the opening of its newest location in Sylvania, Ohio, with suggestions on how to put together an amazing outfit for the Toledo Opera Guild's Diamonds and Denim fundraiser on Nov. 8 at the Toledo Club.

The club is suspending its no-denim dress code rules for the event, but the guild is encouraging guests to still bring the bling!

Check out Ragazza's Facebook page for a video of locally born opera singer Elizabeth Baldwin hitting the high notes to announce the shop opening.

Fashion and opera go hand in hand. Make sure to get your tickets now to join the fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Diamonds and Denim: Uncorked

Swirl it, smell it, sip it. There's nothing like a fine wine in your glass, especially if you're sharing a bottle with fine friends.

Toledo Opera Guild members Barbara Baker and Diane Rusk, along with Marcy McMahon, have done an amazing job gathering more than 150 bottles of wine from all over the world to stock the Wine Cellar sale at the Diamonds and Denim event Nov. 8 at the Toledo Club downtown.

Dom Perignon dipped in
dark chocolate and decorated
with dried lemon peel.
Proceeds directly benefit the Toledo Opera, but winning bottle bidders will be rewarded with exquisite elixirs. Some bottles retail for a few hundred dollars. Notable offerings include:
  • Rhone Valley Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve - Domaine du Pega
  • Bordeaux - Pauillac - Chateau Pichon Lalande
  • Burgundy - Nuits St. Georges, Les Boudots (Premiere Cru) - Domaine Jean Grivot
A full list of wines will be available after the "stellar cellar" committee has organized the bottles into lots. The sale will be conducted by silent auction.

Two bottles definitely will look different than the others, for they are dipped in chocolate! Bliss in a Bottle, of Columbus, creates these treats, and generous donations to the guild's event have purchased Dom Perignon in nut-studded chocolate and Le Grand Courtage Brut Rose in dried strawberry-flecked white chocolate.

When checking out these tables laden with wine, don't miss the framed linen map of France's wine and cheese production. That too will be available for sale.

The Diamonds and Denim wine cellar will be an amazing opportunity for you to add to your collection, give someone else a lovely holiday gift, and support the Toledo Opera.

While cash bars will be open for your wine needs during the party, the first 100 guests will be treated to a complimentary glass of champagne. This flute, however, will hold more than bubbles. Inside each glass will be a loose gem, one of which will be a real diamond from Jeffrey Mann Fine Jewelers! A jeweler will be at a table in the Centennial Room to examine your stone and discover whether you are the lucky winner.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary of business in the Toledo area this year, Jeffrey Mann has been a longtime supporter of the Toledo Opera Guild. Thank you!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Diamonds and Denim: Tattooed on Two Wheels

Paul Teutul Sr., left, and Paul Teutel Jr. of Orange County Choppers.

You too can look like this, if you just support the Toledo Opera.

Wait ... what?

That's right! The Toledo Opera Guild is mixing it up again with its fall fundraiser, which this year is Diamonds and Denim on Nov. 8 at the Toledo Club.

At the party, guests will be able to get free temporary tattoos from Toledo Tattoo Company artists. Your bicep could boast "I <3 Opera" or a giant diamond. Don't worry, it will wash off the next day with a little soap and water. Of course, your real love of opera will never fade!

Toledo Tattoo is a locally owned shop that has been in business for 35 years. If you want some permanent ink, stop by its consolidated Point Place location. Artists Bill Klocinski, Curtis Ely, Kodi Klocinski, Deano Davis and Justin Phillips promise to give you "just damn good tattoos."

If you want to imagine what it would be like to feel the wind in your hair on the open road, climb onto a custom Chopper motorcycle on a photo stage in the club's Centennial Room. A photographer from Grand Lubell Photography will print your portrait for a small fee.

The bike is the literal prized possession of Charlie Fehrenbach of Charlies' Automotive in Liberty Center. He and wife Rhonda won it at a NAPA convention in Las Vegas. The motorcycle was specially made by Orange County Choppers, a custom shop of reality television fame "American Choppers" and "Orange County Choppers," and bears the signatures of the designers.

The Fehrenbachs made a few modifications to the Chopper, including a seat for two. They've enjoyed 35,000 miles on it, although one can go only so far at a time. "It's a short trip bike," Rhonda Fehrenbach said.

Charlies' Automotive -- named for father and son of the same name -- has been servicing vehicles from cars and trucks to boats and buses since 1988. It is a certified NAPA Auto Care Center and Jasper preferred engine installer.

Charles Fehrenbach III has been working with his dad for 24 years and also is a master ASC-certified tech. Youngest son Gary started working in the shop on County Road A just this year. Mechanic Mike Lusher's specialty is front-end work, as well as steering and suspension. Rhonda Fehrenbach shares duties in the business office and in the garage.

Think an automotive mechanic garage is an odd place to find love of classic arts? Not so! Employee Sariah Shutts, who has been in the business office for eight years, is a dance instructor and also has worked for Toledo's former Fred Astaire dance studio, the Ballroom Company and the Toledo Ballet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UT to Present Three Opera Selections at Tavern

Ever feel like you need a pint of beer while listening to opera? Here's your perfect chance.

The University of Toledo Opera Ensemble will present its fall program, "An American Triptych," this coming week and weekend at the Blarney Irish Pub in downtown Toledo.

The three selections include Henry Mollicone's "The Face on the Barroom Floor," Samuel Barber's "A Hand of Bridge," and Seymour Barab's "A Game of Chance."

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 and 24 and 4 p.m. Oct. 26. Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $10-$15 at the door. For tickets and information, call 419-530-2448 or visit www.utoledo.edu/BoxOffice.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Toledo Opera Honors Sanford with Dinner, 'Tosca' Performances

Conductor James Meena (standing, at left) expresses appreciation for
Ann Sanford's 20 years as a Toledo Opera trustee at a dinner Friday
in the Corinthian dining room at the Toledo Club.

Ann Sanford not only takes the cake, she also gives it.

At the post-performance reception Friday for "Tosca" cast and audience members, the off-stage star of the evening demonstrated the selflessness and charitable nature for which she had been lauded by cutting and serving the sheet cake frosted with a bouquet of roses herself.

The Toledo Opera staged the 2014 production of "Tosca" in Sanford's honor for her 20 years of board service and unwavering support of the organization.

Sanford shares
her appreciation.
Friends and opera fans also gathered earlier Friday evening at the Toledo Club, where notable folks shared their gratitude for Sanford and the caliber of production that the Toledo Opera is able to present to the community.

"So goes the Toledo Opera, so goes the nation's operas," stage director Michael Capasso said.

Toledo Opera executive director Suzanne Rorick noted that Sanford was personally responsible for introducing many people to opera, inviting them to performances and events. Rorick expressed deep appreciation for Sanford's straight-forward communication and commitment, as well as her friendship.

Sanford told the assembled guests that she was flattered by the attention but saw herself as one of many who worked together to promote the Toledo Opera. She said opera was a family, and that she had done only what one would do for brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, and children who would carry on the tradition.

Ann Sanford serves cake with the help of Karen DeNune in
the Red Room at the Toledo Club.
In her letter in the "Tosca" program, Sanford encouraged people to volunteer. "Join the chorus, the Opera Guild, or come to a fundraiser and you will soon be part of the Toledo Opera family," she wrote.

Conductor James Meena called Sanford a beacon for the successful journey of the Toledo Opera, which weathered a recent financial crisis in large part to her efforts. Meena said she was as willing to do the "little things" as well -- perhaps a foreshadowing of the humble cake cutting.

'Tosca' Honorary Director Sanford Encourages Volunteerism

From the stage, retiring Toledo Opera trustee Ann Sanford joked to Friday's audience that it was a delight to have "Tosca" staged in her honor rather than her memory.

The full house laughed with appreciation, honoring Sanford's 20 years on the board. They were rewarded with a moving and gorgeous production of Puccini's "Tosca," staring Adam Diegel, Jill Gardner and Michael Chioldi. James Meena conducted the Toledo Symphony members, with Michael Capasso serving as stage director.

There are a handful of seats left for Sunday's performance. You don't want to miss it! Tickets are available online.

The Toledo Opera published the following note and a letter from Sanford in the program book:

Ann Sanford, Honorary Director

In grateful appreciation for two decades of loving this art form and company so much that you inspire others to love it, too. Your leadership, commitment, and enthusiasm have ensured that Toledo Opera survives and thrives today.

Dear Friends,

"Tosca" was the first opera I ever saw, and I never will forget sitting stunned in my cheap seat in the student section at the end when she ... but I can't tell  you that, you have to see it for yourself!

I am incredibly delighted that Toledo Opera has chosen to honor me with this production. I am the perfect example of "if I can do this, anybody can!" involvement with the Opera over the years. I began by singing in the chorus in the early '80s, which lasted until I was too pregnant to be swung about by my dance partner in "Pirates of Penzance." From there I volunteered to co-chair the Sapphire Ball in 1994, which raised over $100,000 for opera programs, and then became a board member for the next couple of decades.

So all you have to do is volunteer! Join the chorus, the Opera Guild, or come to a fundraiser and you will soon be part of the Toledo Opera family. We do like our parties!

We have survived some really tough times in recent years, thanks to everyone pitching in with hard work and from community-wide donations. It is a credit to Toledo that our scrappy little outfit has prospered when other, larger (but not better!) organizations have folded. The honest truth is that the productions here are as good as you will see anywhere ... and I mean anywhere! There is something magical about this theatre and the young up-and-coming artists who give their very best when they hit our beautiful stage. You may witness the next major star singing tonight, so save your program so you can look back and say, "Wait a minute, didn't we see her/him in Toledo Opera?"

Thanks to the "Sound Vision" campaign, our non-profit organization has kept main-stage opera in Toledo, brought terrific music to kids all over the area, collaborated with other arts organizations, and provided performance opportunities for many regional singers. You should all be proud to be part of the reason the opera is thriving. I know I am.

I hope to see you at many more operas in the years to come.

Ann Sanford,
Former Trustee

Sunday, October 5, 2014

'Tosca' Has Deep Roots in Toledo

Police brutality. Political torture. Passion, betrayal, jealousy. Murder. Suicide.

Yesterday's headlines?

Nope, next weekend’s opera: "Tosca."

Slated as Toledo Opera’s season opener, it will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Oct. 12 in the Valentine Theatre.

Read the rest of Sally Vallongo's article in today's edition of The Blade.

Vallongo relates the history of Puccini's opera in its original development and its impact on Toledo audiences, as well as interviews lead star Jill Gardner, who was a guest at last week's Toledo Opera Guild luncheon.

Toledo Opera artistic director James Meena praises the Valentine Theatre and its renovated orchestra pit.

"It's the perfect opera to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Valentine," he told The Blade.

Meena conducted "Tosca" for the Valentine's inaugural performance in 1999. The traditional sets also will be the same, the Seattle Opera's painted canvas backdrops from Italian designer Ercole Sormani.

"There are only a few sets by Sormani in the U.S.," the conductor said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

'Vissi d'arte': Gardner Treats Opera Guild to 'Tosca' Aria at Luncheon

Soprano Jill Gardner, left, the female lead in the Toledo Opera's "Tosca,"
visits with Judith Conda at the opera guild luncheon at Inverness.

Soprano Jill Gardner may have been pleading to God as to why she has found herself -- or, rather, her character Tosca in Puccini's same-titled opera -- in such a tangled web of political and romantic intrigue, but the members and guests of the Toledo Opera Guild certainly would have offered prayers of divine gratitude for such a lovely performance.

Gardner, star of the Toledo Opera's upcoming "Tosca" production, sang the aria from Act II at the guild luncheon Wednesday at Inverness Club, with Kevin Bylsma accompanying on piano. Visit the guild's Facebook page to view a video.

"The Italians truly believe in destiny," Gardner said prior to the solo, describing Tosca's pleas to God that a lifelong service to humanity and love of art ("Vissi d'arte") should have protected her from the torture of her lover and an indecent proposal from a corrupt police chief.

"Nell'ora del dolore, perché, perché, Signore, perché me ne rimuneri così?" she sings, which means: "In this hour of grief, why, why, Lord, why do you reward me thus?"

The audience certainly will be rewarded by Gardner's amazing voice and those of a stellar cast in the Oct. 10 and 12 performances of "Tosca." Visit the Toledo Opera's website for more information and tickets. Read more about Gardner's biography on her site.

Gardner has been immersed in Puccini roles lately, but her portrayal of Tosca in Toledo will be a special one for her. Verismo soprano Diana Soviero, her mentor and current teacher, opened the Valentine Theatre in the same role years ago.

"It makes me cry even thinking about it," Gardner said.

The opera singer emphasized how important it is to study with a good teacher if one wants a successful and fulfilling career.

"What makes us as musicians is teachers," she said.

Gardner advises young students to be patient, especially with their voices as they will develop and mature over time. She encourages people who may be interested in becoming an opera performer to work on musicianship, to study the history of opera and its impact on Western culture, and to become fluent in other languages.

She also counsels prospective music students to secure their education with as minimal debt as possible, including attending community colleges for regular coursework before pursuing music credits at another school.

"You have to be so much more creative now to figure out how to do this," she said.

Gardner lives in North Carolina with husband Jake, who also is an opera singer. The bass-baritone and soprano have performed "Tosca" roles together before.

"We work out a lot of things in the second act," Gardner joked, swinging her fist around.

Cindy Niggemyer, left, sporting a diamond tiara, chats with
Joyce Stenberg at the luncheon.
The opera guild was delighted to be joined by Gardner at the luncheon. Hostess Barbara Baker, who serves as third vice president on the executive board, decorated the tables with scattered gems and bottles of wine that will be for sale at the upcoming Diamonds and Denim fall fundraising event.

Attendees dined on delectable tomato soup with tender chunks of carrots and onion, fluffy quiche studded with asparagus and spinach paired with green beans almondine, and a fall-is-finally-here slice of pumpkin pie graced with fresh whipped cream and a velvety roll of white chocolate.

Guild president Cindy Niggemyer -- thematically bedecked in glittering diamond jewelry and tiara with a denim skirt and blue gloves -- distributed new membership booklets and joked that her attire didn't seem that extraordinary to guild members.

"It's opera!" Bylsma quipped.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

UT Soprano to Present Solo Recital in Free Concert

Denise Ritter Bernardini (http://wordpress.utoledo.edu/)
Soprano Denise Ritter Bernardini, a member of the University of Toledo faculty and director of the UT Opera Ensemble, will present a solo recital at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at St. Michael's in the Hills Episcopal Church, Ottawa Hills.

The congregation at 4718 Brittany Road is hosting this free concert recital as part of its Common Grounds for the Community series, which offers high quality events and performances to the community with the goal of establishing St. Michael’s as a regional center of spiritual thought and culture.

Ritter Bernardini will perform music by Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Amy Beach, George Gershwin and others. Elena Bardi will accompany on piano.

The UT assistant professor of voice is "known for her ability to sing a variety of styles, her brilliant high notes, pure tone, communicative warmth and musical intelligence," according to her biography.

Guild supporter remembered for love, dedication

Lois Sawicki, who supported various arts and education efforts in the area -- including the Toledo Opera Guild -- died recently. She was 82.

The Blade's featured obituary on the former Springfield Township woman can be found on the newspaper's website.

Mrs. Sawicki's children remembered her as instrumental to the success of husband Jerry in his real estate business and jazz saxophonist career, The Blade reported.

"Back then, the wife behind the scenes was doing a lot of the socializing and entertaining and making sure things went smoothly," daughter Lisa Holman said. "That's what she did, and she did it well."

The Sawickis were benefactors of Maumee Valley Country Day School, Central Catholic High School and St. John's Jesuit High School. St. John's music center was built with funds from their donation.

Mrs. Sawicki also supported the Toledo Opera Guild and Toledo Symphony. Her welcoming attitude is a good model for the hospitality committee formed for the Guild's upcoming Diamonds and Denim event.

"I walk up to people with a smile and I tell them my name and ask their name and ask them where they're from," Mrs. Sawicki told The Blade in 1997. "You try to be a little complimentary about their clothes, a scent, anything that would stand out."

Mrs. Sawicki died Sept. 19 at Lakes of Monclova Health Campus in Monclova Township. The cause of death was unknown; she had dementia but no other known health problems, her daughter said.

The family suggests memorial tributes be given to the Alzheimer's Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Diamonds and Denim Nov. 8

Supporting the Toledo Opera is going to be glamorous and easy-going this year!

Diamonds and Denim, a fabulous evening slated for Nov. 8, 2014, at the Toledo Club, kicks off a season of themed events that will juxtapose the brilliant glitz of diamonds with the iconic ruggedness of denim.

Come dressed in your best denim, most glittering gems, or both! The club is suspending its dress code for the evening, but guests are encouraged to be fancily clad even in jeans. Get creative!

The first 100 guests to arrive will receive a complimentary glass of champagne, provided by Soto Loft & Signature Spa, in which a gem might be a real loose diamond donated by Jeffery Mann Fine Jewelers. Guests will have their "rock" examined on site to find out who is the lucky winner.

The club's first floor will be laden with silent auction items and a fully stocked wine sale -- which will pair excellently with an exciting live auction later in the evening. Proceeds from the event, auctions and wine sale directly benefit the Toledo Opera.

Second Wind, a popular local rock 'n' roll cover band, will get those dancing feet moving in the Centennial Room, while Calvin Hughes' jazz band will help guests relax in the Red Room. Artists from Toledo Tattoo Company will offer temporary tattoos, and guests may pose for photos atop a custom Chopper motorcycle provided by Charlie's Automotive.

A grazing buffet, with an ice sculpture recognizing Ice Restaurant and Bar, will tempt your palate with cleverly themed nibbles. Tickets will be on sale to purchase drinks from the club bar.

Tickets for Diamonds and Denim are available online at brownpapertickets.com. RSVP by Oct. 29!

General admission is $50 per person. Guests may upgrade to a 1 Carat Level for $100, which includes a Feb. 11 performance of "Susannah," the first in a series of contemporary American operas planned by the Toledo Opera; or a 2 Carat Level for $200, which will include the Feb. 11 opera as well as a VIP after party Nov. 13 at Shape My Jeans.

Don't forget to check the guild's online calendar and make note of our luncheons, celebrity wait night, Phashion of the Opera show and other fun events that will carry our season-long Diamonds and Denim theme.

The Toledo Opera Guild offers deep gratitude for The Blade's continued support and encourages its members to patronize those local companies who make our events so successful.

Friday, September 5, 2014

'Lakmé' Flower Duet Featured at Valentine's Free Plaza pARTy

One of the hallmarks of performing arts in Toledo is the excellent cooperation and collaboration among the various organizations.

They play well together, one could say.

Ten of them will do so Saturday evening at the Valentine Theatre's Plaza pARTy -- including the Toledo Opera, which will present the Flower Duet from the opera "Lakmé."

For a full schedule of jazz, ballet, symphony, theater, cabaret, chorale and film performances, visit the Valentine's event page. Represented will be the Toledo Opera, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Jazz Orchestra Quartet, Ballet Theatre of Toledo, Toledo Ballet, Toledo Repertoire Theatre, Valentine cabaret players, Toledo School for the Arts, and Masterworks Chorale.

Performances will be from 5 to 9 p.m. on the Key Bank Outdoor Stage in the Valentine Plaza and inside the theater's Grand Lobby. There is no admission charge for Plaza pARTy. Proceeds will go to a new local Performing Arts Group Fund administered by the Toledo Community Foundation and established by the Valentine to defray costs of renting the theater.

Georgio's and Manhattan's restaurants will sell select menu items, and a full cash bar will be in the lobby with wines from Heidelberg Distributing, which also will offer a beer truck outside at the event.

The Valentine Theatre, at 410 Adams St. in downtown Toledo, raises its gorgeous red curtain on staged performances of the Toledo Opera. The Toledo Opera Guild encourages everyone to support this venue and the excellent sampling of arts it will offer Saturday at the Plaza pARTy.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Guild President Looks Forward to Upcoming Year

A message from Cindy Niggemyer, president of the Toledo Opera Guild:

Welcome to Toledo Opera Guild’s 2014-2015 year. Last year the Guild donated $42,000 to Toledo Opera. This amount is due to our members' very hard work, because we receive minimum underwriting. Along with money, Guild members donate something very precious: their time. Our mission is: to promote opera awareness, education, company service and financial support for the Toledo Opera.

The coming year is going to be an exciting one! For the first time EVER, all our major events will be under one theme, Diamonds and Denim. Our major events will have some new and dynamic twists. So, now is the time to get those diamonds out of the drawer and dust them off. Real or fake, you have the opportunity to find a unique and creative look for our first event in November. You may mix the outlandish with denim or create an "over the top" formal look. The Guild is noted for original events, so come and join the fun.

I am pleased to announce that our fall event, Diamonds and Denim, on Saturday, Nov. 8 at the Toledo Club, will be co-chaired by Bonnie Milano and Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer. They have already begun planning, and will be pleased to have more Guild members join them on the committee.

In December we will have our popular Holiday Tea arranged by Chairman Sue Rosenberg. Date and place will be announced.

On Jan. 26, Barbara Bettinger and Mary Beaber are planning another great Diamonds and Denim Celebrity Wait night at Forrester’s Wine Bar and Party Room. They are being assisted by Linda McBee, Traci Schwann and Carol Sizemore. It’s a great night, so get a table together and join the party.

Our Phashion of the Opera fashion show has become a premier show for the Toledo area, and it too will carry the Diamonds and Denim theme this year. Pam Bettinger and Joyce Stenberg are planning even more excitement with an added evening reception. They will be needing help, so please contact them for more information.

Third Vice President Barbara Baker is busy planning our four lunches for the year. The opening one will be at Inverness Club on Wednesday, Oct. 1. For the year’s schedule, please refer to the list on our website.

Everyone on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors work hard to support Toledo Opera. Please refer to the listing of names on our website.

I encourage everyone to contact me with any suggestions for Guild improvement. It is great to have all our membership give input. This is your organization and your thoughts are appreciated and given consideration. You can contact me at artandwriting@ameritech.net. If you are not yet a member, you can download a form on our website. We love new members, so please let us know what you would like to participate in.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Save the Date! Diamonds and Denim

Mark your calendars now for the Toledo Opera Guild's major fall event, which benefits the amazing efforts of the Toledo Opera to bring you three fully staged operas this season.

Diamonds and Denim will be held the evening of Nov. 8, 2014 at the Toledo Club, 235 14th St. in downtown Toledo.

We are so looking forward to having fun with this theme, and great committees of guild members are shaping up under the co-chairmanship of Bonnie Milano and Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer. If you would like to serve, please email Bonnie at bmilano@buckeye-express.com or Rebecca at rckleiboemer@gmail.com.

Shelli Jacobs and Traci Schwann are coordinating silent and live auctions full of fabulous items, and Barbara Baker and Diane Rusk will fill tables to the breaking point with delicious wine for sale. This will be the perfect opportunity for holiday shopping. Proceeds directly benefit the Toledo Opera.

We're also breaking a long-held club rule by actually encouraging guests to wear their blue jeans!

So, start thinking about how you'd creatively embrace our theme by wearing the glitz and glitter of diamonds, the sexy ruggedness of denim, or both!

Save the date of Nov. 8, and keep checking this blog, our Facebook page and your mailbox for information and invitations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Toledo Symphony Principal Hornist Dies

From the Toledo Symphony:

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Toledo Symphony Principal Hornist Sandra Clark after a long battle with brain cancer. She worked tirelessly and long past the point where anyone thought humanly possible, which echoes the work she put into the Toledo Symphony for over 20 years, both as a player and behind the scenes in the office.

During this period she also found time to work on a composition for tenor and orchestra titled "Letter to Sarah by Sullivan Ballou," which was very important to her. In full, here is Letter to Sarah by Sullivan Ballou, performed by members of the Toledo Symphony, and conducted by Sandra Clark. The soloist is Ben Fidler, audio by Dr. Todd Brady, and video production by Randy Zalewski.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Catch 'Otello' at Local Movie Theaters

Get transported to Cyprus in the opera "Otello" by just a quick trip to a local movie theater.

The Metropolitan Opera offers this big-screen viewing Wednesday as part of its Summer Encore series. Rave Cinemas has scheduled showings for 2 and 7 p.m. at Franklin Park 16 (at the mall on Monroe Street in Toledo) and 7 p.m. at Fallen Timbers 14 (at the mall on Russell Road in Maumee).

Faithful love will be tested by jealous plots, military ambition, and the angry vices that have plagued men and women since their first pairings.

In Verdi's retelling of Shakespeare's towering tragedy, Renée Fleming gives a captivating performance as the innocent Desdemona, a role long considered one of her calling cards. As the title hero, Johan Botha, delivers an imposing portrayal of a proud warrior brought down by jealousy, with Falk Struckmann as the villainous Iago.

The Live in HD series includes interviews and behind-the-scenes features.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Guild Presents Opera with $41K

Cindy Niggemyer, left, president of the Toledo Opera Guild, and
Suzanne Rorrick, executive director of the Toledo Opera, hold a
check of more than $41,000 presented at the guild closing luncheon.

Summertime is finally here, and Toledo Opera Guild members certainly earned some fun in the sun as they wrapped up the 2013-2014 opera season with a significant donation to the Toledo Opera.

Executive Director Suzanne Rorrick received a check for $41,736.86 at the guild's closing luncheon earlier this month at Belmont Country Club in Perrysburg. These funds are vital for the staging of the upcoming season's performances of "Tosca," "Susannah" and "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Cindy Niggemyer, president of the guild, announced at the luncheon that 19 new members have joined the group and that its Board of Trustees will have more than 30 members.

Marcy McMahon, nominations cochairman, conducted the induction for the 2014-2015 Executive Committee:

President…………………….…..Cindy Niggemyer
First Vice-President……………...Shelli Jacobs
Second Vice-President……….….Joyce Stenberg
Third Vice-President……….……Barbara Baker
Recording Secretary……….….…Carol Sizemore
Corresponding Secretary…….…..Sue Rosenberg
Treasurer……………………….. Kelly Rectenwald
Assistant Treasurer………………Mary Beaber
Members at Large……………….Barbara Bettinger, Barbara Brown, Clare Gorski, Linda McBee
Past President……………………Traci Schwann

From left:Kelly Rectenwald, Joyce Stenberg, Shelli Jacobs,
Mary Ankenbrandt Beaber, Sandra Honemann and Linda
McBee at the closing luncheon at Belmont.
Niggemyer reported that the Executive Committee met in retreat in early May to discuss policies and procedures for the coming year, as well as at a meeting prior to the closing luncheon. Special thanks was given to hostess Barbara Bettinger.

Also honored at the luncheon were guild members who had organized the following events, with great success (lead chairmen listed first):

Mad Hatter: Laura Draheim, with Barbara Bettinger and Mary Beaber.
Celebrity Wait Night: Shelli Jacobs, with Barbara Brown and Barbara Bettinger.
Phashion of the Opera: Traci Schwann, with Karen DeNune, Diane Rusk and Shelli Jacobs.

Committee and board meetings resume Sept. 3. Have a great summer!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Save the Dates

The Toledo Opera Guild will be celebrating another successful season with a gathering June 4 at the Belmont Country Club in Perrysburg.

Social hour will begin at 11 a.m., followed by lunch at noon. Call Barbara Baker at 419-534-2322 for lunch questions; R.S.V.P. with $25 to Christine Goslin.

We will be installing officers and marking the third year in a row that we have been able to contribute $40,000 to the Toledo Opera.

So that we can do that for a fourth year -- and even top it -- our work will begin anew this fall. Please mark your calendars for our 2014-2015 meetings and events, listed below.

Thanks to everyone for such an amazing year!

CALENDAR

Operas: "Tosca," Oct. 10 and 12; "Susannah," Feb. 13 and 15; and "Lucia di Lammermoor," April 24 and 26, all at the Valentine Theatre.

Major Events: Fall guild event (TBA), 7 p.m. Nov. 8, Toledo Club; Phashion of the Opera, spring date TBD; Opera Gala, May 9, Toledo Club.

Meetings: Executive committee 9:30 a.m. and general board 10:30 a.m. Sept. 3, Jan. 7, March 4, April 1; executive board retreat, 9:30 a.m. May 6; year-end luncheon and officer installation, 11 a.m. June 4.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'Mikado' for Grown-Ups

Ivan Kende painted this set for 'The Mikado.'
You don't have to be a third-grader to enjoy Opera on Wheel's production of "The Mikado"!

Toledo Opera's educational program, which brings a 40-minute adaptation to elementary schools throughout our region, will offer a special adult performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan comedic classic this month.

The event, which includes an Asian fusion buffet, will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 20 at the Park Inn by Radisson-Toledo, located at 101 N. Summit St. in downtown Toledo.

Tickets cost $50, and a cash bar will be available. RSVP by May 15 to Collin in the box office at 419-255-SING.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Toledo Opera 2014-2015 Season Announced


At the close of Toledo Opera's wonderfully successful 2013-2014 season, executive director Suzanne Rorick announced exciting plans to add a third opera to its upcoming season as well as a contemporary series.

Below are excerpts from her message in the "Faust" program. Click here for season subscriptions, which include priority seating, the bring-a-friend program, and ticket and event discounts.

We begin the season in October with Puccini's "Tosca" in a lush traditional production directed by Michael Capasso, who was last in Toledo to direct "La bohème."

Carlisle Floyd's "Susannah" [presented in February] will be the first in a series of American 20th and 21st-century operas that will be presented over the coming years. With this series, we intend to recapture a powerful dynamic of operatic performance: operas experienced in our audience's own language, set in or near their own time and place, and based on literature or stories that are still widely read or known.

Our third production of the season will be Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" ... [which] also will be Toledo Opera's second co-production with Opera Carolina.


Monday, May 5, 2014

School Students Enjoy Opera on Wheels

"It was very funny and creative the way they acted it out."

What better praise of the Opera on Wheel's production of "The Mikado" than from a local third-grade student.

Check out the recent article in The Blade's OurTown Sylvania section: Opera on Wheels performances introduce students to art form.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sponsors Get Sneak Peek for 'Faust'

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.

Well, it wasn't exactly God calling out "Good ... Good ... Good ..." from the stage of the Valentine Theatre on Wednesday night. It was a member of the crew -- although the long white beard he was sporting certainly evoked some classic divine images.

The themes of 'Faust" will be
illuminated during the opera.
The Toledo Opera was preparing for its production of Charles Gounod's "Faust," and a modernly staged one at that. The crew were testing each individual stage light, some of which illuminate boldly printed words like "power," "love," "wrath" and even "good" on a huge backdrop screen that will indicate to the audience the scenes' themes and the struggles in which the characters find themselves.

Conductor James Meena explained these struggles to a select number of guests gathered for a wine reception prior to Wednesday's dress rehearsal and student night performance. Modern stage settings like bar patrons break dancing and taking selfies with their cell phones speak to how lasting and relevant the story is.

"We're still wrestling with these themes today," Meena said, summarizing the tale of a wealthy man nearing the end of his life who makes a deal with the devil to find the one thing he never had: true love.

Goethe penned the play "Faust" in the early 1800s, though the story itself about a celebrated and controversial Dr. Faustus is much older. Director Bernard Uzan shared how the Toledo Opera updated the story in Sally Vallongo's preview article for The Blade. Executive director Suzanne Rorick and assistant director Robert Mirakin described how the Valentine is such a wonderful venue for this particular production for Joseph Schafer's article in The City Paper.

Production coordinator Jim Norman led reception guests Wednesday night on a tour of the stage, set with Faust's loft apartment and a projected disco ball. Later, they heard star Jamie Offenbach as Mephistopheles trying to corrupt the virtue of Marguerite (Janinah Burnett) and foil the efforts of Faust (Shawn Mathey). Offenbach's seductively rich voice could make anyone do anything.

Guests included Elaine and Brad Lewandowski representing the LaValley Family Foundation, a major sponsor of the "Faust" production. Brad Lewandowski was especially looking forward to this weekend's performances since it would be his first opera experience.

This particular story is a good place for him to start. "Anything dealing with the devil," he joked. His tale of love certainly has more success than Faust and Marguerite. He and wife Elaine, both northwest Ohio natives, will celebrate 30 years of marriage in May.

Also in attendance were Susanne and husband J.B. Rorick; Robert and wife Ashley Mirakin; Toledo Opera Guild executive board member Kim Kearns and husband Doug, an opera trustee and sponsor; guild board member and opera trustee Susan Conda; and opera board executive member Maureen Brown.

Registry Bistro catered the delectables, which included crab and pimento puffed pastry, pickled vegetables, candied pecans, pea-pistachio-basil hummus, and a charcuterie board with jams and bread.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Serenade

The dulcet tones of opera and stage musical songs floated through the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg today as the Toledo Opera Guild gathered there for its annual spring luncheon.

Students from the Toledo School for the Arts performed for the guild members, demonstrating the promise and passion that inspires us all.

Jasmine Davis sang from "The Messiah" and pieces she learned at our local Opera Camp. Drew Longmore performed "Far from the Home I Love" from "Fiddler on the Roof" and "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from "Jesus Christ Superstar." They were accompanied with piano played by their vocal instructor, Jamie Dauel, and in attendance by the Toledo School for the Arts development agent, Bethany Urbanski.

View a video of Jasmine's lovely performance by clicking here.

There was a flurry of brainstorming around the luncheon tables as co-chairs were tapped for Brunhilde Parties, smaller-scale gatherings hosted by guild members to raise funds. Every little bit helps!

Many thanks to Barbara Baker for organizing such a lovely luncheon. Guests dined on tomato soup, chicken salad croissants and ice cream sundaes over a fudge brownie. A special thank you to Judith Conda for organizing the TSA performances.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Phashionable Photos

Grand Lubell Photography has made available more than 100 beautiful images captured at this year's Phashion of the Opera event.

Guests, models, vendors and the beautifully appointed main dining room at the Toledo Club are among the lovely images.

This direct link will take you directly to the Phashion of the Opera gallery: http://grandlubellphotography.zenfolio.com/p792086892

The pictures in this blog post were posted on Ragazza's Facebook page. Feel free to share yours on the Toledo Guild's page.

Thank you again for your support. It was a picture perfect event!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bringing Sexy Back

So that happened.

The writer of this blog was so inspired by the dancing antics of a male model during today's Phashion of the Opera show that she came up to the runway and handed him a dollar bill.

The crowd roared -- in an appreciative manner, thank goodness -- and the model didn't miss a beat, kissing the hand of the admirer and then grinding that green into the back pocket of his tuxedo pants.

That this blog writer also won the auction item for a tuxedo rental at President Tuxedo is a totally unrelated matter.

Many, many thanks go out to all of the Toledo Opera Guild committee members who made this fashion event not just possible but also a wonderful success. More than 180 guests, who came out in the rain to the Toledo Club to support this major fundraiser, had opportunity to peruse local vendors, bid on auction items, view fabulous fashions from local shops, and enjoy a wonderful luncheon and each other's company.

Sincere applause is given to all of the models who braved the catwalk -- and a few cat-calls from the audience. Your beauty, self-confidence and commitment to your craft are inspirations to us all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phashion of the Opera: Ragazza Pays It Forward

Jane Wurth doesn't want customers just to buy clothes and jewelry at her shop, she wants them to hang out and enjoy each other's company as well. That's why she named the store Ragazza, which means "girlfriend" in Italian.

Toledo Opera Guild members know all about that. They may be working like mad to get ready for Phashion of the Opera -- a major fundraising event and fashion show to support the Toledo Opera -- but they are bolstering their relationships and strengthening their connections too. Friendship is what pulls everyone through it.

"We love working with the Toledo Opera Guild!" Wurth wrote in an email. "They are fun, energetic and overall a great group of people!"

Wurth and her staff, who maintain Ragazza shops in Perrysburg and Sylvania Township, will showcase that very spirit in the fashions they will bring to the runway event.

Yet something deeper compels Wurth to participate.

"I have enjoyed personal success in the professional world with being a realtor and owning a business, so I believe in giving back or paying it forward," she said.

In addition to the Toledo Opera Guild and the Opera Association itself, Ragazza has contributed to the efforts of the Victory Center, Ability Center, Toledo Symphony League, Beach House, Toledo Law Auxiliary, Christ Child Society, Toledo Medical Auxillary, and Kidney Foundation.

You go, girlfriend.

Visit Ragazza's website to view its collections or follow it on Twitter.

Phashion of the Opera is slated for April 3. Check here for details.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Introducing 'Mikado' Young Artists

(Left to right): Ward, Harris, Reaper, Krawson, and Miller.

These five talented young artists are ready to roll for the Opera on Wheels program! They will help bring the fictional Japanese town of Titipu to Toledo, touring a production of "The Mikado" to area schools.

Pictured here are (from left to right): Nicholas Ward (baritone), Jordan Harris (tenor), Laura Reaper (mezzo-soprano), Abigail Krawson (soprano), and Spencer Miller (piano).

Soprano Abigail Krawson most recently appeared as a townsperson in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" with Boston Midsummer Opera. She was also a gypsy in Rachmoninoff's "Aleko" with Commonwealth Lyric Theater and Despina in "Così fan tutte" with NEMPAC Opera. In 2011 she was a young artist with Boston Early Music Festival and appeared in Harvard Early Music Society’s production of La Calisto. A native of Canton, Ohio, Krawson received her undergraduate degree at Bowling Green State University before
graduating from the New England Conservatory.

Mezzo-soprano Laura Reaper most recently sang the role of Ciesca in "Gianni Schicchi" with Opera Project Columbus. Credits include Dejanira in "Hercules," Marcellina in "Le nozze di Figaro" and 3rd Lady in "Die Zauberflöte." She also created the role of Tantie Marie for the world premiere of the opera "The Toll." She has been featured as a soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Copland’s In the Beginning. Reaper holds degrees from the Peabody Institute (BM) and Bowling Green State University (MM).

Tenor Jordan Harris is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where he studied with tenor Rico Serbo, was a recipient of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Merit Scholarship, and was Musical Director of the University of Michigan Educational Theater Company. In the fall of 2013 he performed an original composition for Stephen Sondheim at a gala dinner in his honor. Previous credits include Scaramuccio in "Ariadne Auf Naxos," Rinnucio in "Gianni Schicchi," Baker in "Into the Woods," and Mitch in "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Baritone Nicholas Ward most recently performed with the Cincinnati Opera’s outreach tour and the Central City Opera Studio Artist Program. Stage credits include the Backwoodsman in "Show Boat," Il Conte Almaviva in "Le nozze di Figaro," George Jones in "Street Scene," the Usher in "Trial By Jury," Don Alfonso in "Così fan tutte," and Major General Stanley in "The Pirates of Penzance." He also has participated in the training programs of Opera Saratoga and the Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York. He is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.

Pianist Spencer Miller grew up in the Twin Cities and attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis, graduating summa cum laude in 2013. He has performed solo recitals, frequently featuring his own compositions, as far afield as Vienna, Austria. Also a professional jazz pianist, Miller is a first-year graduate student at the University of Toledo, studying with Michael Boyd.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Guild Member Wins Jefferson Award

Among the first people to congratulate Marcy McMahon for being a 2014 recipient of a Toledo-Area Jefferson Award were the friends she has come to know and love in the Toledo Opera Guild.

Marcy McMahon
"Thank you all for being a dear friend to me and sharing in this special moment in my life," McMahon wrote in an email.

Ask any member what they love most about the Toledo Opera Guild, and the answer likely will be the friendships that are formed. Many share a passion for philanthropy.

McMahon founded the local chapter of Make-A-Wish, which provides enriching opportunities to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

"It is a chance for you to offer joy and hope and strength to someone else and maybe give them something that they can't get themselves," she said in her nomination video.

The national Jefferson Award is a prestigious recognition for community service. McMahon and the other three local recipients will be considered by a panel in Washington, D.C., for a spring announcement.

McMahon is a longtime member of the Toledo Opera Guild, serving on its board of directors mailings committee this year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Phashion of the Opera: Sophia Lustig Bridges Gap

The Toledo Opera Guild is actively seeking ways to bridge the gap between longtime lovers of opera and audiences new to the art form.

Sophia Lustig, a women's clothing shop in downtown Toledo, endeavors to do the same with generations of women appreciating unique, high-end fashion. The store opened Sophie's Sister, which carries trendy, current clothing lines that target younger and more modern women.

"Sophie's Sister kind of bridges that gap," said Meredith Sherman, owner of Sophia Lustig.

Sherman continues to carry two torches set aflame by the namesake founder: one for exquisite fashion and one for supporting the arts in Toledo.

Sophia F. Lustig was "a Toledo dowager active in various civic ventures and the arts," according to an article in The Blade newspaper chronicling the shop's history since its 1937 opening.

Not only will Sophia Lustig make sure a customer has a gown that no one else would be wearing at the opera, it will help make sure there is an opera where she can wear that gown.

"For us it is giving back to the community ... however we can help and do our part," Sherman said.

Sophia Lustig recently participated with other downtown boutiques in the Chicks for Charity event, which aims to inspire women to fulfill their philanthropic potential through donations of time, talent and money, according to its website.

Sherman said Sophia Lustig will be having a trunk show the week of Phashion of the Opera with a line from Marissa Baratelli, which carries Thai silk gowns and suit separates. "We'll be able to highlight those on the runway," she said of the opera guild event.

Models also will feature outfits from Sophie's Sister, one sporting a casual daytime look and another wearing a flirty fun outfit, Sherman said.

Sophia Lustig's website is undergoing some development, but you can follow it on Facebook here. Visit Sophie's Sister online here.

Phashion of the Opera is slated for April 3. Check here for details.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

'Flour Garden' New to Rite of Spring

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra is a vital part of the Toledo Opera, and the Toledo Symphony League supports musical heritage in northwest Ohio as passionately and tirelessly as Opera Guild members.

Rite of Spring invitations were sent to the Toledo
Symphony League's mailing list. One also is available
on the league's website at toledosymphonyleague.com.
The league's annual Rite of Spring event will be held Tuesday, March 25 at The Hotel at the University of Toledo (the Radisson, formerly the Hilton Toledo, at 3100 Glendale Ave.) and again feature vendors, a raffle, luncheon and garden talk.

The day begins at 10 a.m. with the Symphony League's traditional decorated golf carts, which will whisk guests into the event space. "Vendor Ally" will include Purse Love, Ragazza, Belma Tan with Aegean Connection, The Chocolate Shoppe, North Branch Nursery, and more.

New this year is the "Flour Garden," a delectable bake sale featuring pastries, breads, and cookies on donated one-of-a-kind plates and dishes.

The Symphony League is seeking dessert donations, which may be dropped off at the home of Beth Bowman from 8:30 a.m. until noon Monday, March 24. Volunteers will be plating, wrapping and organizing the baked goods that afternoon for transfer to the Radisson. If you plan on donating or volunteering, please contact Beth Bowman at bowsmom50@sbcglobal.net or call 419-865-5036.

The luncheon begins at noon, and Jill Bench from Bench's Greenhouse will deliver the keynote speech at 1 p.m. Jill runs the family-owned greenhouse and farm operation in Elmore along with her husband and his parents.

To register for the Rite of Spring event, download the RSVP form here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why I Love Opera: Dan Kleiboemer

Dan Kleiboemer, of Whitehouse, is director of The Maritime Academy of Toledo Foundation, a bridge officer in the merchant marine, and a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

From aboard the Maersk Pittsburgh, somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, he writes:

Cmdr. Dan Kleiboemer (right) and wife Rebecca
Conklin Kleiboemer head to the 2014 Toledo
Opera Gala: Ladies in Red on Valentine's Day.
"Why I like the Toledo Opera:

"I'm a fan of 'American Idol.' What's great about it is you hear some really good voices and all the songs are ones I know. When it's time for judging, the contestants pull out all the stops to sing a song we'll all know (and vote for) as best as they can.

"It's the same way at the opera. Believe it or not, most folks probably know at least a few songs in every opera that has ever been shown in Toledo. For example, that theme from the British Airways TV commercial is the Flower Duet from 'Lakme' (which the opera performed in February), and the opera 'Tosca' (performed in 2007 by the Toledo Opera) was featured in the James Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace.' So, going to the opera is like seeing a greatest hits album live. Which is why I also like 'American Idol.' 

"Now, the great thing about the Toledo Opera is accessibility; you don't have to be an opera fan to like the opera here. In New York, at ticket to the Metropolitan Opera will cost an average of $204, but that doesn't matter because you have to buy a season subscription which really costs an average of $946 (!) otherwise you won't get a seat to any show. At the Toledo Opera, you can pick up a ticket on the day of the performance for as little as 10 bucks (!). Also, unlike other places, the Toledo Opera really understands its audience (which is me). Many opera companies assume a real opera-goer already knows all about the show and can understand singing in Italian (which I don't). At the Toledo Opera, I like that someone begins the night by explaining what the show is about and what I should look out for – this makes it easy to follow along. 

"To sum up, I like the Toledo Opera because: I dig 'American Idol'; if it's cool enough for James Bond, then it's cool enough for me; it's crazy affordable; and I'll know what’s happening."

Do you have a story about why you love opera? Submit it here.