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
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 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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cooper to Offer 'Don Giovanni' Talk

Sean Cooper, a Toledo Opera Camp director and Bowling Green State University professor, will offer a talk on Mozart's recitative settings in "Don Giovanni" at 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, as part of BGSU's College of Music Live! series.

Sean Cooper
The live stream from Bryan Recital Hall can be viewed here.

His wife, opera singer Jennifer Goode Cooper, writes: "He's a two time Broadway veteran, working opera singer, a great professor, and an award-winning scholar, can I get a woot woot?"

Cooper's slightly more official biography reads:

A member of the voice faculty at Bowling Green State University, Sean Cooper has performed on the operatic and concert stage in works ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century. He appeared as Colline in the original Broadway cast of Baz Luhrmann's "La bohème" as well as in Toledo Opera's Fall 2012 production. Favorite roles include Figaro in "Le nozze di Figaro," Leporello in "Don Giovanni," the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance," and Sarastro and Der Sprecher in "The Magic Flute." He has performed with Opera Carolina, Opera Memphis, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera North, and Liederkranz Opera, and in concert with the Sacramento Choral Society, the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, and numerous symphony orchestras. Dr. Cooper is also the Co-Director of Toledo Opera’s summer Opera Camp.

Why I Love Opera: Shelli Jacobs

Shelli Jacobs, of Perrysburg, serves as the Toledo Opera Guild's executive committee as a member at-large, and she recently co-chaired a Celebrity Wait Night event.

Shelli Jacobs (left) and husband Mark Jacobs, at the
Toledo Opera Guild's Mad Hatter event last fall, placed
the winning bid on a fur coat donated by Toledo Furs.
Why she loves opera:

"I enjoy supporting the opera because my family and I believe it is a priority to support the arts in Toledo. We are so fortunate to have opera here, to share it with our children so they can experience this gift we have. It is important that Toledo is known not just for our industry but our many gems, including the Toledo Opera. As a part of the guild, I have made lifelong friends whom I cherish."

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lourdes Offers Lifelong Learning, 'Faust' Class

The Lifelong Learning program at Lourdes University in Sylvania is for people who love learning. The classes are filled with active, interested and interesting adults. There are no exams or grades, and the enthusiasm is contagious!

Topics are varied so there is something for everyone -- including opera lovers!

To complement the Toledo Opera's spring performance, Lifelong Learning will offer a class on "Faust" taught by a member of the Lourdes English department faculty. The class will meet twice before the performance to discuss different versions of the book, then once afterwards to discuss the story's adaptation to the stage.

Toledo Opera Guild members receive free membership to Lifelong Learning this spring, which includes waived membership fees (for spring semester), free admission to the monthly lecture series, and discounts on all classes and trips.

Details on the "Faust" class:

Instructor: Susan Shelangoskie, Ph.D.
Dates: Tuesdays, April 15, 22, 29
Time: 10 a.m.
Site: Carmel Hall 1 (campus map)
Fee: $42/60 non-members
Bonus: Receive a 10% discount on tickets to the opera performance by calling (419) 255-7464 and mentioning Lifelong Learning.

Description: Have you ever wanted something so badly you would "sell your soul"? This familiar idea actually is rooted in the 15th-century German legend of Faust, an alchemist who sells his soul to the devil in return for power over the natural and supernatural world. In this class, we will discuss two of the most pivotal renditions of this tale: Christopher Marlowe's early-modern English drama "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus" and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's influential Romantic text "Faust." We will learn how the story was transformed as it was adapted for the stage and think about this literary tradition as a framework for Charles Gounod's 1859 opera "Faust" in preparation for seeing a live performance by the Toledo Opera at the Valentine Theatre. After the performance, we will have a concluding discussion of the adaptation in light of what we have learned.

Guild members, please invite others to this amazing course and help promote the Lifelong Learning program at Lourdes.

Some of the other Lifelong Learning classes offered include: Australia, U.S. first ladies, genealogy, wine tasting, current events, Holocaust, jewelry making, Thomas Jefferson, technology, and religion. The program also offers day trips, including an upcoming one to Grand Rapids, Mich., for a visit to the Gerald Ford Museum, Meijer Gardens and the Gandy Dancer restaurant.

For more information, call Lourdes University at 419-824-3707 or visit

Monday, March 3, 2014

'Mikado' to Roll into Local Schools

The Toledo Opera Association, Toledo Opera Guild and United Way of Greater Toledo are partnering in a WordShop program for students in grades 4-8 at two local schools.

Opera on Wheels will visit Greenwood School, in the Washington Local School District, on April 28 and Queen of Apostles Catholic School in Toledo on May 12.

The students will enjoy the production of "The Mikado," under the direction of Jenny Cresswell, artistic director for Opera on Wheels. Afterward, students will express their reaction to the opera in a creative writing activity, led by WordShop Toledo Opera Guild volunters: Christine Goslin, Lynn Guitteau, Liz Ference, Marcy McMahon, Diane Shull, Sandra Honemann, Shirley Joseph and Barbara Brown.

The guild is excited for this pairing, using both the opera performance and the writing activity as a higher learning opportunity. "The Mikado," a comedic opera written by Gilbert and Sullivan, mixes up Japanese traditions, thwarted love and legal wrangling. Cutting off one's own head will surely nab students attention!

Matt Russell is the United Way WordShop program coordinator. If you are interested in participating in future Opera Guild Education Outreach opportunities, please contact Barbara Brown at 419-475-9534.