Metropolitan Opera Guild Annual Report

by RICHARD J. MILLER, JR.

Guild Report Miller lg 1012
Photo: Dario Acosta
© Dario Acosta 2012

It is a privilege both great and humbling to be president of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, for one is always aware of the daunting example set by our founder, Eleanor Robson Belmont, whose vision and energy still inspire us today. Well before such terms as “outreach” and “cultural footprint” were part of the language, she understood that opera’s survival depended not on a moneyed few but on the active participation of a broad community of opera-lovers.

How excited Mrs. Belmont would be by the innovative efforts being made today by Peter Gelb and the Met to make opera more accessible than ever. The Live in HD transmissions have transformed the way we experience opera and brought a whole new audience to the art form. To see thousands of people on the plaza at Lincoln Center or in Times Square enjoying the free live HD simulcast, sponsored by the Guild, of the Met’s Opening Night is to reaffirm one’s faith in opera’s popular appeal. We are proud that during the 2011–12 season the Guild, through its members and its sponsorship of the Summer HD Festival and the Opening Night simulcasts, donated $7.1 million to the Met in support of these and other initiatives that are bringing the Met to new heights of prestige and recognition.

Mrs. Belmont would no doubt also be proud of all the activities the Guild provides to help the Met build an informed and eager audience for opera. 

The magazine you now hold in your hands — in print or, perhaps, on a mobile device — is not only the world’s foremost publication devoted to opera; it is also an ever-lively and well respected bulletin that keeps opera-lovers the world over in touch with opera, wherever and whenever it is performed. I am proud to report that, thanks to the support of Guild members and subscribers, the worldwide circulation of OPERA NEWS continues to hold steady at upwards of 100,000, a major achievement at a time when the readership for traditional media is eroding.

Closer to home, the Guild enriches the Met experience for thousands of people through our community-based programs. During the 2011–12 season, the Guild offered 155 lectures, interviews, panel discussions, courses, family workshops and master classes — nearly twice as many as when I became president two years ago — as well as more than 550 tours of the Metropolitan Opera House. 

The Guild’s education programs reach 16,000-plus students and teachers in 160 schools across seven states. We reach about half of those students through our Access Opera program, which provides access to final dress rehearsals at the Met. The next time you attend a Met performance, I am sure you won’t have to look too far down the aisle to find someone who can cite a Guild-arranged final dress rehearsal visit as his or her first opera experience. 

The Guild’s other education programs use the elements of opera as tools that foster academic achievement and socio-personal growth. We have students as young as pre-K collaboratively composing and performing their own operas — and, in the process, developing creativity, cooperation, critical thinking and other skills that have been identified as crucial for success in the twenty-first century. 

Of course, the Guild does not just inform and educate: we also celebrate. This past year we paid tribute to several of opera’s biggest stars at some unforgettable events. The seventh annual OPERA NEWS Awards ceremony, honoring Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Peter Mattei, Karita Mattila, Peter Sellars and Anja Silja, was our most successful ever, with new peaks of attendance and media attention. The legendary Marilyn Horne was our guest of honor at our 77th Annual Luncheon, and Thomas Hampson was the subject of the 2012 edition of Met Mastersingers.

Looking ahead at the upcoming season, I am delighted that the Guild’s Annual Luncheon on December 4 will commemorate another of Mrs. Belmont’s legacies to opera-lovers, the Met’s National Council, which oversees the audition process that discovers promising young talent. Twenty-five singers who got their start through these auditions will be on hand at what will surely be a memorable day. You can learn more about this and all the other events and programs that the Guild offers by visiting our website, www.metguild.org.

In some ways, all of us who work to bring opera to a wider audience are following in the footsteps of Mrs. Belmont. For us at the Guild, it is an honor to be able to do this work at the organization she founded expressly for this purpose. The loyalty and enthusiasm of our members and community make it all worthwhile. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, and I look forward to seeing you at the Met or a Guild event in the upcoming season. 

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3