A Letter from the President of the Metropolitan Opera Guild

By RICHARD J. MILLER, JR.

Presidents Letter lg 1013
Photo: Dario Acosta
© Dario Acosta 2013

As I report to you on the conclusion of my third year as President, I am extremely proud to lead the Metropolitan Opera Guild in its continuing mission to broaden and enhance the audience for opera. The Guild's founder, Eleanor Robson Belmont, would no doubt also be proud of all the activities the Guild provides to the community and to the Met in our efforts to build and maintain a new generation of opera-lovers.

This past year, the Guild donated approximately $7 million to the Metropolitan Opera and was proud to continue its sponsorship of the Met's Opening Night Live in HD simulcast. What a pleasure it was to see so many people enjoying opera through the simulcast! The Guild's sponsorship of this event speaks to our commitment to our mission in various venues in New York City. 

The Guild also continues to expose people of all ages to opera through its education programs. With the help of public and private funding, the Guild's School Partnerships Program served more than 145 schools across six states, providing arts education for students at every level while exposing the next generation to opera. Many of the public schools we serve have limited access to the arts, making our programs vital to the community. The Access Opera initiative brings students from 113 schools (grades 3– college) to Met rehearsals and performances. Other programs help students and teachers create their own operas, based on what they're studying in the classroom, and encourage teachers to adopt opera-based learning techniques to improve student achievement in literacy, comprehension and other subjects. The Urban Voices program, which provides year-long choral instruction to students (Pre-K–12), as well as performance opportunities, has been particularly successful this year, increasing our presence in the Boston area from eight schools to seventeen schools. 

The Guild has also just completed its third year of a four-year, $1-million research project, funded in part by an Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination research grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This research will analyze and document the impact of opera-based learning on student achievement, and we expect it will serve as a template for programs around the country. 

Last year, the Lectures and Community Engagement (LCE) department presented more than 130 in-person events in the Guild's Opera Learning Center, ranging from pre-performance lectures, master classes, interviews and themed courses to family workshops, with more than 4,500 tickets purchased. LCE continued its successful collaboration with the Met's Membership department, this season offering two events to members — Viva Verdi! in the fall and a Wagner Ring talk in the spring. LCE is also collaborating with several departments at the Met to revitalize the public Backstage Tours of the Met program, which welcomed more than 4,000 guests this past season. Updating tour routes, information and technology has been an ongoing project throughout the season and has led to a new and improved tour experience.

The Public Programs Department presented "Musical Chairs," a series of five interviews for the Lectures and Community Engagement Department, and produced two major events this past season. The first of these, the Guild's Seventy-eighth Annual Luncheon, took place on December 4 and honored the achievements of our great colleagues in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Program, with more than thirty Met artists in attendance who were discovered by the auditions program. The program included musical selections and reminiscences from past Auditions winners Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Meade, Martina Arroyo, Deborah Voigt, Harolyn Blackwell, Michael Fabiano and Richard Stilwell. 

Our second major event, the eighth annual OPERA NEWS Awards, took place on April 21, 2013, in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, with Patricia Racette hosting the ceremonies, attended by more than 375 people. This year, John Adams, Harry Bicket, Rudolph Giuliani, Isabel Leonard and Julie Taymor presented awards to David Daniels, Mirella Freni, Simon Keenlyside, Eric Owens and Dawn Upshaw.  

Looking ahead to Monday, November 11, 2013, the Guild's annual Luncheon will celebrate the return of the Met's beloved music director, Maestro James Levine, to the Metropolitan Opera House. You can learn more about Welcome Home, Jimmy! and all the other events and programs that the Guild offers by visiting our website, www.metguild.org.

I feel privileged to follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Belmont as the president of this august organization dedicated to preserving her dream of broadening the reach of opera. Last year, the Board of the Metropolitan Guild made a commitment to a strategic plan for the next several years — the primary goal being to enhance and ensure Mrs. Belmont's vision for the Guild. I am pleased to report to you that we are well underway to meeting this objective. 

Thank you for your enthusiasm for the Guild and, of course, for our world-class magazine, OPERA NEWS. 

I hope to see you at one of our events soon!

A presto! spacer

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6