The soprano’s voice swells, filling the room with passion and unrequited love. She is Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, a young Japanese geisha, pining for the return of her American naval officer husband. The aria, “Un bel di vedremo” (“One fine day”), is one of opera’s most beautiful and lyrical compositions, testing even the most well-trained voice. When she reaches the crescendo of high notes, I hold onto my wine glass, expecting it to shatter in my hands. When it ends we all leap to our feet, applauding and tearful, but wanting more. Opera can be fun or tragic, but it’s always dramatic.
Although we could be at any well-known opera house in the US, we have the luxury of experiencing this magnificent performance right here in our own backyard. The Lake Geneva Chapter of the Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1995, and has been bringing opera to the lakes area ever since. Internationally experienced and talented young opera voices, many of whom are alumni or members of Lyric Opera’s Ryan Center, entertain chapter members and guests four times a year at local venues such as the Lake Geneva Country Club, Big Foot Country Club, Geneva National Golf Club, and the Richard H. Driehaus Estate.
Three or four soloists perform an eclectic hour-long program, accompanied by Lyric Opera’s pianist extraordinaire, Celeste Rue. Half of the pieces are famous opera arias, such as the one from Madama Butterfly, and half are show tunes, from Gershwin to Rogers & Hart. An elegant gourmet dinner tops off the evening, complete with an opportunity to meet and talk with the singers. The chapter has over 175 members who attend each event at discounted prices, and guests are always welcome.
Funding an educational outreach program for local students is a paramount objective for the chapter. The goal is to introduce them to the world of opera. Over the past six years, the chapter has funded trips for over 1,200 seventh graders from the lakes area, treating them to full performances at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. Before boarding the train to Chicago, pre-opera education sessions by Lyric Opera artists and teachers get them ready to fully appreciate the experience. For many of these young people, it’s the first time they’ve seen a live performance or an orchestra, much less the thrill of operatic voices.
The chapter also invites UW-Whitewater vocal students to be guests at one of the annual performances, giving them the opportunity to see professionals perform and then have lunch with them. These opportunities create lifelong memories for all students who attend.
For information on joining the chapter, donating to the educational outreach program, or attending any of the fabulous, fun events, contact Julie Sarton, Membership Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (262)949-7651. As William Berger said in his article on Puccini: “Without opera, the world is an even drearier place than the evening news would have us think.”
By: Julie Sarton