In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

What Inspires You?

Dec 12, 2019 12:33:32 PM
By BLO Staff

Donors like you fund 70% of the cost of each performance, program, and class at Boston Lyric Opera, and are a treasured part of our community. Below, we’ve compiled what some of our most enthusiastic supporters had to say about why they love BLO and how it inspires them. What inspires you? 

Here are five reasons to consider giving this year. Do you have another? We encourage you to share your opera inspiration with us!

1. Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artists. The Emerging Artists initiative has been a staple of BLO ever since it was launched eight years ago. Forty-one emerging talents have joined their ranks over those years, each of whom received one-on-one mentoring from gifted professionals in the field. Here’s what a few of the initiative’s supporters have to say:

4900-BLO Fellow Travelers PHOTO Liza Voll

Paul Buttenwieser, Orfeo member:

Discovering and nurturing Emerging Artists is one of the most important ways BLO contributes to the music world. It’s an integral part of the BLO mission, and one that hits home to me.

Ed Leary, Orfeo member:

It’s hard for any artist in any genre to break through and become recognized and have an opportunity to present their art to a wider audience. I think it’s particularly tough in the limited world of opera... it’s gratifying to be able to support these artists. Any time you can help them along, it’s a great thing to do. The established artists will age out—anything we can do to facilitate the process of bringing new blood in is wonderful.

Willa Bodman, Board member:

The Emerging Artist initiative, supported early on by Steve & Jane Akin, creates a connection between the singer and Boston because they become "one of your own." It gives them a leg up because they have a closer connection with the audience and with BLO as an organization. 

[The Emerging Artists initiative is] really supporting their careers and has a direct impact on their lives.  Sponsoring an Emerging Artist each Season makes us feel a little closer to their performance,  to the genre and it makes us feel like a part of the BLO family.  Specifically, it has allowed us to have a closer connection to Chelsea Basler, Michelle Trainor, and David McFerrin, whom we’ve sponsored over the years as we’ve watched their development.  And as a teacher myself, I love the idea of supporting their continued education. 

Chelsea was just amazing in Fellow Travelers. To experience her progression since she was first named an Emerging Artist in 2013/14 is just amazing. It feels good!

2. Productions. Our productions run the gamut from intimate, emotional portrayals to frenzied circuses—literally. Our patrons have a lot from which to choose. Here’s what they’ve been saying recently:

4970-BLO Fellow Travelers PHOTO Liza VollAndrew Crofts, PRIMA member, on Fellow Travelers:

"For the first time in all the years I’ve been going to the opera...LGBTQ+ characters...[are] portrayed not as stereotypes, archetypes, or any type at all, but as real, human beings in all their messy, complicated, emotional glory."


Bob Steinberg, donor and subscriber since 2008, on Fellow Travelers:

Fellow Travelers was personal. It's been a long time since I feigned illness as a ninth grader so I could watch the Army-McCarthy hearings on my grandmother's TV and delight in her voluble commentary; only a few decades since I lived across a Newton cul-de-sac from [conductor] Emily Senturia's uncle; and weeks since I slept a block from Roy Cohn's erstwhile house in Provincetown, a community where the issues in Fellow Travelers remain as alive as anywhere.

Arjun Gupta, PRIMA member, on installations:

LizaVollPhotography-0541-1[Each installation is an] immersive experience that definitely sets it apart from productions presented on a traditional stage. Being immersed allows me to focus more intensely and engage more deeply [with the work].  When I saw Schoenberg in Hollywood—that was the art form evolving.  I think back to Burke & Hare—with the chalkboards—when you start using technology, you start moving forward with the art form.  It’s advancing; it’s fun; it’s eye-candy.  It’s different than seeing it an opera house where every production is on the stage.  It involves the element of surprise.  This engagement and the possibility of including technology and multi-media kicks the art form into the next phase of life. 

3. Events. Whether you want to have an intimate chat with a director or artist; dinner and drinks with fellow patrons and friends; or a place to land and digest the night’s performance; BLO has an event for you. Read on to see what members of the BLO community are saying:

Amy Tsurumi, Board member and PRIMA member, on BLO events:

When you go to Opening Night, you feel like you’re part of what’s been created that evening – it’s the very first performance.  Meeting the singers, meeting the creative team... You get to experience the opera and then have a more personal connection to it because you can ask them questions. It’s a unique experience… A personal connection makes it a lot more special.  It feels unique to BLO.  BLO is working hard to achieve its mission of making opera accessible to the community. [The Opening Night Parties] symbolize that aspect of BLO—the  opportunity to actively participate.

The BPL series and discussions make [each production] into a much more comprehensive experience.  I’ve never had such an interactive and informative experience. It’s unique, informed, active participation.

Michael Barza, Orfeo member, on Deconstructing Opera Salons:

Both Judy and I have found the Deconstructing Opera Salons to be useful.  They illuminate the opera we are about to see.  In the case of Fellow Travelers—that was particularly instructive.  It makes it seem like you’re a part of it—behind the curtain….  It makes the production more meaningful. 

Lucretia Deconstructing Opera Salon

The ability to see [Music Director] David Angus, who is frequently in attendance, in a casual environment, as well as to interact with other patrons in an informal setting, is appealing.  The informality is rewarding. It makes the production more meaningful and the experience much richer.

The Salons are definitely worth the trip.  

4. Education. Our education staff works each spring with teachers and students to help them create their own productions, and to bring artists directly into the classroom with students. These programs engage students in over 20 schools and libraries each year. Why does education matter to our donors?

Two students strike a pose while perfecting their acting skillsDavid McCue, Orfeo member, on Education:

In the times of Mozart, Rossini, Puccini, Donizetti—when opera first gained popularity, there were kids out on the streets singing it—it was very common.  Why can’t we do that today?  I want kids listening to opera arias on their headphones. Any program that can get kids to catch the bug by falling for a couple of really good tunes is worthwhile. 

5. Community. BLO is proud to foster a sense of community with the people of Boston and beyond. With each of our programs, we work toward not only reaching a broader audience, but also reaching a deeper understanding of our current audience. Our supporters enjoy that sense of togetherness and work to further that legacy. Don’t just take our word for it; here’s what they think:


Jane Papa, Board member and Honorary Historian of the Company, on the BLO Community:

Not only has BLO Community Engagement and education expanded its partnerships in quantity and depth, but they’ve expanded the notion of community. Redefined it. I’m proud to be a member of that community, and proud to be a member of BLO. 

John Whittlesey, donor since 1996, on the Shrestinian Fund:

Early on in my BLO Chorus years, I made friends with Stephen Shrestinian because he had this marvelous bubbly personality. He invited me to join his Christmas caroling quartet, and we became great friends.  It was a big shock when he died suddenly. When the family and BLO got together to start a fund for him to honor him as a chorister, I thought it was  a great way to honor his memory and BLO, which has become my musical family. In the last 20 years it has taken on different meanings for BLO and me, [especially] to help support young talent and careers, which BLO has a great commitment to.

Now that I’m older and have more means, I’m looking to pay it forward and support the Shrestinian Fund every year in order to see the award winners develop and have success in their careers. It is so meaningful to find a cause that is important to you and support that. 

 Noel and Deb Rose, Orfeo members:

To your question about why we keep showing up at the Orfeo Lounges, it’s because mixing with fellow opera lovers and staff makes the event not the opera, but our opera.


In the Frame: Jesse Darden, Chelsea Basler, and Michelle Trainor perform in Fellow Travelers. All alumni of the Emerging Artists initiative, they are frequently seen on BLO's stage. Photo by: Liza Voll | Jesse Darden and Jesse Blumberg perform a moving scene in Fellow Travelers Photo by: Liza Voll | The cast of The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare opens the production. This installation transformed The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts. Photo by: Liza Voll | The creative team from The Rape of Lucretia shares their thoughts on the opera during a Deconstructing Opera Salon Photo by: Madison Florence | Students laugh during an exercise at BLO's Opera Bootcamp hosted each summer to educate students and teachers on opera and how to apply it to their work. Photo by: Madison Florence | The crowd watches a performance at a free show in Cambridge's Magazine Beach Park. Photo by: Doug Fienburg


Topics: giving, inspire

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