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Albuquerque Española Valley Los Alamos Santa Fe Taos Guild History

History of the Guilds of The Santa Fe Opera, Inc.


Ursel AlbersUrsel Albers remained as President.

The highlight of this year’s activities was the highly successful Opera Volunteers International (OVI) Conference held in Santa Fe and hosted by members of Guilds, Inc., between July 8 and 11th, 2009. Co-chairs were Santa Fe Opera Guild president, John Webber, and Nancie Dominic, Guilds, Inc. Development Chair. Volunteers from Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Taos, and Las Vegas and Española assisted with registration, special tours, silent auction and the Las Vegas Guild provided the conference bags and filled them with miscellaneous items for each registrant. About 75 OVI members and guests from OVI chapters all across the U.S. attended.

Led by Taos Guild’s Susan Benedetti, a group of attendees took a day-long tour to Taos and enjoyed visiting the renowned Taos Pueblo and several artists’ studios, taking the scenic High Road back to Santa Fe. Others enjoyed the Santa Fe Opera presentations of La traviata and Elixir of Love, preceded by backstage tours and dinner in the Dapples Pavilion.

New Santa Fe Opera General Director, Charles MacKay, whose tenure began on October 1st, attended many Guilds, Inc. functions, including the OVI Conference, board meetings, and fund-raising functions at the member guilds locations. His interest in the activities of the Guilds, Inc. raised morale, as well as interest and enthusiasm of guild members.

Guild members from the different guilds once more assisted as sponsors for the three Youth Nights. Presented this year were La traviata, with a total attendance of 763 including youth and adults; The Elixir of Love with a total attendance of 766; and Don Giovanni with a total of 802. The Pueblo Opera Program added 400 to La traviata, 437 to Elixir of Love, and 378 to Don Giovanni.

Hosting at the “Opera Insiders” Program, guild members completed another successful year on six Saturday mornings during the months of May and June, with an attendance of 65 to 120 people each morning.

As in previous years, the different member guilds were busy with fund-raising, socials, and membership drives. Several of the guilds formed groups to attend the opera, beginning with the Taos Opera Guild’s annual Opening Night bus trip with 50 guild members and their guests enjoying the evening kicking off with dinner before the opera. There are bus trips from Albuquerque, tailgate parties from Española, and a weekend program by the Roswell guild members, which include two opera performances.

The Española Valley Opera Guild held its second annual essay contest for school children. Twelve winners were awarded family tickets to one of the Youth Night operas. The Santa Fe Opera provided 50 Youth Night tickets to each guild and this inventive added greatly to the attendance from all the different areas of the state.

The Española Guild hosted the June 19, 2009, quarterly board meeting of Guilds, Inc. at Anthony’s on the Delta restaurant with a large number of members attending from Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Taos, Las Vegas and Santa Fe joining the hosts.

The Las Vegas Guild hosted a gathering at the home of Guilds, Inc. president, Ursel Albers, in honor of new Santa Fe Opera Director, Charles MacKay.

The Las Vegas guild members were co-hosts once again for the Opening Night Dinner at the Dapples Pavilion. Along with Santa Fe, the other host guild was Taos with 50 of their members and their guests enjoying the dinner and the performance of La traviata.

The Las Vegas Guild enjoyed A Night at the Opera with 25 people attending the performance of The Elixir of Love in August.

A “Welcome to the Apprentice Singers” party hosted by Santa Fe Opera Guild board member, Nancie Dominic, in her lovely home was highly successful with about 80 people attending.

Much of the increase in membership obtained during the year was attributed to the monthly “Operagram” sent out to current members and previous members and to the fact that most of the education presentations were widely advertised and held in publicly-accessible locations in town. Also, the presence of the membership chair at the Lensic Theater’s “Met-in-HD” Opera broadcasts has made the Santa Fe Opera Guild’s presence more visible.

The Taos Opera Guild annual Christmas Gala was held on a snowy day at the spacious home of President, Suzanne Brock and husband, Bob, on the Rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. Due to weather concerns, the apprentice singers were unable to attend. The host and hostess quickly arranged the evening’s entertainment for those hearty souls of the Taos Guild who braved the weather and roads to attend. Guild member and talented pianist, Ric De Stefano, played “Harlem Nocturne,” “Fool’s Paradise”, and other Jazz pieces. Then the hostess, a former diva with the Washington Opera, sang “You Make me Feel So Young,” “The Rose,” and “Those Were the Days” accompanied by Ric. The host then regaled the guests with a mime rendition of Victor Borge playing the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto. $2,000 was raised for the Education Programs of the Santa Fe Opera.

For many years, the Taos Opera Guild has volunteered one evening in December to light the approximately 400 farolitos set out on the plaza by the Town of Taos, participating with the other civic organizations of Taos. After the lighting, the hearty souls who brave the cold evening gather at the home of guild member, Sadie Knight for eggnog and steaming bowls of posole and chile, followed by ice cream topped with crème de menthe and traditional biscochitos.

A fundraiser held in March by the Taos Guild was a huge success. Featured was Mary Jane Johnson, international opera star. The evening was billed “An Evening of Song” and was held at the Harwood Museum of Art. Accompanying Mary Jane on piano was Martha Grossman and also performing were two young students of Mary Jane’s, a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. Charles MacKay, Santa Fe Opera Director, introduced Mary Jane, his long time friend. A champagne reception followed the event attended by a full house.

Three busloads of children and parents were filled for three different Youth Night performances, with a total of 108 attending.

Five new guild members were acquired at the annual Membership Brunch held in June at the home of guild board members, Mike and Sylvia Dobbs.

Total membership: 2008/09:
Guilds’ contributions: $132,223

Ursel Albers was asked by Charles MacKay, the new General Director of The Santa Fe Opera, to serve one more year as Guilds, Inc. president and all the other Guilds, Inc. Board of Directors remained with her.

The second year for “Opera Insiders”, held during the summer months was a huge success. Once again, the programs chaired by Joan Behrmann, Vice President of Education, were held on 13 consecutive Saturdays. All the guilds served as hosts for these events, sending crews of three or four people. The programs begin with a meet-and-greet half hour beginning at 8:30 am and then, after a brief introduction to one aspect of the Opera’s activities by an Opera staff member, several docents conducted backstage tours. The program grew in popularity and attendance increased greatly by the last one on August 28th.

After Paul Young’s death in November, Isabel Becker, Española Valley guild member, took over as Youth Night chair. She ably performed the duties for the new season’s performances which included Madama Butterfly on June 28; The Magic Flute on June 29, The Tales of Hoffman on July 13; and Albert Herring on July 27. A total of 1,638 youth and 1,100 adults attended while POP attendance was 2,980 youth and 1,392 adults. Volunteers from the different guilds helped run the program smoothly.

Preview Buffet events were very successful with Cynthia Turner of the Santa Fe Opera Guild as chair and Alvaro Quintanar, Santa Fe Opera staff member, overseeing them. Four hosts per evening assigned by the six active guilds, namely, Albuquerque, Española, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Las Vegas and Taos, were present every evening. A total distribution of $33,800.00 was made to the Santa Fe Opera through Guilds, Inc. for this program. The six guild chapters hosted 35 buffets altogether and although the 4-member crews worked hard on nights when guests numbered over a hundred, it was decided to keep the number of hosts to four for the next season.

Despite the amount of time spent by Nancie Dominic and Peggy Love Day, both Santa Fe Opera Guild members, to establish a guild in Lubbock, there was not enough interest there, and the effort has been abandoned. By year’s end, the Roswell guild lost its president and also folded after struggling for years.

The member guilds were busy all year with fundraisers and programs. Beginning in September, the Albuquerque Guild held its annual membership reception, with special guest, Charles MacKay, General Director of the Santa Fe Opera. Also present were Eric Moore, Technical Director, and Emilee McVey, Santa Fe Opera Costume Stock and Rental Supervisor, who detailed what the department does on props and sets.

Albuquerque’s Holiday Extravaganza was held at the Hispanic Art Center and titled “Celebration of the Arts.” Entertainers were young opera singer Alexandra Montoya and a quartet of carolers.

Other events were “Days of Wine and Roses” a wine-tasting, and “Albuquerque Night at the Opera,” with a talk on Carmen (which was presented by Opera SouthWest, was given by Ron Elguera. The Spring Opera Tour took place at the Kimo Theater between April 27th and 30th. A Spring Community Concert, also at the Kimo, was held on April 20 with Jamie Rose Germaine and Sean Anderson, apprentice singers with The Santa Fe Opera, accompanied by Kirt Pavitt, entertaining. On July 24, a reception for Kelly Kaduce, who sang the title role of Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, spoke to about 125 people at the Sandia Preparatory Performing Arts Centre.

The Española Valley Guild hosted an Evening Celebrating The Santa Fe Opera on April 17. Charles MacKay, SFO General Director, attended and Desiree Mays previewed her latest Opera Unveiled overview of the 2010 opera season.

In May, the Española Valley Guild led an activity introducing opera to the Española Valley Girl Scout Troop 85. The Youth Essay Contest was held again with over 30 entries on "Why I want to attend the Santa Fe Opera". Ten winners were selected and they and their parents received 5 Youth Night tickets to The Magic Flute. A new activity, “Top Hats and Tiaras,” was a big success, and plans are to continue this activity. The essay contest winners and girl scouts from Troop 85 were treated to a tailgate party before the performance of The Magic Flute. They each received a top hat or a tiara.

Santa Fe Opera apprentice baritone, Thomas Forde, delighted attendees at the annual membership party held in August at the home of Isabel and Marc Hudson. Kirt Pavitt of the Santa Fe Opera staff accompanied Forde.

Total membership: 2009/10: 809
Guilds’ contributions: $112,401