For Immediate Release
Contact: Patricia Kiernan Johnson; PKJohnson@operaamerica.org
www.operaamerica.org


January 8, 2008

OPERA AMERICA CREATES NEW HONORS INITIATIVE: NATIONAL OPERA TRUSTEE RECOGNITION PROGRAM

New York, NY -- OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, in partnership with U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, announces the 2008 Recipients of the National Opera Trustee Recognition Award to recognize opera company board members for their exemplary leadership, support and audience building efforts on behalf of their respective opera companies and the communities they serve.

The honorees are Ms. Betty W. Healey, Opera Birmingham; Ms. Sally S. Levy, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; Ms. Jane A. Robinson, Florida Grand Opera; and Mr. G. Whitney Smith, Fort Worth Opera.

OPERA America’s commitment to recognizing excellence in governance stems from a core belief that the strength of an opera company is directly linked to the quality of governance demonstrated by its board members. Through this new annual Program, the service of extraordinary trustees whose efforts help to ensure the health of opera companies and the art form’s availability for future generations are acknowledged and celebrated.

By highlighting the accomplishments of individual board members nationally, the annual National Opera Trustee Recognition Program assists in strengthening the relationships between opera companies and their trustees, highlights the tenets of good governance and celebrates models of trustee and volunteer excellence.

“Since trustees play a critical role in developing their local opera company as a cultural pillar in their community, it is fitting that we join OPERA America to honor ‘the best of the best,’” said Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa, president, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. “As a leading national sponsor of arts and culture programs that bolster and enrich the communities in which we live and work, we are pleased to sponsor this noble initiative.”

“Trust is an essential element in any relationship,” stated Marc A. Scorca, President & CEO of OPERA America. “Board members of opera companies hold the institution in trust for the community and establish credibility for the organization. We are delighted to be joined by U. S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management in presenting this award to recognize the significant role that board members play in the ongoing success and viability of opera.”

All trustees of OPERA America member companies are eligible to be nominated for the honor; companies submit only one nomination. An adjudication committee oversees the selection process choosing one honoree from each of four different budget levels. Those selected are saluted at an award dinner attended by fellow opera company trustees, board members of OPERA America, U.S. Trust/Bank of America leadership and performing artists. The inaugural Program event, including a reception, dinner, award presentation and brief recital will take place in New York City on January 26, 2008.

Each of the 2008 honorees represents a significant range of accomplishments and a deep commitment and generosity to promoting opera in their community. The following profiles illustrate a small percentage that all recipients have done for their respective opera companies.

In 1998, when Opera Birmingham was poised for the growth necessary to long-term stability, and the need for a professional arts administrator to serve as general director was recognized, Betty W. Healey stepped forward and challenged a friend to join her in funding the first year’s salary and benefits. With a general director in place, the company’s community profile soared, leading to increased ticket sales and contributed income. With more than thirty year’s involvement with the company, including underwriting an entire production each year since 1998, Ms. Healey is Opera Birmingham’s single most generous donor. Without her support, “there would not be a professional opera company in Birmingham today,” says John D. Jones, General Director.

Sally S. Levy has been an integral member of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis since the company’s founding in 1976. Ms. Levy’s vision and generosity have taken OTSL to a new level of professional development and artistic excellence. Her leadership gift for OTSL’s Building for Opera campaign launched the effort to build a new 25,000 square-foot facility to consolidate the company’s administrative, rehearsal and community outreach activities. The Sally S. Levy Opera Center opened in April 2006 and now serves as a model for other companies.

President of the Board of Directors of Florida Grand Opera for the past four years, Jane A. Robinson has devoted her efforts to strengthening the company’s board leadership amidst the challenging competition in Miami’s fast growing cultural climate. Under her leadership, the Opera celebrated its 65th Anniversary Season, followed by the Triumphal Weekend of events in October, 2006 when it launched its 66th Season at the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts – beginning a new performance era for the Company in the superb 2,400-seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House

Mr. G. Whitney Smith has served Fort Worth Opera in many leadership capacities since 1998, and is currently chair of the company’s strategic planning committee. During a period of extreme financial strain and low morale at the company, Mr. Smith assumed the presidency of the company’s board, streamlining the Executive Committee, reinvigorating the Board membership, and cultivating relationships with major foundations and corporations. Mr. Smith’s leadership and vision played a crucial role in bringing Fort Worth Opera from the brink of financial ruin to the highly-regarded regional opera company it is today.

Guidelines for the 2009 National Opera Trustee Recognition Program and invitation to participate will be mailed to all professional company members in June 2008.

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ABOUT OPERA AMERICA

OPERA America leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera.

  • Artistic services help opera companies and creative and performing artists to improve the quality of productions and increase the creation and presentation of North American works.
  • Information, technical, and administrative services to opera companies reflect the need for strengthened leadership among staff, trustees and volunteers.
  • Education, audience development and community services are designed to enhance all forms of opera appreciation.

Founded in 1970, OPERA America’s worldwide membership network includes nearly 200 Company Members, 300 Associate and Business Members, 2,000 Individual Members and more than 16,000 subscribers to the association’s electronic news service. In 2005, OPERA America relocated from Washington, D.C. to New York as the first step in creating the first-ever National Opera Center. With a wide range of artistic and administrative services in a purpose-built facility, the Opera Center is dedicated to increasing the level of excellence, creativity and effectiveness across the field.

OPERA America’s long tradition of supporting and nurturing the creation and development of new works led to the formation of The Opera Fund, a growing endowment which allows OPERA America to make a direct impact on the ongoing creation and presentation of new opera and music-theater works. Since its inception, OPERA America has made grants of nearly $11 million to assist companies with the expenses associated with the creation and development of new works.