I came to opera way too late, and lucky for me Opera San Jose is there for me as I try to make up for lost time. OSJ's performances and production values seem to surprise everybody, but they really should not: OSJ's deep commitment to excellence is evident to anyone who has seen even one production. Also apparent is OSJ's commitment to developing tomorrow's opera talent by providing the young singers a stable environment to learn and grow.
OSJ's attention to careful budgeting is legendary, and is especially clear to those of us who have done volunteer tasks for OSJ. Dollars donated to OSJ are dollars well-spent.
Opera San Jose is a marvelous company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Frequently I find its productions to be superior to those of much larger opera companies. I became so enthusiastic that I published a book about the company and its founder, opera star mezzo-soprano Irene Dalis. Currently I'm president of the Friends of Opera San Jose, guiding the 60+ members in volunteering for the company in a variety of roles. Many of our audience members have been attending OSJ productions for 25 to 30 years. I'm proud to be part of it and to devote many hours to attracting new audiences.
[Video courtesy of Fred and Peggy Heiman and Globe Video Productions]
Opera San Jose is truly unique. Its singers are hired by the year (contracts are renewable for up to four years), not by the production, and they become members of the community. We audience members get to watch them perform a variety of roles, and to enjoy their growing excellence year after year.
The productions are superior. I am not the only one who has said that OSJ's productions are sometimes preferable to those offered by nearby San Francisco Opera, which is a world-class company with a much larger budget and audience base.
MANY singers who have gone through the OSJ program have gone on to have long and successful opera careers -- and WE are the ones who get to hear them first!
Performances are given in the California Theatre in downtown San Jose. This is a stunningly renovated 1927 movie palace, a true work of art in itself, which creates a magical mood the minute you walk through the doors.
I know for a fact that OSJ manages its budget with stringent self-control, so that donations are carefully managed. If you love opera, music, and theatre, you cannot do better than to invest your gift dollars in Opera San Jose.
As a volunteer, I'll tell you right now that Opera San Jose feels like one big family. When I met one of the company's key executives a couple of years ago on a summer opera tour, I was very impressed and a few months later I became a volunteer. When I offered to work in any capacity that would help the company, and since the company hadn't had a volunteer auxiliary for twenty plus years, I was asked to start an auxiliary group.
Now we have an official volunteer auxiliary whose name is FRIENDS OF OPERA SAN JOSE. We have over sixty members! We are looking for more because we'll be putting on exciting large events and hope for enough volunteers so no one feels burdened and so each volunteer feels she or he has just the right amount of interesting work!
Not only do we work together, but we play together, too. And, as we work, depending on what we do, we get to know the opera singers, conductors, stage directors, production people, costume and scenery designers, and makeup artists, plus company management and members of the board.
As an example of how we play together, recently all members were invited to a birthday party for our founder, former Metropolitan Opera star Irene Dalis. We got to eat cheese and fruit and birthday cake, to drink our choice of wine and soft drinks and champagne, to hear her tell us stories of her Met career and the founding of Opera San Jose. At this party, we got to chat personally with her and the company's general director ("CEO.") We have several social events and cultural outings every year to play together as well as to work!
Opera San Jose's volunteer organization has jobs big and small. A volunteer doesn't have to be overwhelmed. We work in various aspects of producing operas (sometimes on the stage), and work in fundraising and audience development. All our work is so much fun because the company loves its volunteers and we love the company and each other!
I am a volunteer, donor, and ex-officio member of Opera San Jose's board of trustees. You may think I'm biased because of these jobs I do, but I want to let you know that I'm doing those jobs because of the family feeling and camaraderie this opera company exudes. I am a recent widow who misses her husband terribly. Working as a volunteer for Opera San Jose has helped me come to terms with my grief.
Because of the many opportunities I've been given to use my talents and the many kind, sociable, and interesting people I've met, I can honestly say that Opera San Jose and Friends of Opera San Jose has given me a platform on which to rebuild my life!