The Projects of Special Merit program gives support groups a way to celebrate a successful project, to share it with the opera volunteer community and receive recognition for an idea well conceived and executed.  OVI invites application for annual review of projects that were volunteer-created and -implemented in support of their opera companies.  Entries have described successful endeavors in a variety of areas including education, audience development, fundraising, membership, volunteer training and artist support services.  Accepted projects are honored and presented with an award certificate, invited to participate at an OVI Focus Meeting and/or Conference and often included in one or more OVI publications.

The deadline for application is February 1.  Click here for the Projects of Special Merit Application Form for 2019.

2018 Projects of Special Merit

“George R. Brown Convention Center Guides”

Houston Grand Opera Guild

This is a one season project created because the Houston Grand Opera was moved from its beautiful Wortham Theatre home due to damages from Hurricane Harvey. The theater spaces has been dubbed HGO Resilience Theatre.

In order to make a transition to a new performance site as worry free as possible for ticket holders, six guild members arrive an hour and a half prior to each performance to guide people through an alternative performance venue. The volunteers are positioned at strategic stations through the venue to instruct people in how to navigate the totally automated parking payment kiosk, meet people coming from the parking garage; instruct them on how to find the box office and their seats in the performance hall. Twenty volunteers in total work on this project designed to communicate with and to facilitate for ticket holders for seven productions with a total of 56 performances during this season.

“Development of the Senior Audience for Opera

Opera NOVA

The project goal of this organization of 25 volunteers is to expand the senior audience (55 and over) to include aesthetic concepts that deal with the nature of art, beauty, taste and the creation of beauty. Seniors are offered performing arts opportunities at affordable prices. To that end a narrated slightly condensed version of Cosi fan tutte was performed in 2015 to a packed house. Among the attendees were 51 seniors (11 in wheelchairs and one on a stretcher) from a nursing home. The rest of the audience was comprised of able bodied seniors from 55 to 95. Many of them had never seen an opera.

In 2016,we were unable to perform The Elixir of Love because of an issue with the county venue. In lieu of that, we performed several Senior Special Concerts throughout 2016-2017. In June of 2018, we have scheduled a slightly condensed version of La Cenerentola with narration for our senior population. We have learned that the venue must be handicapped accessible and functional for those with mobility issues.

Our plan is to continue to bring seniors into a theater where the lights go out and the curtain rises.

“Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild Trip Program”

Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild

This fundraising and recruitment activity of the guild is an ongoing project for the past 40 years. The guild trip committee plans four trips per year for guild members and others to experience opera in other cities, one trip usually out of country. This 140 member guild has a trip committee of five (and the guild president) who meet once a year in the spring after the opera seasons in other cities have been announced. The trips committee members bring 20-25 possibilities to the meeting which are narrowed down to four or five (usually one being foreign and the others domestic.) Each member of the trip committee becomes a trip leader for one of the four trips. The fifth member of the committee serves as treasurer. Each trip leader plans an exact itinerary and maps out the timeline and the expenses that include the cost of the leader’s trip. The final cost always includes a donation amount to the guild, typically $300 per traveler for a domestic tri and $500 per traveler for an international trip. The trip leader publishes and distributes a brochure five to six months prior to the trip. The trips typically need 12 or 13 participants to be viable.

The trip leader communicates with the participants regularly prior to the trip and coordinates the trip itself. At the conclusion of the trip the trip leader compiles the financials including guild profits for the trip and then sends the results to the trips treasurer for review and approval. Finally, the trip leader sends out charitable donation acknowledgement letters to the trip participants.

This is the primary fundraiser for the guild and usually garners between $25,000 and $30,00 annually for the guild.

“Getting to Know You”

Lyric Opera Of Chicago Chapters Executive Board

The goal of this project is to welcome newcomers to the opera house performance and make them feel comfortable by giving them pertinent information and answering questions.

One of the biggest challenges of every opera company in the world is attracting new attendees to replace their maturing audiences. The first hurdle is to get these newcomers into the theater. The second hurdle is having them feel that they belong.

“The First Five Minutes” is what the patrons experience from the moment they enter the front doors of the opera house.   Performing postseason musicals brings in patrons who have never been in the opera house before. The guild greeters pointed out to the guests various features of the opera house including the current exhibit downstairs. Volunteers showed patrons where they could have photo-ops, where their seats were located and where the restrooms were located.

It may seem a little thing, but there is no underestimating the value of a smile to make a stranger welcome and have them feel that they belong.

“Getting to Know You” has been so successful that we continued it in 2017 for the musical and look forward to doing again in 2018. The only cost for this guild program is the red greeter tags and one and a half hours of the volunteers’ time.

“The Art of Opera”

Erwin H. Johnson Memorial Fund, Inc., Buffalo, New York

“The Art of Opera” is an art exhibit, concert and lecture. It features 16 enlarged posters of historically accurate characters from beloved operas, whimsically drawn in manga (Japanese comic) style. Factual essays about each opera accompany the pieces, providing unique insights into the work featured.

One middle school was asked to participate in the exhibit. At school the students were shown an opera presentation and the students colored printed pages of the Manga & Mozart characters. These pages were later bound and featured in the exhibit at the local cultural center.

During the exhibit, the guest artist gives a brief lecture about the operas and characters featured. The artist answered questions the audience had, then sang pieces from the operas in the exhibit. Each piece was introduced so the audience could further connect with the music. A coloring book of the artwork, “Manga and Mozart” was published and made available for entertainment and education for all ages.

The book and exhibit were inspired as part of National Opera Week and were intended to be used as outreach for school and senior resident homes. As there is a lack of opera related coloring books that are historically accurate and educational, “Manga and Mozart” and “The Art of Opera” fill a unique niche.

“The Art of Opera” took four volunteers one year to plan and execute. The cost of creating the exhibit was $200 and the display was booked at the cultural center for two weeks but was extended to two months.  There are 6 volunteers and the project has been repeated 3 times and there are plans for future events.

“Puccini’s La Boheme

Muskoka Opera Festival Committee, Muskoka, Ontario

The goal of this One time project was to develop an opening night opera for the annual festival in 2017. A young man working on his Master’s degree in opera performance produced La Boheme on the opening night. He arranged a pianist, rehearsal space and time for the group to rehearse, organized surtitles for the theatre, and looked for the props, etc.   Our committee of 20 volunteers arranged for the location for the opera and organized advertising and funding for the opera presentation. The committee paid for a light and sound technician, organized volunteer theatre assistants, singers, musicians, and did the advertising. The cost of producing this opera was $15,631.39 and the funds raised for this opera were $17,443.15. The opera was an excellent production that was well attended . The need for this group of volunteers is a more extensive knowledge of marketing.  Opera Muskoka Festival celebrated its 8th season.

Click here to see past Projects of Special Merit awardees.



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