The following narrative was written by Gloria Dunbar, a long time teacher at the Opera Omaha Guild’s Cotillion.
From an article in a magazine regarding Cotillion classes of dance and etiquette in San Diego, Mary Ann Strasheim, a member of the Opera Omaha Guild board had the interest and the vision to learn more about it for an Opera Omaha activity. She contracted Mr. Benjamin, founder of the classes there. Then she had a meeting at her home of a newly formed committee for it and reported on her information.
In the fall of 1985, 6th, 7th and 8th graders of the Omaha schools were sent invitations with approximately 100 responding and a meeting at the then Red Lion Hotel for instruction by Mr. Benjamin and his son Peter. The beginning of learning dancing and social graces had begun!
One distinction for the Omaha Cotillion was the innovation of formal dinners to be taught for table manners and other etiquette. Knowing Gloria Dunbar was a teacher of etiquette and especially formal dining, she was asked about teaching dining manners for a four course formal dinner to the young people. She agreed it would be a great interesting idea! The addition to the classes has each young person having a formal dinner reservation planned and arranged for them once during the six week sessions.
In 1978, John Young was appointed as the instructor to take the place of Mr. Benjamin. He was an elementary school teacher with a great deal of experience teaching. He focused on ballroom dancing and the art of conversation and communicating. Since his appointment, Young’s wife, Sarah, has been the liaison of the Cotillion to the Opera Guild Board and has been helping with advising each succeeding Chairman and Committee members as well as attending all events. Each year the Cotillion Chairman and Committee members have done a masterful job of handling invitations, registrations, choice of classes, dinner reservations, comings and goings, the graduation dinner dance and a myriad of details. They are to be congratulated for the superb growth throughout the years.
With the continued growth Kent Day, also an excellent teacher, was added as a dance class instructor. This enabled two classes to be taught at once. Also the age of the attendees had now been limited to sixth graders only. In the 90’s reservations grew to 200 or more. In 2006 the attendance was 340.
Gloria Dunbar continued with one dinner each week until two dinners were needed. These were taught one after another. From 1993, she had an assistant. Her granddaughter, Heather, had been a graduate in the first Cotillion class in 1985. It was a good choice for her to assist as with her background of UNL graduate with a major in French, and living a semester in France it was great fun and meaningful with her speaking of French phrases used during dining. The formal dinner presented to the young people is 4 courses each lasting 15 minutes. The first course is fruit cocktail followed by an entrée then a salad and finished with a scrumptious dessert. Each young person has a place card for seating it begins with the young gentlemen learning to seat the young ladies. From there use of napkins, silverware, plate placement, glasses, and passing food and condiments are all subjects taught during dinner.
Melinda Merth, a teacher who has assisted Gloria during the summer classes of “White Gloves and Party Manners” at the Durham western Heritage Museum joined her as her assistant. During these 21 years the Cotillion has been held at the Red Lion Hotel, the Omaha Club, the UNO Thompson Alumni Center, and now the Omaha Marriott – Regency. Many acquaintances are renewed and many friends are made in the 6 weeks of the Cotillion Classes with the theme of “Manners do Matter”.
Reservations are now being taken for the 2011 Fall Cotillion.
For more information or to receive an invitation please send an email to email@example.com with the following information:
When I tell my 20-something friends that I work at the Opera, I receive looks of total and utter confusion. First, they think I have mispronounced a word or am speaking in tongues regarding the industry I work in. To combat this, I usually provide an obnoxious audible pitch with gaudy vibrato to clarify. The majority of my friends don’t realize that opera is still a living art form, let alone a living art form in Omaha, NE. And I can’t lie, it has been a challenge to recruit even my closest friends to give opera a chance. But the thing is, they already like opera! You already like opera! If I were to tell you that there is opera in Twilight’s New Moon soundtrack, would you believe me?
The band Muse is blowing up the world with their catchy, indie rock. Yes, same lead singer that is expecting a baby with Kate Hudson. Muse is credited with their creative and glorious instrumentation of typical rock instruments coupled with traditional symphonic instruments. Can anyone say rocking bass clarinet solo? If you are familiar with Muse’s “I Belong to You”, shamefully featured in Twilight’s New Moon soundtrack, you know the cute part of the song where Matt Bellamy starts singing in French. Been there, sung that. You are listening to opera. And a pretty famous opera at that. “I Belong to You” quotes the melody of the aria “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila. This aria is featured in the second act, when Dalila cleverly attempts to butter up Samson into divulging the secret of his strength. And no, I don’t think Matt is trying to butter Kate Hudson up, but maybe. In “I Belong to You”, Matt chose to quote the last two lines of the aria, “Ah! Respond to my tenderness! Fill me with ecstasy!”, which is so Muse of him. Add a walking bass line, several “just kidding, it’s not the end of the song” moments, and karaoke worthy lyrics such as “She attacks me like a leo”, and you have a song even Mozart would be tapping his toe to.
There are moments in the song when you can almost feel Matt Bellamy’s voice on your cheek, and that’s a lot like the feeling of an opera. You feel the vibrato of the tenor’s voice in your chest, only it’s not due to being too close to the speakers. CDs and youtube videos don’t do opera justice. It’s real, live, unforgivable singing about the men that betrayed you and the ones that got away. Muse proves that classical music is just as relevant and fantastic in 2011 as it was in the 1700’s. I can no longer believe your “opera hating” tomfooleries. Muse rocks opera with the help of sound equipment, Opera Omaha rocks opera without microphones. Do the math.
Great Singers. Great Stories. Great Ways to Experience Them.
Our lives are filled with great moments. Let the joy of Opera be another. Join us this season as we experience a collection of favorite opera songs from the past 400 years, an unforgettable modern adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, a delightful evening of Venetian romance, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s forever-contemporary blend of wit, comedy and musical composition.
This is Opera!
See It! Hear It! Love It!
A Great Collection of Opera Favorites.
Saturday, October 15, 7:30pm
Hansel & Gretel
by Engelbert Humperdinck
A Great Show for Great Kids.
Friday, November 11, 7:30pm
Saturday, November 12, 1:00pm & 3:00pm
Sunday, November 13, 1:00pm & 3:00pm
The Rose Theatre
The Marriage Contract
by Gioacchino Rossini
Experience a Great Romantic Evening in Venice.
Friday, February 17, 7:30pm
Saturday, February 18, 7:30pm
Sunday, February 19, 2:00pm
The Jewel Box Theater at the Scottish Rite Center
by Gilbert & Sullivan
A Great Opera of Comic Opera
Friday, April 13, 7:30pm
Sunday, April 15, 2:00pm
Four Great Operas. One Great Price.
All 4 Shows for as low as $71
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