It should come as no surprise that Opera Omaha is supported in part by the community and in part by a particular subset of the community that has invested in the connoisseurship of opera called the Opera Omaha Guild. I’ve met members at various events and engagement opportunities over the last few months, but there were many new faces at the cheerful gathering of Opera Omaha Guild’s Annual Victorian Tea in the home of Melissa Marvin. Within the bright yellow walls, members, friends, and family came together for reasons that we can all relate to: the consumption both of food and of beautiful art. I counted myself lucky to not only better familiarize myself with appreciators of arts in the community, but also sample a delicious spread of snacks and drinks. My only regret is that in the throng of over sixty guests and a flood of introductions, I completely forgot to sample the tea.
My first distraction came as guild members and other guests were quick to take me under their wing, asking about my work, talking about shared travels and love of architecture, suggestions of people in the community to connect with, and singing praises of employees of Opera Omaha with whom they’d developed strong relationships. This party made it clear to me that bonds forged over years and shared experiences, such as attending lectures by arts leaders and those in operatic production, sharing drinks after mainstage performances, or supporting Opera Omaha’s Holland Community Opera Fellows by listening to them on numerous Sundays at Bagels & Bach, have not only kept the Opera community alive in Omaha, but have also made gatherings such as the Victorian tea a real joy.
My second distraction came with the holiday inspired performance by Holland Community Opera Fellow Chabrelle Williams. She’d already entertained us with her charisma by talking to a circle of guild members over plates of hot dish about her start as a soprano; guild members were extremely congratulatory on Chabrelle’s recent success at her recent Metropolitan Opera National Council District audition. While she was called away to get ready, we all gathered upstairs and snuck our last cupcakes. Chabrelle and Opera Omaha’s Head of Music, Sean Kelly, settled in the corner of the entry-way by the door and regaled us with a set that was short and sweet; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, The Christmas Song by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé, and Gesù Bambino by Pietro Yon. I’m not the biggest fan of holiday music, but even I, a grinch in my own right, found myself wanting more. In the intimate setting Chabrelle was projecting around corners and through walls; in spite of this, no on looked anything but enthralled and at peace.
Omaha is a city with long lasting and deep community rooted in a shared passion for music. One might imagine that the members of the “Guild” are a shadowy organization of elites perched in tall box seats with a lips curled beneath their theater binoculars, but that’s far from the truth. They’re a group of people who go out of their way to make merry and appreciate talented artists, musicians, and members of the artistic community. They also want to learn more about the lives of those artists and greet them as people. Many guild members have been together for years, and their mutual love of opera has fostered friendships and opportunities for exploration. They are curious, gracious, and grateful, and they have great reason to be, as performers like Chabrelle are exactly the sort of spirit we should be celebrating year round.
By Lillian Snortland
Opera Omaha Weitz Fellow