Toledo Opera

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The Toledo Opera is an American opera company based in Toledo, Ohio. Founded in 1959, the company's first General Director was Lester Freedman with conductor Joseph Hawthorne of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra serving as Music Director.[1] In 1960, Freedman founded the Dayton Opera and for many years he led the two organizations simultaneously - an arrangement which cut down on production costs for both companies.[2] In 1983 Freedman was forced out of his position by the Toledo Opera Board after several years of financial problems and in-fighting among the company's leadership. Several interim directors kept the company going over the next three years, including David Bamberger[3] and Johan van der Merwe.[4]

In 1986, conductor James Meena became the company's new permanent director.[4] In 1994, Toledo philanthropists Theodore and Lucille Gorski created a major financial boon for the company through a one million dollar challenge grant which enabled it to establish an endowment.[5] That same year the company played a major role in supporting the renovation of the historic Valentine Theatre in Toledo; a decision which saved the theatre from demolition.[6] The renovations of the theater took several years, and Toledo Opera could not move into its new permanent home until 1999. The company had the honor of opening the newly renovated theater for Toledo Opera's 40th Season gala night on October 22, 1999, with a production of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, featuring Diana Soviero in the title role.[7]

In 2000 Renay Conlin succeeded Meena as the director of Toledo Opera after he left to become director of Opera Carolina.[8] Her husband, Thomas Conlin, is a Grammy Award winning conductor who conducted several operas for Toledo Opera during his wife's tenure.[9][10] Their daughter, mezzo-soprano Vanessa Conlin, has also performed several roles with the company. During her tenure, the company premiered many twentieth century operas including The Turn of the Screw, Susannah, Candide, The Crucible, Sweeney Todd, The Rake's Progress and The Rape of Lucretia, along with standard repertoire. David Shengold of Opera, said that "Toledo's proudest legacy of its glory days of glass and automobile manufacturing is its astonishing Museum of Art, free to all and with a collection to make strong curators week. But operatically-minded visitors should not overlook the worthy Toledo Opera, housed in the impressive yet intimate Valentine Theatre, a beautiful 900-seat house built in 1895, remodeled in full art deco style in 1942, and restored between 1978 and 1999.[11] As general director since 2000, Renay Conlin has promulgated high standards and valiantly performed 20th-century repertory,...". Charles Parsons of American Record Guide said of Toledo Opera's production of The Rake's Progress that "Under the dynamic leadership of General and Artistic Director Renay Conlin, Toledo Opera has entered a brave new world. Now the name of the game is quality."[12] Opera's September 2009 review of the company stated "In its current incarnation in the intimate late Victorian Valentine Theatre, it owes its place among North America's finest smaller companies to the high artistic standards and casting shrewdness of the Intendant Renay Conlin.""Vanessa Conlin, Curt Pajer". The New York Times. August 27, 2006.</ref>[13]

During Conlin's tenure the company premiered many 20th-century operas including The Turn of the Screw, Susannah, Candide, The Crucible, Sweeney Todd, The Rake's Progress, Ariadne auf Naxos and The Rape of Lucretia, along with standard repertory. David Shengold in the February 2006 issue of Opera, said that "Toledo's proudest legacy of its glory days of glass and automobile manufacturing is its astonishing Museum of Art, free to all and with a collection to make strong curators weak. But operatically-minded visitors should not overlook the worthy Toledo Opera, housed in the impressive yet intimate Valentine Theatre, a beautiful 900-seat house built in 1895.[14] As general director since 2000, Renay Conlin has promulgated high standards and valiantly performed 20th-century repertory....". Charles Parsons in American Record Guide, said of Toledo Opera's production of The Rake's Progress that "Under the dynamic leadership of General and Artistic Director Renay Conlin, Toledo Opera has entered a brave new world. Now the name of the game is quality.[15] A September 2009 Opera review states that Toledo Opera "owes its place among North America's finest smaller companies to the high artistic standards and casting shrewdness of the Intendant, Renay Conlin."

In 2005, Conlin launched a capital campaign to increase the endowment and was able to raise $2 million. Ms. Conlin was also able to secure the company's first NEA grant.

In March 2011, Conlin resigned from Toledo Opera to take a position as CEO of the Napa Valley Museum in California.[16] Her departure followed the resignation of some members of the Toledo Opera board's financial committee who were working on behalf of the Valentine Theatre to take over the Opera. They alleged that the company had "serious problems with cash-flow shortages" and had "earned a reputation in the community for not paying its bills.".[17] The Toledo Opera board rallied against this group and demanded their resignation.

The board of directors appointed a former development director, Suzanne Rorick, as Toledo Opera's new Executive Director. Under Rorick's leadership, the company has focused on fundraising and has undergone an artistic re-organization that saw the return of several former Toledo Opera colleagues, including James Meena, who currently serves as guest conductor and artistic adviser.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ White, Prudy (May 5, 1968). "Toledo Opera Success Story Leads To First Fund Drive". The Blade. Toledo.
  2. ^ Ferguson, William (April 17, 1981). "Toledo's Mr. Opera In 2-city Deficits Row". The Blade.
  3. ^ "Halt To Poorhouse: Toledo Opera Group Introduces Referrals", The Blade, May 7, 1984
  4. ^ a b "Meena Gets Toledo Opera Post". The Pittsburgh Press. June 16, 1986.
  5. ^ Conrad, Willa J. (September 17, 1994). "Grant hits a welcome high note". The Blade. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  6. ^ Hallett, Joe (April 6, 1994). "Theatre Funding Released By State: Valentine work can move ahead". The Blade.
  7. ^ "Opera Revives Beloved Valentine". The Blade. October 23, 1999.
  8. ^ Cornelius, Steven (July 20, 2000). "Director For Opera Named: Renay Conlin Was Cultural Commissioner Of West Virginia". The Blade.
  9. ^ Oland, Dana (November 9, 2001). "Grammy-winning conductor chooses Opera Idaho". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved March 18, 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  10. ^ "Toledo Opera: Mozart Cosi Fan Tutte". American Record Guide. July 1, 2003.
  11. ^ Shengold, David (February 2006). "Toledo Opera". Opera. 57 (2).
  12. ^ "Review: The Rake's Progress". American Record Guide. 74 (2). March–April 2011.
  13. ^ "Toledo Opera: Ward The Crucible.", American Record Guide, September 1, 2004
  14. ^ Shengold, David (February 2006). "Toledo Opera". Opera. 57 (2).
  15. ^ "Review: Rake's Progress". American Record Guide. 64 (2). March–April 2011.
  16. ^ Lockwood, Rod; Vallongo, Sally (March 1, 2011). "General director of Toledo Opera to take post in Napa Valley". The Blade.
  17. ^ Lockwood, Rod; Vallongo, Sally (March 5, 2011). "Conlin's sudden resignation latest twist in opera turmoil". The Blade.
  18. ^ Vallongo, Sally (June 19, 2011). "Toledo Opera, Act II: 'Scrappy little team' starts moving company forward". The Blade.

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