The Opera Orchestra of New York has announced that it has received a $250,000 donation from Dr. Agnes Varis, a New York based philanthropist who has also given generously to the Metropolitan Opera.
The money will be used to finance the OONY's upcoming concert performance of L'Africaine. Company director Eve Queler is hoping that the March 2 performance will jump-start a revival for the troubled Opera Orchestra, which has gone dark for the past few seasons due to a lack of financial support. The performance will be given in honor of Dr. Varis' late husband, Karl Leichtmann.
Written in 1865, L'Africaine is the final opera written by Giacomo Meyerbeer. He died before its premiere. It is an account of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and his unsuccessful (and entirely fictional) relationship with an African princess Selika. A true example of Parisian grand opera, it requires every resource of an opera company's scenery department (the shipwreck scene alone is a director's nightmare) and a huge orchestra and chorus.
The concert will also mark the OONY's 40th anniversary. L'Africaine was first performed in New York in 1865. Due to its vast requirements, the work has been heard infrequently since. It was last performed in New York as L'Africana with tenor Richard Tucker as da Gama during the OONY's initial season in 1971.
This concert performance is scheduled for March 2, 2011 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Veteran tenor Marcello Giordani, a regular at the Metropolitan Opera, will sing Vasco da Gama. Soprano Chiara Tagi makes her U.S. debut in the role of Selika.