There are many stars of the opera stage, but there are also countless unsung (or, non-singing?) heroes who work behind the scenes to make the performance onstage possible. We recently sat down to chat with Judy Anderson, one of our star volunteers about her lifelong love of opera, her involvement with the Florentine and her desire to dine with Verdi. Judy often helps with our large mailings and administrative projects, and she helps pass the time we spend stuffing envelopes by sharing her opera stories and tales of her travels around the world with us. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity for our blog readers to join in the fun!
What is your very favorite Opera?
I have so many favorites that I cannot choose just one. The closest I can come is to a favorite four, though even these can change depending what I have just heard. Those four are: Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammeroor, and Bellini’s I Puritani.
This is even harder to answer – in fact, I simply can’t. I love a good melody. And I love to hear a gorgeous voice glide through the complex paths that a great composer has imagined.
If you could have dinner with any composer, who would you choose and why?
Verdi. I would like to talk about how he expressed his patriotism in his magnificent choruses and arias.
How long have you been attending the Florentine Opera Company productions?
Since 1996 when I decided to move to Milwaukee, although I had a season ticket the year before I actually moved here.
Do any particular Florentine productions stand out for you as favorites? Why?
Last season’s rendition of Handel’s Semele and Floyd’s Of Mice and Men (2003). I was unfamiliar with these operas before seeing them here. It is a joy to attend productions that are well produced and directed and beautiful to hear. I thought that the story of Of Mice and Men was enhanced by being set to music.
How did you discover your great love of opera?
I was introduced to opera in a music class in grade school. Our class was taken to a student performance of Carmen, and I fell in love at “first sound.”
What are some of the most memorable operas you’ve attended on your travels throughout the world?
When I was 16 years old, I attended Aida at the Baths of Caraculla outside of Rome. It was fantastic. They had elephants, horses and thousands of people in magnificent costumes during a VERY long triumphal march – quite splendid.
Also, when I was in my 20s, I attended Verdi’s I Masnadiere in Florence. It was the first time I had heard Italian audiences interacting with the singers on stage – what an experience! There was yelling after and even during the arias of the singers that they loved or hated. There were many boos during the production when they didn’t like something or were angry at something the singer did. It was wonderful chaos.
I was in Switzerland during the 200th anniversary of William Tell’s birth. By chance, I attended a production of Rossini’s William Tell. It was being presented outside on a hilltop and because the production is so long, there was a table set up behind the folding seats with food and drink. The performers and audience all wandered up to get things during intermission and while the performance went on. It was glorious scenery, delicious food and wonderful music.
What would you like the Florentine Opera to present in the future?
Well, since you asked: Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Delieb’s Lakme, Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites, Flotow’s Martha, Britten’s Billy Budd, Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke, Paulus’ The Woman at Otowi Crossing, Menotti’s The Consul. Some of Verdi’s early operas.
What motivates you to volunteer your time at the Florentine?
I love to be around things pertaining to the opera, especially in the production. I enjoy the people who make opera happen. But most of all, I want to offer my help in any way possible to make the glorious sounds continue.
I am enjoying my volunteering very much. I have learned so much and have so much more to learn about how an opera company works and what are the priorities during different phases of the year.