CHICAGO – OPERATHON 2014, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual live-radio marathon fundraiser on 98.7WFMT, celebrated its 35th anniversary by raising more than $550,000 (gross) during its 16-hour broadcast on Saturday, October 11.
All proceeds support community engagement and education programs of Lyric Unlimited, serving more than 111,000 children, adults, and seniors in the Chicago area each year. These include newly commissioned works to be performed in community venues; Opera in the Neighborhoods, Performances for Students and Student Backstage Tours at the Civic Opera House; the Vocal Partnership Program, an annual Family Performance, Community Lectures, Pre-Opera Talks, Youth Opera Council, Lyric Uncorked; collaborations with a variety of cultural and community organizations; the Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park annual free concert, the annual Senior Matinee, and more.
“We are deeply grateful to our friends at WFMT for making OPERATHON possible for three-and-a-half decades,” said Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “It is an outstanding collaboration.
“The success of this event is integral to achieving our 2014-15 annual fundraising goal of $25.4 million,” Freud continued. “We are extremely grateful to all of our generous supporters who made pledges at all levels, and we deeply appreciate the hard work of the legions of volunteers and Lyric staff members who answered phones and assisted in many other ways behind the scenes. We are very proud of the support shown by the entire extended Lyric Opera family for our outstanding education and community engagement programs, which are part of our Lyric Unlimited initiative.”
OPERATHON 2014, sponsored by Ardmore Associates and Walgreens, went on the air at 8:00am and concluded at midnight, broadcasting from The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Civic Opera House.
The 16-hour event was anchored by 98.7WFMT’s David Polk, Peter Van de Graaff, Suzanne Nance, and Candice Agree, and by Lyric’s dramaturg Roger Pines, who also selected all the musical excerpts heard throughout the day and night. Steve Robinson, general manager of 98.7WFMT and The WFMT Radio Network, orchestrated activities behind the scenes. WFMT’s engineers for the 16-hour broadcast were Don Mueller and Eric Arunas.
OPERATHON 2014 exceeded its $500,000 goal thanks to numerous challenge grants offered by individuals, foundations, corporations, various Lyric Opera Chapters; exceptional participation by the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago Overture Society, Richard P. and Susan Kiphart, Dr. and Mrs. Tapas Das Gupta, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marjan, Allan and Elaine Muchin, Julie and Roger Baskes, Sir Andrew Davis and Gianna Rolandi, and an Anonymous Donor; donations, purchases, and pledges from listeners. Generous sponsors of merchandise for OPERATHON 2014 were Fellowes, Inc., and Sidley Austin LLP.
Flights to Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were auctioned on the air, courtesy of American Airlines, Lyric’s official airline.
Lyric’s general director, Anthony Freud, was in the radio studio for most of the 16-hour marathon fundraiser. Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, talked about the programs being supported by OPERATHON 2014. Several Lyric stars made on-air appearances throughout the fundraiser, including Renée Fleming, Lyric’s creative consultant and star of Capriccio; Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s music director and conductor of Don Giovanni, Capriccio, Tannhäuser, and The Passenger this season; composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis, who will perform with Fleming during the 60th Anniversary Concert Nov. 1; Don Giovanni director Robert Falls and stars Mariusz Kwiecień, Ana María Martínez, Kyle Ketelsen, Andriana Chuchman, Antonio Poli, and Michael Sumuel; Capriccio stars Anne Sofie von Otter, Bo Skovhus, William Burden, and Audun Iversen; Il trovatore stars Amber Wagner, Stephanie Blythe, Quinn Kelsey, and conductor Asher Fisch; Porgy and Bess stars Eric Owens, Adina Aaron, and conductor Ward Stare; and Amanda Majeski, starring in The Passenger. The Deputy Consul General of Poland, Robert Rusiecki, made an on-air appearance to talk about support in the Polish community for The Passenger and The Property, both set in Poland and relating to the Holocaust.
Also participating in the broadcast were Lyric Board president and CEO Kenneth G. Pigott and Lyric Board member Cherryl T. Thomas, president & CEO of Admore Associates; chorus master Michael Black; members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus; and ensemble members of the Ryan Opera Center, among others.
OPERATHON 2014 coincided with the 12-millionth ticket for a Lyric performance coming through the turnstile at the Civic Opera House. The lucky 12-millionth ticket holder is Larry Christensen, who with his partner Dan Ford has been a Lyric subscriber since the early 1990s. The happily surprised gentlemen were presented with a certificate for a lifetime Lyric subscription for two (and complimentary champagne) while onlookers cheered. They were then brought into the OPERATHON 2014 studio in the Pedersen Room for an impromptu interview before heading into the theater to enjoy the evening’s performance of Don Giovanni.
Lyric used social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to engage audiences in OPERATHON. Lyric Opera tweeted all day and encouraged others to do so with #OPERATHON. To view photos from Saturday’s radio fundraiser check out Lyric’s Facebook page.
OPERATHON 2014 was hosted by Lyric Opera and its 15 Chapters. Mary Houston (Near North Chapter) and Jonathan Eklund (Lake Geneva) served as the co-chairs.
Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.
Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.
Under the leadership of general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become the great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility. For more information, visit LyricOpera.org.
About Lyric Unlimited
Launched in 2012, Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric’s mainstage season. It has been established to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera, exploring ways in which opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully and in a range of different ways with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. Lyric Unlimited leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric.
In the 2013-14 season, more than 111,000 children, students, and adults participated in Lyric Unlimited activities. For more information, visit LyricOpera.org/LyricUnlimited.