Agnes Varis Donates $250,000 to the Opera Orchestra of New York and Eve Queler

Agnes Varis Donates $250,000 to the Opera Orchestra of New York and Eve Queler

The Opera Orchestra of New York announced today that philanthropist Dr. Agnes Varis has generously donated $250,000 to the Orchestra, founded by Music Director Eve Queler forty years ago this season. Dr. Varis's donation was given in support of the company's opera-in-concert performance of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, to be conducted by Ms. Queler at Avery Fisher Hall on March 2, 2011. L'Africaine will be presented in honor of Richard Tucker, who performed the lead role in the opera during the company's premiere season; and dedicated to Dr. Varis's late husband Karl Leichtman.

"On behalf of the company, I want to express my enormous gratitude to Dr. Varis," said Board President Norman Raben. "Dr. Varis's recognition of the Opera Orchestra of New York's re-emergence and maturity is a significant milestone in Opera Orchestra's history. Her contribution to the Orchestra and Eve Queler is an important endorsement of our company and we are thrilled to have her support."

Ms. Queler added, "I am honored and thankful to receive Dr. Varis's spontaneous and generous gift in the name of her husband, Karl Leichtman. Mr. Leichtman was a great music lover and I am deeply moved to learn that he was an admirer of my concerts. It gives me great happiness to know that my beloved music has touched people in such a way."

Dr. Varis said, "Karl and I greatly admired Eve Queler's concerts of eclectic music and early choice of opera artists who later became our greatest opera stars and performed at our finest opera houses. Eve Queler's dedication of the March 2nd performance of L'Africaine to Karl is a singular honor for Karl and touches my heart."

Dr. Varis serves as the founder and President of Agvar Chemicals and Modavar Pharmaceuticals. She is actively involved in the arts community and has underwritten programs at the Metropolitan Opera including a rush tickets orchestra-seat program, a senior citizen orchestra multi-seat program, and a children's program. She donated the Agnes Varis Performance Stage to Jazz at Lincoln Center, and sponsors the Jazz Foundation of America's national educational children's Jazz In School Program, which employs elderly jazz musicians. Dr. Varis was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

The Opera Orchestra of New York's 40th anniversary season presentation of L'Africaine stars tenor Marcello Giordani, in his sixth performance with the company, and Italian soprano Chiara Taigi in her U.S. debut. The Opera Orchestra of New York last performed an Italian-language version of the opera, L'Africana, during the company's premiere season with Richard Tucker starring in the role of Vasco da Gama and Antonietta Stella as Selika. This season's revival is also dedicated to Mr. Tucker and that first historic performance. L'Africaine will be conducted by Eve Queler at Avery Fisher Hall on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

The Opera Orchestra of New York
The Opera Orchestra of New York, founded by Eve Queler in 1971, has presented more than 100 operas in concert at Carnegie Hall, many of which were rarely performed, bringing them to the attention of the American public and introducing them to the standard repertoire. These pioneering efforts have led national opera companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric and Houston Grand Opera to add to their permanent repertoires works that received their first major modern hearing by The Opera Orchestra of New York. Since 1978 Opera Orchestra's Young Artists Program has identified and fostered young operatic talent. It is the only program in the New York metropolitan area that provides young singers with an opportunity to rehearse and perform with full orchestra and chorus. The program has nurtured the talents of Renée Fleming, Aprile Millo, Stephanie Blythe, Vivica Genaux, Deborah Voigt, Latonia Moore, Stephen Costello, Michael Fabiano, Bryan Hymel and Eglise Gutiérrez, among others.