Opera Continues to Look Sharp

Worthington Family Foundation helps MSU Opera dress for success.

Soprano Schyler Sheltrown, as Pamina, in Mozart's The Magic Flute, fall 2013 production.

Students in the MSU Opera Theatre program will enjoy increasing opportunities to dress for success thanks to the ongoing support of the Worthington Family Foundation.

For the fourth year, the small family foundation has provided $20,000 or more to the MSU Opera Theatre to help cover the cost of costume and wig rentals. This year’s $22,000 grant will also support the residency of guest conductor Daniel Beckwith—one of the nation’s pre-eminent conductors of Handel works—and fund a special outreach program with Lansing’s REACH art studio.

“We are so fortunate to have the support of the Worthingtons,” says Professor of Voice Melanie Helton, director of the MSU Opera Theatre. “Their grants have made all the difference in helping us improve our production values and create an enriching experience for both students and our audiences.”

The Worthington grants have enabled Helton to provide students with professional costuming that reflects the right period and operatic themes. That authenticity, Helton says, highly affects student performance, and contributes to the quality production the audience sees and hears.

“I remember seeing performances when students took something out of their closet to wear,” says Ruth Worthington, president of the Worthington Family Foundation. “Having the right costuming does a lot for the students’ development as performers, and helps them get even more into character.”

As a former singer of operettas, Worthington says she simply loves opera and admires the commitment she sees in the MSU Opera Theatre. 

“I’ve been to the Met in New York, and you usually sit way up and watch the opera on a little screen in front of you,” says Worthington. “I personally think that Melanie does every bit of a wonderful job as the Met with some extras thrown in. You can attend a pre-opera talk, you have the chance to talk with performers after the show, and the new Fairchild is so personal that no matter where you sit you are close enough to appreciate the show.”

The Worthington Family Foundation was created to honor the memory of Betty J. O’Leary shortly after her passing in 2008. The foundation distributes funds annually from Betty’s legacy to nonprofit institutions that support children, the arts, and “green” practices. 

“Betty was very inquisitive, intelligent, and passionate about things she liked,” says Worthington of her late aunt. “When we sit down to our granting sessions we bear in mind what Betty would want. She would be absolutely thrilled about our support of the opera. It’s exactly what she would have wanted.” 

The MSU Opera Theatre presents two fully staged and costumed productions each year with the MSU Symphony Orchestra. The 2014-15 productions in the historic Fairchild Theatre include Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte (November 19, 21, 22, 23) and Handel’s Xerxes (March 25, 27, 28, 29).

To receive information about sponsoring the spring opera, Xerxes by George Frideric Handel, or to establish a named endowment in support of MSU Opera Theatre, contact Director of Development Rebecca Surian at surian@msu.edu or call 517-353-9872.

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