Lyric Opera of Chicago's OPERATHON 2009 Raises $438,350 - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago's OPERATHON 2009 Raises $438,350

Press Release Letterhead
For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Lyric Opera of Chicago’s
RAISES $438,350
All proceeds support Lyric Opera’s education and
community-engagement programs
OPERATHON 2009 is a project of the Lyric Opera Chapters
Lyric’s overall fundraising goal for 2009-10 is $16.6 million


OPERATHON 2009, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual live-radio marathon fundraiser on 98.7WFMT, celebrated its 30th anniversary by raising $438,350 during its 16-hour broadcast on Saturday, October 10, exceeding the $400,000 goal.

“We are deeply grateful to our friends at WFMT for making OPERATHON possible for three decades,” said William Mason, Lyric’s general director. “It is an outstanding collaboration.

“The success of this event is integral to achieving our 2009-10 annual fundraising goal of $16.6 million,” Mason 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.”

Mason applauded the “exceptional support” put forth this year by several members of Lyric’s Board of Directors. He extended special thanks to Allan B. Muchin, chairman of Lyric’s board of directors; Richard P. Kiphart, Lyric’s president and CEO; and Kenneth G. Pigott, Lyric board vice president, who were on-air guests and challenge-grant sponsors.

OPERATHON 2009, cosponsored by Lyric’s official airline, American Airlines (22nd consecutive year) and William Blair & Company (sponsorship debut), went on the air at 8 a.m. and concluded at midnight last Saturday, broadcasting from Lyric’s administrative offices in the Civic Opera House. The 16-hour event was anchored by 98.7WFMT’s Carolyn Paulin, George Preston, and Peter Van De Graff; and Lyric’s dramaturg Roger Pines, who also produced all the musical selections heard throughout the day and night.

OPERATHON 2009 was staffed by more than 125 members of the Lyric Opera Chapters. Steve Robinson, executive vice president and general manager of 98.7WFMT and The WFMT Radio Network, orchestrated activities behind the scenes, and hosted the 4-8 p.m. shift at the event.

OPERATHON 2009 greatly exceeded its $400,000 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; donations, purchases, and pledges from the general public; and corporate merchandise sponsorships. Lyric’s Overture Society contributed $80,000 to OPERATHON to honor the memory of longtime WFMT and OPERATHON broadcaster and host Norman Pellegrini, who died earlier this year.

Pledges were phoned in from Lyric supporters near and far. More than 200 donated gift items, entertainment and dining opportunities, travel opportunities, and autographed opera memorabilia, plus exclusive merchandise items created for Lyric, were offered during OPERATHON 2009, and are still available from Lyric’s OperaShop online 24/7.

 Flights to New York, Dublin, Phoenix, and Frankfurt were auctioned on the air, courtesy of American Airlines, with hotel accommodations courtesy of AA Vacations.

All proceeds of OPERATHON 2009 support Lyric Opera of Chicago’s education and community-engagement programs, which serve more than 135,000 children, adults, and seniors in the Chicago area each year. Numerous on-air guests and hosts credited their own early exposure to opera through education and community-engagement programs (including Lyric’s own Student Matinees) for sparking the interest that led to their professional involvement in the field.

Several stars of this season’s Lyric productions appeared on-air throughout the broadcast, including OPERATHON “cover-girl” Nicole Cabell (Adina in The Elixir of Love Jan. 23-Feb.5), Faust stars Piotr Beczala and Joseph Kaiser (title role), Ana María Martínez (Marguerite), René Pape (Méphistophélès), Lucas Meachem (Valentin), and Jane Bunnell (Marthe); Ernani stars Salvatore Licitra (title role), Sondra Radvanovsky (Elvira), Boaz Daniel (Carlo), plus stage director José María Condemi; and, before or after their evening performance, Tosca stars Deborah Voigt (title role), Vladimir Galouzine (Cavaradossi), James Morris (Scarpia), John Easterlin (Spoletta), Dale Travis (Sacristan), Sam Handley (Jailer), and Angela Mannino (Shepherd’s Voice). 

Susan Graham phoned in her support – she stars as Marguerite in the new production/company premiere of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust in February. And Washington-based NPR senior correspondent Nina Totenberg stopped by the studio while visiting Chicago to lend her support, as well.

Music Director Sir Andrew Davis appeared on the air several times throughout the day and night, as did general director William Mason. Also heard on the air were chorus master Donald Nally, properties master Tom Gilbert, and production stage manager Caroline Moores, along with several administrative staff members.

 “Everyone at WFMT is proud to partner with Lyric Opera for OPERATHON and is thrilled with the success of this year’s broadcast,” Robinson said. “We are pleased to offer our airwaves in support of Lyric Opera and are delighted that the 30th annual OPERATHON was such a hit.”

For the first time ever, Lyric used social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to track OPERATHON’s progress and post photos of on-air guests. To view photos from Saturday’s radio fundraiser as well as from the opening nights of every opera this season, become a Facebook friend of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For more than a decade, OPERATHON has held the national record for one-day radio fundraising by an arts organization, raising more than $8 million cumulatively since its inception.

OPERATHON 2009 was organized and administered by the Chapters’ Executive Board of Lyric Opera and the 19 Chapters in Illinois and Wisconsin. Aida Guidice (Northwest Chapter) and Virginia Jack (Southwest Chapter) served as the co-chairs of OPERATHON 2009. Jonathan Eklund (Lake Geneva Chapter) is president of the Chapters’ Executive Board of Lyric Opera, which organizes and administers Lyric’s OPERATHON each year.

WFMT’s engineers for the 16-hour broadcast were Don Mueller and Chris Willis. Music selection and production was by Roger Pines, Lyric’s dramaturg.

Generous sponsors of merchandise for OPERATHON 2009 were Sidley Austin LLP and Fellowes, Inc. The Season Poster featured in the OPERATHON catalog is generously sponsored by Classic Color and Thirst.