Guild History

Vintage logo
Vintage logo

WHO KNEW? During the course of the Guild’s move to a new location in 2012, priceless information about the Guild’s illustrious past activities was discovered, hidden these many years.  Below is a partial listing of those events.  If you have any personal knowledge that will help fill in the gaps please let us know.  Some of the photos may be enlarged by clicking on them.

Lily Pons and husband Andre Kostelanitz
Lily Pons and husband Andre Kostelanitz

The Guild was co-founded in 1968 by Mrs. William B. (Vicki) Malouf and Diva Lily Pons, with support from Mimi Rudolph who was a major force for the arts in the desert in the 60’s and 70’s.  Mimi founded the Palm Springs Friends of the LA Philharmonic, the Afternoon Concerts and the Metropolitan Opera Showcase of the Desert, which later changed its name to Showcase.  When they founded the Palm Springs Opera Company, as it was originally known, the opera productions were all presented at the Palm Springs High School Auditorium.  Subsequently they were held at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Museum and the McCallum Theater.  Many recitals and receptions were held at the Thunderbird Country Club.

1971 – San Francisco Opera presents L’Elisir d’Amore at an event chaired by Mamie Eisenhower.  A Guild newsletter from April, 1972 contains the following account:  “This was a FIRST IN CALIFORNIA, and perhaps in the country, to combine a professional company with a junior college chorus.  Under Dr. John Norman, 3 months of rehearsals were held…..before the music and stage directors and principal singers came to work with the chorus for a week.  Ghita Hager from S. F. Opera trained the chorus to move gracefully and fluidly so they’d look like the peasants they were portraying.  And they did.  It was a lifelong experience for these COD students to work with such a top professional in opera.  Costumes for the chorus were made by local people and many area wide homes were opened for meals and personnel stays.  It all was very successful, according to S. F. Opera manager Kurt Adler who came especially for the performance.”

1973 – Guild co- founder Vicki Malouf hosts “Opera Bravo”, a gala fundraiser with lyric soprano Marilyn O’Leary and San Diego Opera general director Walter Herbert along with members of the Indiana School of Music in an eclectic program of arias concluding with the rousing finale from Die Flermaus.

Gitta Alpar

1974 – “A Night in Vienna” fundraiser honors diva Gitta Alpar at the Thunderbird Country Club.  According to local columnist Doug Brown “Gitta Alpar was, as usual, her glittering remarkable self as she opened the ball with the first waltz partnered by Prince Franz Hohenlohe.”; William Wahman, James Hooper, Lawrence Cooper and Jacquelin Benson star in a Western Opera Theater (San Francisco Opera touring company) production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Canadian Opera Company presents Cosi Fan Tutte; Licia Albanese stars in La Bohème with Jerome Lo Monaco as Rodolfo followed by an elegant reception honoring Guild President Lily Pons, Nadine Connor, Ginger Rogers, Mrs. Bob Hope and Stella Roman.

1975 – Western Opera Theater presents Jean Fenn and Morley Meredith in Tosca and Dean Rhodus starring in Les Contes d’Hoffman; Metropolitan Opera baritone Igor Garin gives a concert; the Guild continues its scholarship program by awarding first prize to Juan Hidalgo, first year student at COD.

1976 – The Palm Springs Opera Co. merges with the Opera Guild to form the Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert and elects Mrs. Fred C. Klemp, President; Western Opera Theater presents Le Nozze di Figaro with John Davies and Pamela South and local students in the chorus; Marni Nixon (the voice of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady), William Chapman and Christopher Lachonas star in The Merry Widow; elementary school student Jamie Burghardt sings the title role in Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

1977 – San Diego Opera presents a Tito Capobianco production of La Traviata with Nancy Shade as Violetta, Joey Evans as Alfredo and Ryan Edwards as Germont; a concert is offered with Beverly Sills and pianist Charles Wadsworth followed by the “Camellia Ball” featuring such stars as Kirk and Anne Douglas and Carol Burnett;  a fundraiser is chaired by Frank and Barbara Sinatra featuring Robert Merrill wherein he sang early 18th century Italian works, Poulenc, Ravel, operatic arias, spirituals and Broadway songs; Madama Butterfly is presented with Atsuko Azuma who, according to San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, was flown in at Guild expense from Rome; Cox and Box with Bruce Langford and Burl Dean Smith is staged by Riverside Opera.

1978 – Roberta Peters is showcased in a concert featuring arias by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Puccini, Gounod and Verdi; the Guild launches a Children’s Workshop with a mini-opera, Noah’s Flood, in conjunction with the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley Unified School Districts (the chorus of animals consisted of 70 youngsters from St. Theresa’s School in Palm Springs); Met Opera Audition winner Kaaren Herr gives a recital; Canadian Opera presents Le Nozze di Figaro starring NY City Opera baritone William Metcalf and Eleanor Calbes as Susanna.

Norman Mittelmann
Norman Mittelmann

1979 –  Guild member Norman Mittelmann sings the title role of Rigoletto with Enrico di Giuseppe as the Duke preceded by an Opera Ball attended by Sixty Minutes” reporter Morley Safer; a recital is produced with Met star James McCracken and his wife Sandra Warfield; pianist Martin Katz and Victoria de Los Angeles perform in a concert featuring an all Spanish language repertoire with the exception of lieder by Schumann; Children’s Workshop produces La Cenerentola; 19 year old tenor Daniel Hendrick wins the Guild’s “opera auditions.”

1980 – Lyric Opera of Chicago stages Don Pasquale starring bass-baritone Sir Geraint Evans, soprano Susan Brummel and tenor David Gordon;  Nicolai Gedda sings in a concert titled “Songs of the South” featuring arias in French, Italian and Spanish; the Academy Ensemble of the Lyric Opera of Chicago does a Pops Concert; scholarship winner Daniel Hendrick returns to Palm Springs to perform at a membership brunch.

Renata Scotto
Renata Scotto

1981 – Renata Scotto, winner of the 1977 Peabody for her appearance on the first live telecast “Live from Lincoln Center”, performs in concert; Giuseppe di Stefano (who famously was quoted as saying he hates opera and that his favorite opera is “the shortest”) joins Boris Martinovich and Monika Curth in a “Neapolitan Night”; NY City Opera and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra stage Il Barbiere di Siviglia starring Timothy Nolen and Susanne Marsee.

Leona Mitchell
Leona Mitchell

1982 –  Met stars Patricia Craig, Bianca Berini, Lando Bartolini and Louis Quilico sing in a benefit concert; NY City Opera National Company presents Faust with Joseph Evans and Robert Hale; soprano Leona Mitchell, with Lawrence Wong accompanying, presents a concert of arias and popular music.

1983The mayors of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells proclaim “Opera Week” including a benefit with Sherrill Milnes, a concert with Gianna Rolandi and Richard Fredericks, a NY City Opera production of Carmen featuring Adria Firestone and Richard Fredericks and an evening of highlights from Pagliacci and Samson and Delilah with Richard Cassilly, Maria Pelegrini, Adib Fazah and Fredda Rakusin;  mezzo-soprano Suzanna Stahl sings in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Skoff; the first Guild Vocal Competition is launched.

Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno

1984 –  Rita Moreno stars in a concert to open the Royce Resort Hotel.  According to Desert Sun columnist Pamela Bieri, “Miss Moreno, looking like a Grecian goddess with her hair in a tousled chignon crowned by a gold tiara, told funny (and, sorry, unprintable) stories about her mother’s Puerto Rican accent.  Then she sang”; Met stars Rosalind Elias and Theodor Uppman perform love duets from opera and Broadway in costume at a benefit; NY City National Opera presents La bohème with Michael Sylvester and Young Mi Kim; Boris Goldovsky, “The Inimitable Mr. Opera”, hosts a wide-ranging introduction to various opera highlights; Joseph Losey’s film Don Giovanni is screened at the Camelot Theater.

1985 – Richard Stillwell and Katheryn Bouleyn star in a Long Beach Opera production of Eugene Onegin; NY City Opera National Co. stages Rigoletto with Darren Nimnicht, Candace Goetz and William Livingston; Beverly Sills is honored by the Guild in a fundraiser hosted by Dinah Shore; a fundraiser honoring Dorothy Kirsten is featured at the Royce Resort Hotel; Carmen with Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson is screened at the Camelot Theater.

1986 – NY City Opera National Co. performs Faust starring Craig Heath Nim and Kathleen Segar ; Long Beach Opera stages Don Carlo with Cesare Sieppi, Jerome Hines, Dennis O’Neill and Kathryn Bouleyn; Lucine Armara stars in Turandot with the 100 member Pacific Chorale and the Riverside Symphony conducted by James Sullivan (the role of Calaf was sung by Hendrik De Boer who became Guild President); Ingmar Bergman’s Magic Flute and Der Rosenkavalier featuring Elisabeth Schwarzkopf are screened at the Camelot Theater; a benefit  presents the Guild’s Distinguished Service Award to Mimi Rudolph and Mayor Frank Bogert proclaims the day “Mimi Rudolph Day.”

Deborah Voigt
Deborah Voigt

1987 – Renata Scotto returns with Vyacheslav Polosov to sing the title role in a Riverside Opera production of Tosca; Un Ballo in Maschera with “San Francisco and San Diego Opera Stars” Deborah Voigt and William Harness is produced by Riverside Opera  conducted by James Sullivan; Otello starring Placido Domingo and Katia Ricciarelli is screened at the Camelot; young baritone Yu Chen wins first prize at the Scholarship Competition; Lilli Joseph establishes the Allegro Society which provided special events for elite members of the Guild.

1988 – Carol Neblett and Stefano Algieri star in an Opera Pacific production of Aida, which marks her debut singing the title role; Opera Pacific’s Kismet starring David Chaney and Beverly Lambert debuts at the brand new McCallum Theater.

1989 – Opera Pacific stages Il Barbiere di Siviglia starring Pablo Elvira and Gail Dubinbaum; Long Beach Civic Light Opera presents three productions: The Student Prince with Marty Wiviot, Turandot with Ealynn Voss and Katherine Luna and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies featuring Dorothy Lamour, Juliet Prowse and Yma Sumac; Mezzo-soprano Anita Krauss wins first prize at the Scholarship Competition.

Sondra Radvanovsky
Sondra Radvanovsky
Anne Jeffreys
Anne Jeffreys

1990 – Kathryn Grayson, Anne Jeffreys and Cesar Romero are honored at the Cathedral Canyon Resort Hotel; members of the Guild produce and perform in a mini version of Turandot at Angel View Habilitation Center; Jack Jones stars in Guys and Dolls; Sondra Radvanovsky, now a Met star, wins first place in the Vocal Competition.

1991 – The California Music Theater, Pasadena produces My Fair Lady with Noel Harrison (son of Rex Harrison) and Opera Pacific presents Madama Butterfly with Elizabeth Hynes and Hans Ashbaker; composer/conductor Tony Rose is elected Guild president; Toni Tennille is honored at the Grand Ball.

1992 – Opera Pacific stages Tosca with Carol Neblett and California Music Theater produces Camelot both at the McCallum; the Grand Ball features Nancy Wilson; Bob James is elected Guild president.

1993 – Jean Carrus is elected Guild president; soprano Jessica Siena wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

Ruth Ann Swenson

1994 – San Bernardino Civic Light Opera stages West Side Story and Ruth Ann Swenson stars in an Opera Pacific production of Lucia; Lilli Joseph is elected Guild president and creates a partnership with McCallum Theatre director Nancy Dolensek; the first annualViennese Ball is a huge success at the Ritz Carlton.

1995Allegro members are treated to a cocktail party at the Ritz Carlton at which each Allegro member receives a free ticket to the Cicilia Bartoli concert at the McCallum; members enjoy an Appreciation Party featuring singers Howard Keel and Roberta Linn, composer/pianist Ted Grouya and entertainer Marie Wolpert; soprano Robin Follman wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

Charles Castronovo
Charles Castronovo

1996 Tenor Charles Castronovo wins first prize in the Vocal Competition and goes on to launch an incredibly successful career performing in major opera houses the world over.

1997 – Hendrick “Rik” de Boer is elected Guild president; soprano Erin Wood wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

1998 – Tenor Bruce Sledge wins first place in the Vocal Competition and launches an illustrious career singing at the Met, among other famous houses.

1999 – The inaugural Opera in the Park is produced by its originator, board member Arlene Rosenthal who also chairs the Vocal Competition over a span of 18 years; baritone Andrew Fernando wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2000 – Baritone Gregorio Gonzalez wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

rodell rosel
Rodell Rosel

2001 – Tenor Rodell Rosel wins the Vocal Competition and embarks on an ambitious career including appearances with LA Opera.

2002 – Baritone David Babinet wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2003 – Board members Kathy Sanders and Kay Truitt co-host the 9th annual New Year’s Eve Ball “Strauss in Vienna Ball” at The Lodge in Rancho Mirage. Ted Herman’s band performs and Competition winners soprano Sarah Joy Heerema and bass-baritone Nathan Stark sing arias by Mozart, Rodgers-Hammerstein, Lerner-Loewe and Webber. Board members attending include President Hendrick de Boer and his wife Doreen as well as Renée Glickman, Fay Bock, Shirley Cain, Jean Carrus, Dr. Joseph Wellington Clayes, Eva Cohen, Dr. Earl Myers, Barbara Salsbury, Dr. Robert Watson and Marie Shaw Wolpert; opera diva Angela Meade wins first place in the Vocal Competition and launches a highly successful career.

2004 – George Klauss appointed Guild president; Jeff Britton writes about the Vocal Competition in the Desert Sun, “Snagging the first place $2500 award by Lilli Joseph was 22 year old tenor Kalil Wilson, whose excerpt from Don Giovanni was marked by long carefully constructed passages built to hearty crescendos of fortitude….As always, Mona Lands provided effective, yet unobtrusive piano accompaniment, while the Guild’s new president, George Klauss, served as emcee.”

Frederika Von Stade
Frederika Von Stade

2005 – Guild members attend a general membership tea and La Traviata preview concert and Allegro members enjoy a black tie cocktail party at the Lodge in Rancho Mirage; Amber Wagner wins first place in the Vocal Competition and goes on to the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals and is featured in the documentary “The Audition.”

2006 – Reduced price tickets are offered to Guild members for the Teatro Lirico d’Europa production of La Traviata at the McCallum Theatre; two additional performances at the McCallum include the Helikon Opera Company production of Die Fledermaus and a concert with Frederika Von Stade and Samuel Ramey; bass Apollo Wong wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2007 – Soprano Amy Yekel wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2008 – The Guild celebrates with a black tie Gala at the Thunderbird Country Club on February 16 including dancing to the music of Wayne Foster Entertainment and a musical program featuring soprano Lauren Criddle, tenor Mathew Edwardsen and 2006 Competition winner bass Apollo Wong; baritone Joseph Kyung Teak Lim wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

Jerry Herman
Jerry Herman

2009 – Guild members enjoy an evening with Jerry Herman, composer of such hits as Mame, Hello Dolly and La Cage aux Folles at the McCallum Theatre followed by a production of an early opera by Alessandro Stradella, Il Trespolo Tutore; Aida is produced by the Teatro Lirico d’Europa at the McCallum Theatre and Guild members travel to San Diego for the opening night of Rigoletto and a black tie reception and dinner organized by board member Dr. William Fisher; soprano Tracy Cox wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2010 – Soprano Patricia Welch and tenor and Guild President Kenneth Morris perform in a benefit concert at the Center for Spiritual Learning in Palm Desert; Guild members are offered discount tickets to the Teatro Lirico d’Europa production of La Traviata at the McCallum Theatre; Guild members travel to San Diego for the San Diego Opera production of Nabucco featuring a black tie reception and dinner;  Kenneth Morris is elected Guild President; soprano Jacquelynne Fontaine wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

nino s
Nino Surguladze

2011 – Guild members receive discount tickets to two productions at the McCallum Theatre: Pirates of Penzance and Turandot; Guild members travel to San Diego again for the opening night performance of Carmen with mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze and tenor Salvatore Licitra; Terry Hendrix is elected Guild President; soprano Anush Avetisyan wins First Place in the Vocal Competition.

2012 – The Guild offers discount tickets to members for the Teatro Lirico d’Europa production of La bohème at the McCallum Theatre preceded by a preview lecture of the opera at the Rancho Mirage Public Library featuring lecturer and board member Donald Osborne and finalists from the Vocal Competition; the Guild honors Gary Hall of Wells Fargo Bank for his generosity and support of community causes; past president George Klauss sadly passes away on March 11 and the annual Opera in the Park is dedicated to his memory; mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier wins First Place in the Vocal Competition and the Allegro reception is held at the home of board member Jean Carrus.

Jewish composers 5 - rev

2013 – Tenor Joshua Guerrero performs at the annual Allegro Black Tie dinner at the Heather James Gallery; Michael Cressey, VP and Artistic Director of the Guild, produces a preview of Madama Butterfly at the Rancho Mirage Public Library with lecturer and board member Bruce Johansen; in June board member and Metropolitan Opera baritone Donald Osborne emcees Jewish Composers and the Creation of the American Musical, again at the Rancho Mirage Public Library; Opera in the Park enjoys its highest attendance ever, surpassing 7000; former PSOG president Hendrick “Rik” de Boer succumbs to a lengthy illness; the Season Preview party at the home of Stephen Lind features an operatic concert with soprano Allanah Garnier and mezzo-soprano Shabnam Kalbasi; bass Adam Lau wins First Place and soprano Michelle  Bradley wins the first annual Audience Choice Award at the Vocal Competition; the Allegro reception is held at the home of Barbara and Michael Resmo in Bighorn.

Photos by Lani

2014 – The Guild honors Patty and Arthur Newman at the “Singing the Praises” Gala  for their selfless contributions to the arts in the Valley with nearly 200 attendees; Renée Rapier, First Place winner in the 2012 Vocal Competition, performs at the annual Allegro Black Tie Dinner at Heather James Gallery in Palm Desert; the Guild’s 16th annual Opera in the Park tops previous attendance records and features perfect weather, returning maestro Valery Ryvkin and a stellar cast including Michelle Bradley, Ricardo  Garcia, Jure Pockaj, Renée Rapier, Cesar Sanchez, Efraim Solis, Nathan Van Arsdale and Vanessa Vasquez; members are treated to a program of arias by Mozart, Rossini, Puccini and Mexican folk songs performed by 2000 Vocal Competition winner baritone Gregorio Gonzalez with accompanist Douglas Sumi at Smoke Tree Ranch, courtesy of Yvonne and Steven Maloney; Mick Cressey produces “The Art of Bel Canto” with Bruce Johansen delivering an overview of the bel canto period and the Outreach singers performing several arias by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti at the Rancho Mirage Public Library; soprano Jung Won Choi, tenor Arnold Geis and accompanist David Wilkinson (USC) provide a first rate program of familiar arias at the Opening Season Party at the home of board member Stephen Lind; the 31st annual Vocal Competition is held for the first time at the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, Rancho Mirage High School where bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee wins first place and the Audience Choice Award is won by soprano Lauren Michelle.

2015 – The Guild honors Peggy Cravens on February 6 at the Agua Caliente Spa & Casino for her staunch support of the arts and the Palm Springs Opera Guild’s many community programs with entertainment by Vocal Competition finalists soprano Michelle Bradley and tenor Moises Salazar; the annual black tie dinner at Heather James Gallery in Palm Desert is attended by Allegro members who were treated to an extraordinary concert of arias and folk music with soprano Lauren Michelle and baritone Ben Lowe along with accompanist Mona Lands.