Opera Guilds History
of The Santa Fe Opera, Inc.
We support the Education and Community Programs of The Santa Fe Opera
A classic Santa Fe sunset, seen from The Santa Fe Opera looking West towards the Jemez Mountains , July 2011 . At the Opera, it's magical!
History of The Guilds of The Santa Fe Opera, Inc.,
Part 1, 1964 to 1991
Virginia L. Starquist, Guilds' Historian
First published in 1991
What became a rather involved project - writing the history of the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera - would never have progressed without the assistance of many people. The Opera staff has been ready to offer suggestions, help .dig out information, and keep my spirits up - Tom Morris, Julie Hodtwalker, and Kelly Froebel, in particular I must thank. Along the way I have learned how important and caring Delores Thomas is. Marty Noss had valuable ideas, and numerous Guild representatives have been faithful in forwarding reams of material to the Archives. Juanita Sena reminisced about early endeavors, in particular her years of concern with the Santa Fe Guild's education program, and Anke Kempter Bunkin, the second president (and only 4-term president) of Guild, Inc. shared interesting tidbits from those early days, and solved puzzles. Jane King Hardeman, who was super-active in the Education-Youth Opera-POP programs in the 1970's, visited me, and we enjoyed lively discussions, and a critique of work done to date. She also delivered four cartons of beautifully organized memorabilia from those years, written reports, as well as many outstanding photographs donated to her program by Mimi Forsyth of Santa Fe. I have promised her a portion of our file cabinets to be labeled "The Jane King Memorial Collection!"
Three who kindly searched the manuscript for errors and omissions, and made welcome suggestions, are Shirley Genther, Delores Thomas, and Julie Hodtwalker. Stephanie Wiley of J & S Secretarial Services in Taos expertly sought perfection in typing this history, and further, generously donated time and materials because, she says, she enjoyed learning about our Guilds! Printing of the work by Piñon Press of Santa Fe was sponsored by The Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera, Inc. My great appreciation and thanks are extended to all of these.
From 1964 to the present time, a wealth of material related to the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera has accumulated in the Archives at the Opera Ranch. It seems time to arrange the pages and tell our story - the tale is exciting, and invites respect.
The structure of the organization and its progress are best reflected in the minutes of the regular meetings. Without too much detail, its development will be chronicled in terms of the high points; the seeker of argument and further edification is referred to the copious files on hand.
Our two main objectives: Education and Fund-Raising will be described in individual sections of this history - in those areas so much effort and love have been expended, they should be remembered.
Finally, an Appendix will tabulate yearly rosters of Officers, a tally of Youth Operas presented, more details of that program, and summations of individual guilds' duration, and yearly donations of Guilds, Inc.
1964 - We're off and running as
New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc. (Initially, Guild, Inc.)
The initial meeting of the Board of "New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc." was held April 8, 1964, in Room 345 of La Fonda in Santa Fe. It was called to order by Mr. William Hunker, President of the Board of the Opera Association of New Mexico, "for the purpose of electing officers and any other urgent business." Thirteen members were present, and from the list of board members, it is apparent there were four functioning Guilds at that time: Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Taos.1 (See Footnotes below)
Unanimously elected, after being individually nominated from the floor were:
President Mrs. John J. Dempsey
First Vice President Mrs. Owen Marron
Second Vice President Mrs. Eliu Romero
Secretary Mrs. Lois Law
Assistant Secretary Mrs. Edward Goodrich
Treasurer Mrs. B. R. Suydam
Assistant Treasurer Mrs. John E. Dougherty
After the election of Officers, there was one item of business: that concerning an all-Guilds' after-opera party on opening night July 1st, at the Sombra of the Crosby Ranch.
There followed four more meetings of the Board in 1964. In May, the second was held in the Conference Room of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, and this room, with another at the Cordova Road Branch, were to become the usual meeting places until January 1975. A publicity chairman, Sam Niefeld, was appointed, and there was further discussion of the first opening night party; the liquor license previously used by the Opera Ranch was transferred to Guild, Inc.2 A bank account for Guild, Inc. was opened at this time. It was authorized that the Minutes of each meeting be reproduced, and one copy sent .to each of the Guild board members, and one to the Board of the Opera Association. Mr. John Crosby presented four reasons for the formation of Guild, Inc.:
1. “Protection for the membership respective to Internal Revenue and exemptions for membership fees;
2. Affiliation with Metropolitan Opera Guild was not possible for Guilds with less than 500 members, and by combining all Guilds, the numbers would meet the Metropolitan requirement as well as lending influence for membership;
3. General development of the local Guilds could be more satisfactorily promoted, particularly by transferring the responsibility of collecting donations from the respective regions to that particular region instead of by the Opera Association;
4. The combined funds of all local Guilds into one Guild Fund is much more persuasive with foundations for grants, such as the Ford Foundation which affords the New Mexico Opera Association a permanent secretary and business manager for the first time."
The next meeting was called in September. Most notable was the presentation of the first Treasurer's Report; receipts from three guilds totaled $540. A decision was made to make the Opening Night party an annual event. Mr. Crosby requested an annual report from each of the four guilds (between February and April of 1965), noting number of memberships, funds sent to the Association, the nature of fund-raising activities, and expense and donations for the Opera for Youth program. Mr. Crosby further kindly offered the use of talent of four to six artists, to further local interest, and increase guild memberships and donations. Guild reports mentioned memberships, i.e., Santa Fe 924 members, and 495 in Los Alamos, and activities: Los Alamos gave a party for the opera staff, and offered four Opera for Youth lectures; Albuquerque held a membership reception. These September minutes also contain a discussion of Guild finances, and it can only be presumptively interpreted how these were handled. In these early days, the Guilds held fund drives for the Association in their locales, usually in January and February. Later, sometimes in April, a membership reception was held to initiate that year's funding for each Guild. Collections and donations for memberships were deposited directly to the treasurer of the Opera Association of New Mexico; for instance, in September it was reported that Santa Fe Guild had collected $10,046, and Los Alamos had sent $2,450 to the Association. In the first Treasurer's Report of Guild, Inc. mentioned above (Sept. 9, 1964). $540 was shown as received from Guild chapters, so apparently the Guilds were making larger deposits to the Association, and token amounts to Guild, Inc. And, a letter from John Crosby, dated October 6, 1964 reported total Guild gifts to the Opera through September 30 of $20,690.53, "representing over $1,300 oyer the same period of 1963."
And at the next regular meeting, In October, the treasurer reported $2,171.32 transferred to the Opera Association from Guild, Inc., leaving a balance of $100.00. (An amusing typographical error was later corrected: the original read $21, 171.32 - prescient were we!) Amendments were read and incorporated in the by-laws, and a nominating committee was appointed by the President. Each president of the four guild units was asked to estimate .the probable income for 1965; these were Santa Fe $9,000, Albuquerque $9,000, Los Alamos $2,600, and Taos $500, totaling $21,100.00. This is the first mention of prospective goals in the minutes. By this early date, Guild membership had become impressive: Taos had 80 members, Albuquerqu 640, Santa Fe 940, and Los Alamos 495; total 2,140.3
The first annual meeting was called on November 12, 1964. After previous attendance of 11 to 13 members, this one attracted 27. 1964 Guild receipts totaled $2,440. Fund-raisers were imaginative and successful; these will be further reported in the section of this History on Fund-Raising activities. There were four Opera for Youth performances. Mr. Crosby thanked the Guilds for their support and contributions, and reported on the 1965 repertory. Mrs. Mayer, President of the Opera Association, explained the responsibilities of the Boards, and -their relationship to each other. Members of the 1965 Board of Directors were elected by acclamation, as were the nominees for Guild, Inc. officers.
Summary of the first year of New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc.
It is interesting to review the minutes of the first year of Guild, Inc., and it seems important to report them in some detail. It was a year of such enthusiasm, such promise. Four Guilds suddenly meant a Guild, Inc. of 2,140 members; from no treasury, in a few months over $2,440 was transferred to the Opera. Parties were held to introduce the communities to the Santa Fe Opera, Youth Opera performances were already established, and annual reports were composed. A lively board was functioning in an orderly fashion - they knew what they were about! Undoubtedly 1965 would surpass these accomplishments.
1965 through 1969
In its second year, Guild, Inc. members met six times in Santa Fe. By-laws were updated to rule that the fiscal year would extend from January 1 to December 31. An amendment was included regarding successive absenteeism of board members at meetings; the Board of Directors continued to include four representatives from the Opera Association. Working rehearsals for members were scheduled by Mr. Crosby4 and synopses of operas premiered were proposed to be sent to members before the initial production. An Apprentice Concert in the Opera Theater was announced for August; and Mr. Crosby made arrangements
Photo above: the first theatre at The Santa Fe Opera
for opera artist entertainment at various Guild functions, and personally met these expenses. 28 members were present at the annual meeting in November. The Treasurer reported a transfer for the year to the Opera Association of $19,327.45. Membership totals announced were Taos 88, Los Alamos 418, Santa Fe 895, and Albuquerque 379 (1,780 in all).
In 1966, seven meetings were held, and attendance slowly increased. Early in the year, each Guild held Membership parties; in addition to Guild membership solicitations, letters were sent out for the Donations Drive for the Association. Building up attendance at opera performances was also a concern of guild members - by June 15, less than half of the seats were sold. Ticket prices were raised for the first time, to meet increased costs, with premium prices for opening night, also a first.5
The minutes reported other new matters, The Usher Corps chairman asked Guild, Inc. to assume financial support. A bank account was established at the First National Bank of Santa Fe. And, a meeting was held in Espanola with the view of establishing a new Guild there to be known as the "Rio Grande Valley Guild." A tally of Guild memberships reported Taos 77 members, Albuquerque 1,006 (including 60 Junior members), Santa Fe 817, and Los Alamos 318. At the annual meeting in November, $17,130 was donated to the Opera.
There was a gala opening night reception for Guild members and members of the opera company, in the theater following the performance of Tosca, at which Ragnar Ulfung made his SFO debut. In a special seating section of the balcony, there were nearly 100 especially invited guests. At other times during the year, Guild members were invited to special treats. Two Apprentice concerts were held in August, and a working rehearsal of Don Giovanni was open to Guild members in early July. Synopses of the season's operas were sent to Guild members, and Mrs. Scott announced a series of free admission programs given at the library in Santa Fe to introduce the four Youth Operas.
Individual Guilds continued to enhance their programs. Albuquerque organized a Junior Guild, and sent letters of information on Opera for Youth to schools and organizations; their membership campaign was heralded with a newsletter. Santa Fe Guild held the annual "Open House at the Ranch" in June; and offered an adult lecture on Wozzeck. Los Alamos gave 3 youth and 1 adult lecture, and operated a box-office, in addition to numerous fund-raisers, including a June party at which apprentice artists entertained. Taos gave 4 youth opera lectures, and Mrs. Parr presented "The Story of Opera," told by puppets.
1967 saw Guild, Inc. making progress on all fronts. In the 10 years since the opera's inception, it had grown from 2 chapters to 5, with a combined membership of over 2,000 persons. At the annual meeting, the following was reported:
Albuquerque 816+ members, donated $ 8,500+
Santa Fe 920 members, donated $ 10,423
Los Alamos 412 members, donated $ 3,172
Taos 95 members, donated $ 1,375
Espanola Valley 117 members, donated $ 1,100.
Word was heard of a new Guild being formed in Gallup.
Total donations from Guild units were $27,365, a marked increase over 1966.
On July 27, fire destroyed the Opera Theatre. (photo right: the morning after)
Guild, Inc. assumed responsibility for a Vronsky-Babin duo-piano concert in Los Alamos, as a benefit, and there were numerous offers of other projects for raising money, events too numerous to list here; they will be remembered in the special section concerning Fund-Raising. There were other new features: in observance of opening night (July 1), an after-opera party
was held in the theater gardens, more modest than in previous years, with Guild members as hosts. There was an orchestra, donated light refreshments, and drinks for sale, ($1.00 liquor, $0.25 soft drinks). In accord with planned improvements at the bar and garden entrances to the Opera, Guild, Inc. undertook as a special project, the gravel paving (cost $6,500); in this regard, $3 contributions were solicited from opening night attendees.
Membership At Large and Education
Mrs. Walter Mayer suggested memberships-at-large "for persons living far from a guild, but interested in helping the opera"; Mrs. David Chavez, Jr. was selected as the first chairman. And in what surely presaged the Education program, President Anke Kempter suggested increased educational activities, both adult, and in conjunction with the Youth Opera program. Albuquerque had already begun to mail newsletters; in 1967, Taos and Los Alamos did also; the earliest Santa Fe newsletter in the files is dated 1968. And the Santa Fe Guild, beginning what would eventually become their most successful endeavor, offered for sale notepaper with a line-drawing of the Opera, at $1 per cellophane bag.
The second theatre, 1968
In early 1968, the new Opera Theatre was under construction,
(photo left: the 1968 theatre which existed until 1998) and in April and May, Guild members served as guides for tours open to the public. Guild, Inc. held affiliate membership in the Metropolitan Opera Guild of New York, and those good people were inspired to assist with the reconstruction. Eight pairs of doors in the loge facade, through which the audience enters, were carved of pine and crafted by Ernie Knee of Santa Fe; each pair cost $1,000. The Metropolitan Guild inaugurated "Operation Pine Door", and handily raised $6,000 for the project.
Ten board meetings were held, monthly except for October and December. By August, Guild membership reached nearly 2,800; the donation to the Opera was $24,614. There were the usual imaginative fund-raisers, and Youth Opera attendance passed the 4,000 mark for the first time. Albuquerque added a $25 angel category to their membership; dues in 1965 had been $2.50, $5, and $10. The Gallup Guild became a reality - Mr. Charles High served as first President, and the membership of 87 included two from Grants; 40 people traveled to the opera for The Elixir of Love, and there was a Youth education program. Stirrings of guild formation were noted from Las Vegas, Mrs. James Arrott, chairman; and Espanola wooed Dulce as an affiliate. Members-at-large added interested persons from the Texas cities Stratford, Amarillo, Lubbock, Gonzales, and Dalhart, and Spearman contemplated establishing a guild. Even Central City, Colorado was in communication.
The 1969 board meetings numbered 11, every month but March; the year's proceeds transferred to the Association were $25,500. Guild memberships were remarkable: Albuquerque 850, Espanola 171, Four Corners 40, Gallup 100, Las Vegas 100+, Los Alamos 420, Santa Fe 1,041, and Taos 149.6 This was the year of Outreach - the President, Mrs. Kempter, and Mr. Purrington of the Opera, went to Farmington in late April for the opening of the Four Corners Guild. Las Vegas Guild was operating, and turned over $400 to the Opera. Contacts were made in Raton and Las Cruces, Silver City and Roswell. Chama and Dulce had representatives on the Board, as affiliates of the Espanola Guild.
Box offices functioned in Albuquerque, Espanola, Los Alamos, Taos, and Farmington.
For the first time, a European tour was offered to Guild members, planned for 20 days in May 1970, to Milan and London, with additional cities optional. In May, the $25 angel membership category was adopted by all the Guilds. And in December, the Association recommended new membership classifications as follows: Regular $10, Angel $25, and Patron $40. Also in December, the first meeting of the Development Committee was held, which proposed to reach a wider audience through a development center in each community. A final proposal concerned a "newsletter, profiling artists performing with the Santa Fe Opera, musical events of interest, and guild functions in different areas: more or less a calendar, and information about The Santa Fe Opera."
1964 - 1969, a Summary
To refer to the first six years of Guild, Inc. as sensational would be appropriate. Bylaws, a Board of Directors and Officers, and proper organization were in place. There were regular meetings (as many as 11 a year), the number of guilds increased to 8, with 2 Junior Guilds, plus Members-at-Large, and membership approached 3,000 persons. The annual donation increased from $2,440 at the end of 1964, to $25,500 in 1969, evidence of tireless fundraising on the part of each Guild.
With the Association, they co-sponsored an opening night party for the first few years, and offered theater tours, working rehearsals, and Apprentice concerts. Guild, Inc.’s, and later Santa Fe Guild's marketing of SFO notepaper forecast the now famous Opera Shop, and individual newsletters in several guilds were forerunners of the one soon to be published by Guild, Inc. Lastly, the very important mission of Education got an early start with Youth Operas, and these were enhanced by lectures to children and adults, puppet shows and activities in the schools of guild cities. During the season, box offices were opened in several towns outside of Santa Fe, and the guilds sponsored an Usher Corps, on duty at each performance.
The success of these early years was due in great part to the sense of community among the members, and the fine relationship with the official personnel at the Opera. Mr. John Crosby attended most of the board meetings, had excellent suggestions for Guild, lnc.'s development, and offered talented singers to grace many functions. Mrs. Walter Mayer, President of the Association, was also faithful, constantly encouraging, and appreciative of the early efforts of the members. The first presidents - Mrs. John Dempsey and Mrs. Charles Kempter - were exemplary; if they had misgivings, they never let on.
The next decade - the 1970's - will be recorded again from the minutes. With the structure in place, the real news can probably be treated in the ensuing sections on Education and Fund-raising. Rest assured, there were no dull moments.
1. A quotation from an unidentified, undated page: "The New Mexico Opera Guild, Inc. was incorporated on the 9th of October, 1963. The first two Guilds were in Los Alamos and Santa Fe (1957). With the formation of Guilds in Albuquerque and Taos in the next few years, a need for closer ties and communication between each Guild chapter was felt. So, NMOGI was formed."
2. By early 1965, the liquor license was transferred back to the State Liquor Control Board, so
Guild, Inc. could maintain a tax-exempt status.
3. These tallies continued to increase, until in a short while there were over 3,000 members reported. It appears that at least till the early 1970's, a different counting system was employed; not until then was the arrangement admitted in the minutes. In June 1971, Albuquerque reported "804 members: 32 patron, 97 angel, 243 family, 30 single" - these total only 402 if read literally, hence there was fancy footwork to achieve 804! Further, in May 1971, Santa Fe "had 857 members, counting singles as 1, and family as 2." And Las Vegas reported "40 members, representing a total of 55± persons", this group probably counting as we do now.
4. Mrs. Kempter remembers in the earliest years, dress rehearsals were offered to Guild members. Guild activities were reported. Los Alamos organized a Junior Opera Guild "consisting of high school boys and girls, their purpose being to promote interest in the opera, as well as to assist with regular Guild functions, and possibly even sponsoring their own fund-raising activities." Throughout the summer Los Alamos Guild gave lectures preceding the Youth Opera performances, and in June, a box office was opened for ticket sales. In Taos, Mrs. Robert Parr made a puppet presentation for each of the Youth Operas. The Santa Fe Guild organized an Usher Corps, and furnished uniform costumes for the opera ushers "who are Santa Fe young ladies." (By July, Los Alamos also sent 28 ushers.) Mrs. Goodrich gave theater tours on the Friday of each week, beginning in July. The opening night party was still post-performance; the Santa Fe Guild was in charge of this party, as well as an Apprentice party, and in June conducted an Open House at the Ranch on a Saturday, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., with tours of the theater.
5. $20 for the best seats (usually $6.80), and $4 for the least (usually $2.80).
6. Look at footnote # 3, which attempts to explain the rather different counting methods employed in these years.