The Overture to Opera Education

In a hand-written letter, long-time Board member Minnie Weisberg recalls, "At the suggestion of the Men's Board of the St. Paul Opera Company, a women's group was formed ... Mrs. Sweney held a tea at her home and the Women's Opera was born ... Many of the present programs were inaugurated by the early Board members. In the very beginning one of the goals was to expose students to opera and thousands of children were bussed to attend performances or dress rehearsals as guests of the Guild. Many disadvantaged students were given the opportunity to brighten their lives and many, too numerous to mention, have reached their goals in the music field."

Ray Cutting educates Convent of the Visitation girls about Oklahoma before the performance.
Costume fitting for soprano Josephine Busalacchi caught the eye of the youngsters.
Assembling invitations for an opera party to promote ticket sales.

1952 - Mrs. W. Homer (Betty) Sweney is elected the first president. Unfortunately, she passes away several months later. Mrs. Leonard (Geraldine) Lampert, Jr. of Minneapolis serves a brief time before resigning. Mrs. Dudley Pattie (Reba) of St. Paul steps in as the third president by 1954.

1953 to 1954 - Ramsey County History records "the group got off to a fast start in its first year." Over 5,000 members of St. Paul Civic Opera, Schubert Club, City Club of St. Paul, Women's Symphony Association, College Clubs, and Council of Jewish Women are invited to the inaugural "Kaffee Klatch" at the St. Paul Hotel on April 9, 1954. The 400 attendees resulted in 1,200 members, each paying $1 to belong. The "Fairy Godmother Fund" gifts opera tickets to 110 student nurses from Miller Hospital, 30 Veteran's Hospital patients, and 150 foreign students from area colleges.

1954 - The "Party in Pink" social is held at Sally Ordway's home in White Bear Lake. The Guild honors the late Mrs. Sweney by creating a record-lending library of operas for use by hospitals, schools, and "homes for the aged." In December 1954, a "sewing bee" is held to create costumes for Tales of Hoffman.

1958 - St. Paul Dispatch headlines "Heavy Opera Attracts 2,500 kids" - The St. Paul Civic Opera Association has been able to maintain a high degree of interest in 'heavy' opera among young people as they reach out to build interest in musical and dramatic arts. Verdi's Il Trovatore played to a large enthusiastic young crowd.

Many newspaper clippings document successful promotional campaigns for each opera or summer concert, including luncheons, presentations by the speakers' bureau, and creative, thematic efforts to sell season tickets.

Mrs. Dudley M. Pattie (Reba), president of the Women's Guild and Mrs. L. Olen Fossett receive balloons as they arrive for a Carnival Party at the home of Mrs. Thomas E. Irvine, Pine Tree Lake.
St. Paul Opera Season Ticket Kick-Off Luncheon invitation.