Austin Opera Launches World’s First-Ever Formula One TOSCA

By Rose Betty Williams   Photography by Rose Betty Williams

THE SETTING: Recently, Austin Opera performed TOSCA at the Germania Insurance Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas on Thursday, April 29 and Sunday, May 2. Created specifically for COTA, this was AO’s first large-scale production in 15 months and featured more than 150 local musicians, cast, crew and staff, all of whom, along with the audience, were socially distanced onstage and in their seats. 

Martha Ernst, Allan and Rose Betty Williams and Cliff Ernst

Despite rain and wind on Thursday night and stars and planes in the sky on Sunday night, guests were mesmerized by the COTA venue and Puccini’s masterpiece. Close live action shots of the soloists projected on the jumbotrons on either side of the stage, with music enhanced by state of the art sound technology, added to the excitement and pleasure of the crowd

Susan and Claude Ducloux

THE STYLE:  David Lefkowich directed this three-act Tosca that was set in Rome in the 1940s. The three leads Latonia Moore as Tosca, Adam Smith as Cavaradossi, and Aleksey Bogdanov as Scarpia all made their AO debuts. The 44-piece orchestra and 24-member chorus were conducted by AO’s Sarah and Ernest Butler Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Timothy Myers. 

Amelia Bullock, Bill Krumpack and Annie Burridge

THE PURPOSE: “Racing and opera both provide a visceral thrill and both have deeply passionate fan bases,” said AO General Director and CEO Annie Burridge, thanking AOs generous donors and devoted audience “whose safety and enjoyment power our every decision”.  AO’s TOSCA was dedicated to the memory of Marvin Womack, and with special thanks to Production Underwriter Eva Womack, and the Exclusive Circuit of the Americas Partnership Underwriter Frederick S. Addy.

Dennis and Dana Jakubowicz



Austin Opera Guild Hosts Annual Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction Gala

By Rose Betty Williams                Photography by Marjorie Kamys


THE SETTING: Pre-COVID-19, Austin Opera Guild and Austin Opera celebrated the 10th annual Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin with dinner, dancing, and live performances in an evening glittered with Viennese music, cuisine and a memorable tribute to event honorees Elisabeth and Steffen Waltz. 

THE STYLE: Television personality Ron Oliveira emceed Serenata that began with a red carpet welcome replete with eye-catching human statues posed as opera characters, hors d’oeuvres, a cocktail hour and bidding on the silent auction. Once guests were seated in the ballroom, two professional dancers wowed the crowd with a dramatic and colorful waltz. Austin Opera’s General Director & CEO Annie Burridge, Austin Opera Board President Jeff Kodosky and Austin Opera Guild President Cathy Collins thanked event co-chairs Suzanne Breitbach, Paula Damore, Michael Garza and Roger Kahlbau, Austin Opera supporters, event sponsors, underwriters, auction donors, Guild members, and attendees for their tireless efforts and generosity. Serenata featured a stunning performance by opera soprano Alexandra Loutsion followed by a four-course wine dinner, the presentation honoring the Waltzes, the live auction and dancing to the music of The Grooves. 

THE PURPOSE: In addition to the event chairs, the 2020 Serenata committee was comprised of committee chairs Tina Barrett, Megan Bjorkman, Kim Cade, Jennifer Davis, Jim Green, Sue Hoke, Barbara Johnson, Jessica Jones, Monica Servidio and Sharon Sneed and more than 30 Austin Opera Guild volunteers. This is Austin Opera’s largest fundraiser, each year raising more than a quarter-million dollars in support of AOs goal to produce live opera performances for the community and to provide excellent music education to school children. Austin Opera reaches 30,000 community members annually, including 14,000 children through in-person programming, plus thousands more through new digital offerings.


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