The East bay Opera League (EBOL) is made up of musicians, teachers and lovers of operatic music. We are brought together by an enthusiam for opera and the need to share and encourage others to experience this amazing art form. EBOL also recognizes that young singers in particular need financial aid and performing venues at the beginning of their careers. With this in mind, EBOL has set up a scholarship fund and salon style concert series to help them in this process.
It all began back in the 1930’s when a group of opera-loving women met in Piedmont homes to listen to opera recordings, enjoy tea and a good chat. Founding members were Mrs. Phillip Eberhart, Countess Lillian Dandini (pictured left), Miss Eve York, Mrs. Clarence Johnson and Mrs. Richard Ham.
All through the Second World War, Opera League programs went on as usual. Many members expressed gratitude for the afternoon of music which helped them forget, briefly, the terrible problems of the world. Great music has always had a therapeutic and healing influence on the emotional health and the more troublesome the times, the more it is needed in our lives.
By the 1950’s, growing too large for home meetings, the league moved to the Claremont Hotel for their programs and the audiences (members and their guests) voted for the best male and female singer from this group of young, aspiring, talented people. At the end of the year an award was given to a young tenor, Jess Thomas (right), who had outstanding potential. He was awarded $300, making it possible for him to go to Europe to continue his studies. He went on to become the most highly acclaimed Wagnerian tenor in Europe and America. Thus was born the idea of our Young Artist Scholarship Award Program which, today, is well-known and highly regarded in music circles.
As the League continued to grow, the next move was to the Kaiser Center near Lake Merritt where four operas were performed each year by local opera companies. There was a small charge for the delightful teas following the performances. The teas were held at the “Central Park” restaurant on the top floor of the Kaiser Center, overlooking the verdant roof garden. This became a lovely way to entertain guests after the excellent performance.
The membership continued to grow. This made it possible for the League to give substantial scholarships. Many thousands of dollars were granted over the years. Annual auditions are eagerly awaited by many aspiring opera singers. The annual scholarship competition has drawn as many as 40 applicants. The preliminary competition is adjudicated by members of the opera league. Usually 12 to 14 applicants are selected to compete in the finals. The final competition is adjudicated by professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area music community. The League is thankful to the several dedicated people from the music community who give of their expertise toward the selection of the scholarship winners.
Throughout the years, the East Bay Opera League has provided enjoyment and increased understanding and appreciation of opera for its members and guests. Aspiring young singers have been given an incentive to learn operatic roles for a discerning audience.
The League welcomes new members and strives to keep this worthwhile organization alive. Anyone who shares their passion for opera and an interest in helping young artists on career tracks achieve their goals is invited to join the Opera League.