Latvia, Latvians, and Opera
Latvia first made it back into the popular conciousness from behind the Iron Curtain with its hockey players, the best known including Artūrs Irbe, Sandis Ozoliņš, Kārlis Skrastiņš, and Sergejs Žoltoks.

While the Baltic states have also made names for themselves in other athletic venues, such as The World's Strongest Man competition, today, Latvia has been making itself felt as the new heavyweight in a new realm: the operatic world stage. The careers of some of today's most preeminent stars: Inessa Galante, Elīna Garanča, Aleksandrs Antonenko, were all launched from the same city where Wagner worked as opera and concert conductor well over a century-and-a-half ago—cutting his career in Riga short when he fled to Paris in 1839 to escape creditors!

Its history as a center of opera forgotten during a half century under the Soviets, its opera house crumbling, the future of the operatic tradition in Riga and Latvia after independence seemed tenuous at best. Those darkest of days have been banished but many challenges remain. The LNOG is proud to have been the Latvian National Opera's stalwart companion in its exciting journey to artistic rebirth and return to the world's artistic stage.

About the Latvian National Opera Guild
The early '90s was a very exciting time for Latvia and Latvians everywhere. Free at last from communist suppression, Latvia was experiencing a spiritual and cultural rebirth. Yet, one of its cherished cultural symbols, the National Opera House of Latvia, stood crumbling under the weight of half a century of neglect. Its doors had closed in 1991 for major renovations. However, funds for such an undertaking were scarce in a virtually bankrupt nation.

Soon after Latvia regained its independence, in August of 1991, a group of opera enthusiasts from the New York Latvian Concert Choir initiated the idea of establishing an association which would in some small way help restore their beloved opera house.

The group was small and their expectations were modest but they were willing to work hard, without any compensation. At first informal but frequent meetings were held for the purpose of defining its goals and formulating work guidelines. On February 9th, 1992, the first LNOG board was elected with Indulis Lacis as chairman and Ingrida Berzins as vice-chairman.

No one was quite prepared for the enthusiastic response that followed. People from all over the United States and other parts of the free world wanted to be part of the cultural renaissance and so the Latvian National Opera Guild was founded. Since its inception, the guild has become the largest non-government contributor to the restoration of the opera. Its membership exceeds 1,500.

These funds have been used prudently for the restoration of the opera house as well as for sponsorship of numerous projects aimed at maintaining the opera's high artistic standards.

Some of the most noteworthy reconstruction funding has been for the purchase and installation of two Otis elevators, carpeting the opera halls, total renovation of the orchestra pit, reconstruction of the stage lighting, hall lamps and mirrors and numerous small projects.

The guild has paid for numerous musical instruments for the opera orchestra, strings for all string instruments and most recently an 1801 Franz Anton Stoss master violin. However, most noteworthy and very much appreciated has been the guild's gift of a "Steinway & Sons" concert grand piano.

Recognizing the importance of developing new operatic talent, the guild has been the sole sponsor of student opera productions at the Latvian Academy of Music in Riga. The student opera company known as "Figaro" travels throughout the provinces bringing opera to the local schools.

The Latvian National Opera Guild is also responsible for the addition of a libretto projection above the stage in the hopes of attracting more of the younger generation.

The guild also sponsors the opera website and its present expansion to include complete historical and biographical information as well as musical fragments. (For a complete list of LNOG donations, please visit the "Projects" page.)

In addition to membership fees and donations, the guild raises funds by means of benefit activites such as concerts. Another successful fund raising device has been the sale of commemorative plaques to be attached to opera chairs. For a donation of $2,000, one can purchase an inscribed plaque to be placed on the back of a chair in the opera hall. Donations of $10,000 and more are recognized by individual plaques adorning the walls of the opera house.

A devoted opera guild board, advisory panel and members who have volunteered their time and ingenuity keep administrative expenses to a minimum. Running expenses for such items as mailing and printing are kept to about 4% of income. Under the leadership of its present chairperson Aija Pelše and vice chairman Ivars Bērziņš, activities of the opera guild are guided by more than a dozen board members, over a dozen advisors, and three auditors. The board is elected by the dues paying members of the guild.

After nearly two rewarding decades, restoration and expansion projects have been largely completed and the guild has focused its activities on promoting the opera's artistic endeavors, supporting special projects, and spreading the popularity of opera among Latvia's youngest generation.

The Latvian National Opera Guild invites you to join the many enthusiastic members our worthy endeavors. The Latvian National Opera Guild is incorporated as a cultural organization. Consequently, contributions to the guild are deductible under section 170 (c) (2) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States. Many corporations have "matching grants" programs, whereby the corporation contributes funds to a cultural institution to match employees contribution.

Yearly tax deductible membership is: single $25, family $50.

Checks are payable to: Latvian National Opera Guild, Inc. Mail to:
Latvian National Opera Guild, Inc.
c/o Andris Padegs
2 Merry Hill Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

News Latvian National Opera Guild

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