It has been quite a year for opera in Baltimore. In March, we received the definitive news that our beloved opera company would not recover from the financial meltdown that affected so many in our city, state and country. We watched as its assets from the past 50+ years were sold at auction. And we witnessed the inspiring growth of new (and old) opera companies as they tried to fill the void of the legendary company that left us.

Yet even during this dark financial period, we were reminded of the importance of giving. Tim Smith recently brought to our attention the story of Louise Dieterle Nippert, a 98-year-old arts patron and former soprano, who donated $85 million to support the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Opera and the May Festival.

I hope that you will consider making an end-of-year contribution to your favorite opera company (or companies). If you can’t afford $85 million, perhaps you can afford $850, or $85 or even $8.50. And for those of you 71 or over, you can very likely make a tax-free gift to the organization of your choice from your traditional IRA and you won’t pay income tax on the amount of your gift. Tell your IRA administrator that you want to make a “qualified charitable distribution” to one of the organizations below. The administrator will send your tax-free gift directly to them. It must be postmarked by December 31, 2009! (Note: We do not advise on personal income tax issues. Please consult your tax advisor for full information. Only your advisor can give you definitive advice based on your personal financial circumstances.)

Here is a list of local opera companies who could use your help to ensure that 2010 is a vibrant year for opera in Baltimore:

Regardless of your ability to donate to these companies, I also encourage you to support them by buying tickets to upcoming performances. We don’t have to look too far ahead for some amazing events. Tonight, Renée Fleming graces the stage of The Lyric Opera House (tickets are still available). In January, American Opera Theater is bringing Le Cabaret de Carmen back to Baltimore Theatre Project. On February 14th, The Lyric Opera House is presenting an Opera New Jersey production of Bizet’s Carmen starring Denyce Graves along with members of the former Baltimore Opera Chorus. In late February, Opera Vivente brings Impressions of Pelléas to their home stage at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. And March brings a plethora of performances by Peabody Opera (Die Fledermaus), Baltimore Opera Theatre (Rigoletto), Annapolis Opera (Tosca) and more. Here’s the complete schedule of opera in Baltimore in 2010.

Personally, I am particularly looking forward to Baltimore Concert Opera’s Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci being performed March 19th and 21st at The Engineers Club. Here’s a video preview of what they have in store for us:
Baltimore Concert Opera’s Preview of Cav/Pag

Finally, if you’re still looking for the right holiday gift for someone special, a night at the opera is the perfect gift. Introducing someone new to this beloved art form is perhaps one of the most special gifts you could give.

I would like to thank all of you who have communicated your support of over the past six months. It is personally very rewarding to hear that you find it useful and informative. I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season and peaceful new year.