News Sylvain

Big Wig Ball

Sylvain Society to Host Fifth Annual Big Wig Ball

July 9, 2021, 7:00 – 10:00 PM at Artmazing Gallery

Join us! A Soirée to Raise Funds for New Orleans Opera Education Programs

Tickets start at $40.00

Must be 21 or older to purchase tickets and attend.

Cabaret Soirée

Big Wig Ball Chair, Cree Merriman Jourdain

While the ball was delayed this year, we will still celebrate with the usual exuberance of glitter and wigs all in support of opera education. The funds from this event support opera education programs for the Greater New Orleans area through the New Orleans Opera Association’s Education Department. We are very excited that we were able to hold the ball last year, which provided funds for the educational programming to be conducted virtually at a great time of need to local students. We are even more thrilled that we will be able to continue the tradition this year, as times like these show how important music education is to students and musicians.


The theme of Cabaret Soirée is loosely based on Moulin Rouge in support of the upcoming opera production La Bohème in April 2022. Wigs and costume or cocktail attire inspired by the theme are encouraged. A panel of judges will select their favorite wig-wearing guests, then choose who will be crowned the “Big Wig 2021”. Along with food and libations provided by stellar local sponsors, guests will have access to the Artmazing Gallery installation for photo ops. 


  • Friday, July 9th
  • 7:00 – 10:00 p.m
  • Artmazing Gallery (309 Decatur St. New Orleans, LA 70130)

Big Wig Ball

Since 2017, the Big Wig Ball events have raised more than $28,000 in funding to directly support programming costs for Student Night Out performances and other education programs. Each year, the Student Night Out performances introduce more than 2,000 local K-12 students to the operatic arts when students and chaperones attend opera productions at Mahalia Jackson Theater. This year, the pandemic presented hurdles that the Education Department tackled with ease; they were able to quickly switch in-school activities to virtual educational programs for students.

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  • @nolabigwig
  • @sylvainsociety

Sponsorship Opportunities

$200 Big Wig Krewe Second Line Sponsor
  • Two tickets to the Big Wig Ball
  • Social media mentions on @sylvainsociety & @nolabigwig accounts
  • Name on event webpage
  • Verbal and print acknowledgement at Big Wig Ball
$500 Big Wig Krewe Riders Sponsor
  • Four tickets to the Big Wig Ball
  • Social media mentions on @sylvainsociety & @nolabigwig accounts
  • Name on event web page
  • Verbal and print acknowledgement at Big Wig Ball
$1,000 Big Wig Krewe Court Sponsor
  • Six tickets to the Big Wig Ball
  • Social media mentions on @sylvainsociety & @nolabigwig accounts
  • Logo/Name on Big Wig Ball media
  • Logo/live link on event web page
  • Two tickets to a New Orleans Opera production at Mahalia Jackson Theater
  • Verbal and print acknowledgement at Big Wig Ball
$2,000 Big Wig Krewe Captain Sponsor (Presenting Level)
  • Ten tickets to the Big Wig Ball
  • Social media mentions on @sylvainsociety & @nolabigwig accounts
  • Logo on all Big Wig Ball media
  • Logo/live link on event web page
  • Four tickets to a New Orleans Opera production at Mahalia Jackson Theater
  • Press release announcing presenting sponsorship
  • Verbal and print acknowledgement at Big Wig Ball
Custom Sponsorship Packages are available: email

This event has a wide, diverse group of cultural supporters, and we love promoting our local sponsors. Please join us in continuing this annual tradition that strengthens the local arts community by becoming a sponsor today.

About Sylvain Society

Sylvain Society is the New Orleans Opera Association’s young professionals affiliate organization. Sylvain’s mission is to connect the operatic arts to the Greater New Orleans community. Membership is free and open to individuals ages 21 through 45.

Sylvain Steering Committee Chairs: Amanda Credeur, Ava McClain, Michael Roussel Jr., and Bianca Spears.

Learn more at


Limited-edition Statue by Thomas Bruno

In 1966 the New Orleans Opera Association received a generous donation of an 1865 Greek Revival home from Nettie Kenney Seebold. (The home now referred to as the Opera Guild Home is located at 2504 Prytania Street.) Fifty years later the Women’s Guild celebrated by commissioning artist and New Orleans native, Thomas Bruno, to create a statue for the front yard of the beautiful home. Madame Butterfly, was unveiled at a party on October 13, 2016.

Now, five years later and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person activities at the Guild Home have temporarily halted. As a fundraising arm of the Association, Guild Members met and decided that offering a special edition of the Artist’s Proof of the statue to people making a donation of $3,500 to the Guild would be a wonderful way to support the Association. 

Limited-Edition Details:

  • Statue Dimensions: 20″
  • Material: Bronze
  • Donation: $3,500.00 ($2,000 tax-deductible donation to the Women’s Guild)
  • Deadline to pre-order: July 1, 2021
  • Estimated delivery date: October 1, 2021 (subject to change)
  • For more information on the statue, call Jenny Chapman, Support Group Liaison (504) 529-2278.
  • To learn more about Thomas Bruno, visit his website here.
  • Shipping/delivery details to be determined
  • Both credit card and check donations can be processed with the form below. For checks, please select “Donate with Offline Donation” and thank you!

A Look Back:

Donors who contributed to the commissioning of the statue were Betty Brooks, Penny Baumer, Bill Coe, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bruno, S. Michael and Lynne Cappel Cashio, Dr. William and Dierdre Long, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Capritto, Jo-Ann Ciolino Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Bruno, Patricia Dunbar Murrell, Dr. and Mrs. Charles L. Dupin, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred E. Stacey lV, Kathleen Vogt Robert, Marilyn Nuccio Guercio, Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Dowling, Mr. Bruce and Dr. Jane Cagen Miller, Lanier Long Hosford, and J.P. Fleming and Dr. Erin O’Sullivan Fleming.


Coming Up

Sunday, March 14th, 2021 at 5pm Pacific / 7:00 pm Central / 8:00 pm Eastern.
(Includes extended viewing access of the recording through Sunday, March 21st)

Hershey Felder, PUCCINI is the story of a young musician in love with the world of opera, and in particular Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly.  When, through a series of unusual circumstances, the young musician meets the musical master himself, secrets are revealed that send the young man soaring.

With special guests, baritone Nathan Gunn, soprano Gianna Corbisiero and tenor Charles Castronovo, this new Hershey Felder creation will spur the imagination and move the musical soul.

Filmed and performed on location in Lucca, Italy, in the very home where Giacomo Puccini was born, this new work featuring Hershey Felder and three world-renowned opera stars promises to be a very special event. 

Tickets: $55 per household

Purchase includes the live broadcast AND a week of extended “on-demand” viewing access to the recording of the live broadcast (available one-hour after the live broadcast ends). Viewing access ends on Sunday, March 21st at 11:59pm PST.

Tickets cannot be transferred or shared. There are no refunds.

You will receive a viewing LINK on Friday, March 12th, 2021 (2 days before the live stream) to the email entered at time of purchase.

Hershey Felder’s arts broadcasting company, Hershey Felder Presents – Live from Florence, produces high quality streaming arts programming for international audiences, both for the period while theatres remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. This sumptuously filmed production provides home audiences with a front row seat as Felder presents another masterwork, this time delving into Puccini’s life and music. 

Filmed and performed on location in Lucca, Italy, in the home where Giacomo Puccini was born, Hershey Felder, PUCCINI promises to be a truly special event, with Gunn, Corbisero and Castronovo performing many of the beloved arias from Puccini’s La bohème, ToscaMadama Butterfly and Turandot.

Since the start of the pandemic, Felder’s live streams have generated over $2 million in sales. Felder has donated 80% of these proceeds to international theatres, arts organizations, schools, artists and publications that have been financially impacted by the worldwide health crisis. 

Hershey Felder, PUCCINI is directed by Felder & Stefano Decarli, with associate direction by Trevor Hay. Production design is by Hershey Felder. Film production and live editing is by the DeCarli Live film company. Live broadcast and sound design production are by Erik Carstensen. Line producer is Annette Nixon. Meghan Maiya is the Director of Development and Research. Costumes and Hair are by Camilla Saccardi. 


Hershey Felder (Writer & Performer). Named to Time Magazine’s 2016 Top 10 Plays and Musicals, Hershey Felder has played over 6,000 performances of his self-created solo productions at some of the world’s most prestigious theatres, consistently breaking box office records. American Theatre Magazine has said, “Hershey Felder is in a category all his own.” His shows include: George Gershwin Alone (Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre, West End’s Duchess Theatre); Monsieur ChopinBeethoven; Maestro (Leonard Bernstein); Franz Liszt in MusikLincoln: An American StoryHershey Felder as Irving BerlinOur Great Tchaikovsky; and A Paris Love Story. His compositions and recordings include Aliyah, Concerto for Piano and OrchestraFairytale, a musicalLes Anges de Paris, Suite for Violin and PianoSong SettingsSaltimbanques for Piano and OrchestraEtudes Thematiques for Piano; and An American Story for Actor and Orchestra. Hershey is the adaptor, director and designer for the internationally performed play-with-music The Pianist of Willesden Lane with Steinway artist Mona Golabek; producer and designer for the musical Louis and Keely: ‘Live’ at the Sahara, directed by Taylor Hackford; and writer and director for Flying Solo, featuring opera legend Nathan Gunn. Hershey has operated a full-service production company since 2001, and in 2020 created a new brand, Live from Florence, that operates a “theatre at home broadcast company,” based in Florence, Italy. Previous broadcasts have included Hershey Felder as Irving BerlinHershey Felder, BeethovenHershey Felder as George Gershwin Alone; Hershey Felder as Claude Debussy in A Paris Love StoryHershey Felder, TchaikovskyHershey Felder as Sholem Aleichem in Before Fiddler; Hershey Felder, Backstory – The Story Behind the Creation of Berlin, Gershwin & Bernstein; and Cooking French in Florence with Jeff Thickman & Hershey Felder. The Hershey Felder Presents – Live from Florence 2020-21 Season of broadcasts will also include Hershey Felder as Sergei Rachmaninoff in Anna & Sergei. Hershey has been a scholar-in-residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music and is married to Kim Campbell, the first female Prime Minister of Canada.

Nathan Gunn has performed many of opera and musical theatre’s greatest roles on the world’s most prestigious stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Royal Opera in London, Paris Opéra, Bavarian State Opera Munich, Theater an der Wien Vienna, Teatro Real Madrid, and Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie Brussels. He has been seen and heard on television, radio, video, and live simulcast performances, including the first ever Met in HD broadcast (The Magic Flute), in which he sang Papageno, one of his signature roles. Nathan has reinterpreted other classic roles such as Billy Budd, Figaro, and Don Giovanni, garnering awards including the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording (Billy Budd) and the Metropolitan Opera’s first ever Beverly Sills Award. Gunn has also been widely acclaimed for his ability to cross over into musical theatre, including performances with the New York Philharmonic in Carousel and Camelot, the televised celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, and collaborations with musical theatre stars including Mandy Patinkin, Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth. Gunn’s one-man autobiographical show Flying Solo, produced and written by Hershey Felder, has been lauded as a “riveting autobiographical musical [that] is a stunner both with its touching, relatable, family-centric narrative and Gunn’s entertaining, charismatic performing style.” (Broadway World).

Declared “luminous” by Opera NewsGianna Corbisiero has performed the title roles in ToscaLa bohèmeLa traviataPagliacciSuor AngelicaGianni SchicchiLe nozze di FigaroDon GiovanniThe Magic FluteCarmenIl barbiere di Siviglia and Falstaff at major opera houses throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, under the baton of conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, and Charles Dutoit. She has performed with Bryn Terfel, Renee Fleming, and Marcelo Alvarez. For Bravo Canada she recorded episodes of television’s “Opera Easy,” performing excerpts from La bohème, La traviata, Tosca and Norma, and made her cinema debut singing “O mio babbino caro” in the film Elephant Song, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Corbisiero’s many honors and awards include a special prize from the Luciano Pavarotti International Vocal Competition, Top Prize in the Canadian Music Competition, and First Prize from the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation.

Charles Castronovo has been acclaimed internationally as one of the finest lyric tenors of his generation. Castronovo has sung at most of the world’s leading opera houses, including San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera. Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, Paris Opera, Bavarian State Opera Munich, Theatre Royale de la Monnaie Brussels, and many others. He starred in the title role of Daniel Catan’s Il Postino opposite Placido Domingo in the work’s World Premiere in Los Angeles, as well as in Paris and Santiago. His repertoire spans from the great Mozart tenor roles in Don GiovanniCosí fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, to Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore and Alfredo in La traviata. In recent seasons, Castronovo won wide acclaim for his performances as the title role in Faust, Romeo in Roméo et Juliette, the Duke in Rigoletto, Rodolfo in La bohème and Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will I receive the LIVE STREAM LINK?  Your LIVE STREAM LINK will be sent to you on Friday, March 12th, via the email you used to register for this event. If you do not see the email on March 12th, check your spam folder. 
  • What if I experience technical difficulties or am unable to view the LIVE STREAM? New Orleans Opera is not responsible for technical difficulties on your home devices or any issues with your local broadband or wifi.  However, there is online support available to help you as much as we can. Contact for online support. ALSO, if you do have technical difficulties, please remember that your purchase includes the live stream AND an additional week of “on demand” viewing access to a video recording of the live stream (available one-hour after the live broadcast ends). For troubleshooting tips, click HERE.
  • What if the LIVE STREAM buffers while I am watching? Don’t worry – you can watch what you missed in the recording later. The recording will be available to you for 1-week after the event. For troubleshooting tips, click HERE.
  • What’s the refund policy? There are no refunds for this event.
  • Is my registration fee or ticket transferrable? No transfers or sharing.
  • May I give this as a gift or purchase access for multiple households? Yes, you may gift access to friends and family! To do so, you will need to make a separate purchase for each household and provide a different name and email address associated with that viewing household. The confirmation email will go directly to them. 
  • How do I contact the organizer if I have questions? You can email with questions. They will get back to you as soon as possible and we appreciate your patience.
  • Additional “How To Watch a HFP Live Stream” Instructions can be found HERE.


Important Message from General Director, Clare Burovac

The Medium is going virtual!

It is with profound disappointment that we share with you news of the cancellation of our live performances of Menotti’s The Medium.  We’ve been watching City mandates carefully and had remained optimistic about presenting these performances at the Newman Bandstand in Audubon Park. However, with outdoor gatherings in Orleans Parish still limited to 25 people, we realize this is now an impossibility.

As many of our long-time subscribers may know, The Medium is an opera that is a particular favorite of Maestro Robert Lyall, and this is not the first time that circumstances have necessitated a cancellation of this title!  With this in mind, along with our desire to continue to provide performance opportunities to our contracted artists, we are moving forward with a filmed version of Menotti’s thriller, to be recorded in mid-March during our original live-performance dates.  We expect that it will be available to watch later in April and we will update you via email once a release date is determined.

If you have any questions or want to speak with someone about your tickets to The Medium, please contact the Box Office at 504-529-3000.  We look forward to seeing you at our live performances of Porgy and Bess later this spring as well as in the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for our productions next season.

Thank you again for your commitment to and support of New Orleans Opera. Until we can be together again, I wish you all continued good health.

Best regards,

Clare Burovac, General Director

2020-2021 Opera News

A Night with the Black Opera Alliance

The Sylvain Society proudly presents

A Night With The Black Opera Alliance

Hosted by Bianca Spears, LMSW, Co-Chair of the Sylvain Society
February 19th at 6:00 p.m. (CST) via Zoom
Join the Sylvain Society Friday, February 19th at 6:00 pm for a free virtual event, a Night with the Black Opera Alliance. In celebration of Black History Month, Sylvain Society is proud to host their February event in partnership with The Black Opera Alliance. The interview will be conducted by Sylvain Co-Chair Bianca Spears, LMSW. In attendance will be Jayme Alilaw, Pamela Jones, and Garrett McQueen representing the Black Opera Alliance. Attendance is free and open to the general public.

Jayme Alilaw is an Army veteran, mother, and creator of many passions who engages the world as an opera singer, coach, content creator, educator, and advocate. Currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, Jayme is committed to elevating the voices of Black creators, producing performance art such as La Femme Noire: The Celebrated Womxn, a celebration of the contributions of African American womxn as composers, poets, and singers, as well as Tapestry: A Historical Journey Through Song, an interactive workshop performance commissioned by The Atlanta Opera for grades K-8 that explores the origins of Spirituals and Freedom Songs and the musical and literary elements that comprise them.

Two-time winner of the National Opera Association Vocal Competition Legacy Award, lyric coloratura soprano Pamela Jones has been a soloist with New York City Opera, Royal Danish Theatre, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Spoleto Festival (USA), American Spiritual Ensemble, L’Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinité (Haiti), Philadelphia Chamber Chorus, Mostly Mozart Festival, American Symphony Orchestra, Trilogy: An Opera Company, Lighthouse Opera Company, Arch Angel Productions, Ember Ensemble, and the Dundalk (Ireland) International Drama Festival, where she won the Best Supporting Actress Award. She earned her master’s degree in Voice Performance from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Garrett McQueen spent the first decade of his career working as a professional bassoonist with orchestras including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and many others. Driven to change the aural definitions connected to “classical” music, Garrett left the stage in 2016, and now works as a content creator and digital producer, with projects including the nationally-syndicated radio program, “The Sound of 13”, and the weekly TRILLOQUY podcast.

The mission of the Black Opera Alliance is to empower Black classical artists and administrators by exposing systems of racial inequity and under-representation of the African diaspora in all facets of the industry and challenging institutions to implement drastic reform.

More information on the Black Opera Alliance here.

Sylvain Society is the young professionals affiliate group of the New Orleans Opera Association. Established in 2017, our purpose is to connect the operatic arts to the Greater New Orleans community.

More information on the Sylvain Society here.

About New Orleans Opera

New Orleans Opera Diversity/Equity Statement

The New Orleans Opera Association is committed to providing an environment that is free from discrimination. NOOA values diversity, recognizing that our differences contribute to our strength as an arts organization serving a diverse population. We are committed to eliminating barriers to access and equity and see a diverse Board, staff, and artists as a key step toward this goal. It is our belief that every employee has the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and self-worth, and that it is imperative that we, as a cornerstone cultural institution in the city of New Orleans, act in a manner free of bias, exclusion, and discrimination whether on the basis of faith, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, political affiliation, or any other personal differences.

Diversity & Inclusion Vision

New Orleans Opera Board, staff, and artists work together to create a diverse, inclusive, and respectful culture that inspires the entire community of New Orleans to engage with our world-class opera company.

Diversity & Inclusion Mission

We achieve our Vision by:

  • Attracting, recruiting, and retaining a skilled, high-performing, and diverse staff that reflects our city.
  • Recruiting Board members who are passionate about the organization and reflect all facets of the greater New Orleans community, and engaging them actively in committees.
  • Engaging national and local talent of diverse cultures to perform on our stage and in the orchestra pit.
  • Widening the selection of repertoire to include stories by women and composers of color that reflect our community and their experiences in addition to operas from the traditional European canon.
  • Committing resources to cultivate an inclusive culture that respects staff and artist differences, recognizes and rewards their diverse talents, and helps them reach their full potential.
  • Expanding outreach to universities with diverse student populations and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Gulf Coast Region to provide opportunities to learn all aspects of opera administration and production, including stagecraft, costuming, and wigs and makeup.

At New Orleans Opera we recognize that:

Diversity is important. The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse and the traditional definition of diversity — race, gender, and age — has evolved appropriately to include anything that makes us different from one another. We are a kaleidoscope not only of ideas, but also of various races, ethnicities, religions, generations, languages and cultural groups.

We are collectively stronger through an inclusive culture. New Orleans Opera is committed to not only create and maintain, but also leverage and value the richness of a diverse team of Board members, staff, and artists so that every member of the company has an equal opportunity to contribute in significant ways to the effectiveness of the organization. Our Board and staff will be highly regarded for valuing others and promoting the right of every person to reach his or her full potential; that means integrating our values into our daily interactions and behaviors.

Blog News

New Orleans Opera Blog

Judging for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions during a pandemic.

By: Clare Burovac, New Orleans Opera General Director

I have been judging for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (MONC) for almost ten years.  It’s always a wonderful experience:  fly to the host city, meet the amazing volunteers who organize and fund-raise for the competition, listen to approximately 30 young opera singers competing for prize money, and, my favorite part, providing feedback to all of the singers about their audition: what they did well, how they can improve, and what impression they made during their performance. 

This season is a year like no other in the arts, and the MONC auditions are no different!  I salute Melissa Wegner and her team at the Metropolitan Opera who were determined to continue the program in whatever way they could, and this year, that meant doing it all virtually.  I had the honor of judging the Florida District level competition on Sunday, January 17, 2021, from the comfort of my home office.  The MONC competition used a company named Kiswe, a cloud-based video company that creates real-time live streams, for this year’s auditions.  All judges participated in a Zoom tutorial in the fall in order to acquaint us with the technology and make sure that we were equipped to participate, both in terms of hardware, internet connections, and audio capability. Then on the morning of January 17, my fellow judges and I met up in the virtual audition room to make sure that we were ready to go and get last minute instructions from MONC. 

I cannot emphasize enough how smoothly the process went!  We had a MONC staff member running the technology, muting and unmuting us whenever necessary.  For those of you who have been participating in Zoom calls over the last month, you know how valuable that was!  The volunteers from the great team in the Florida District brought the singers into the “green room” just before their audition time, and then welcomed them into the “audition room” when it was their turn to perform.  Singers in the Florida District were auditioning from every corner of the United States, including one from Baton Rouge, and we even had one singer who was auditioning from Amsterdam.  Following the deliberations, the MONC staff was able to live-stream the announcement of the winners to social media for all to see.  Feedback was also available – all the singers and judges met on Zoom so that we could provide praise and constructive criticism to the auditionees. 

Although I look forward to hearing live auditions in person again, I was amazed at how successful these auditions were, and I certainly don’t feel like the process was compromised by the technology at all.  Bravi tutti to all of the singers who took the leap of trusting the process to audition for us in this virtual format, and congratulations to the MONC team for the terrific organizational job they did.  (But please don’t tell them that I was judging the auditions in my fuzzy slippers.) 

For more information about the Metropolitan National Council Auditions, visit, or for more specific information regarding MONC in New Orleans, visit


LaVergne Monette, soprano

New Orleans Opera is very proud to present a new interview with soprano LaVergne Monette, the winner of the Lifetime Achievement in Classical Arts Award from the Gambit affiliated, Big Easy Awards. The interview is conducted by Founder and Artistic Director of the award-winning OperaCréole, New Orleans Opera artist and Advisory Board Member, Givonna Joseph, and directed by Dylan Trần.

Ms. LaVergne Monette is a native of New Orleans who has broken racial barriers in opera and has given honor to our city through her international success as an operatic and classical artist and educator.

Givonna Joseph interviews LaVergne Monette, Directed by Dylan Trần


LaVergne Monette, soprano

Ms. LaVergne Monette was the 1960 winner of the National Metropolitan Opera Auditions. She also made history by becoming  the first person of color to sing a role with New Orleans Opera. This groundbreaking 1968 production of Carmen included Ms. Monette as Mercedes next to Ruth Falcon as Frasquita. It was staged by Arthur Cosenza and conducted by Knud Anderson. LaVergne Monette would later sing Mercedes, Micaëla, and many other roles, including Mimi in La Boheme at New York City Opera and beyond.

The New York Times said that Ms. Monette possessed “a beautiful voice with tremendous power and warmth”, and the Herald Tribune said this of her performance in the Metropolitan Opera’s concert at Lewisohn Stadium: “LaVergne Monette, a promising newcomer discovered after winning the Met auditions, breezed through the score with her exceptionally fine voice. Only a reprise tumultuously urged and willingly granted brought the evening and highly invigorating season to an end.”

Her parents, Adolph and Flora Mel Monette, made sure she had music in her life from an early age, and brought her to study voice with Nelson Francis privately, which led to her working with him while a student at Xavier University Preparatory High School.

Ms. Monette graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana’s groundbreaking opera program created by Sr. Elise Sisson, SBS,  with whom she studied voice, and sang the title role of Aida (to Nelson Francis’ Radames) and other roles in their historic productions. The great basso of New Orleans heritage, Norman Treigle, came to Xavier to stage their production of Le Nozze di Figaro with Ms. Monette as Countess Almaviva.  She and Norman Treigle would go on to perform together often. 

After attending a summer program at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, PA, Robert Lawrence recommended her to the great diva, renowned soprano Rosa Ponselle, who took her under her wing as a protégée (Ms. Ponselle was herself a protégée of the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso).

During her time in New York, she would also study with Bert Knapp and perform at New York City Opera with Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, and Plácido Domingo. Ms. Monette, sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera and Columbia Artists International, distinguished herself by representing the United States as a featured solo artist in a  orchestral and recital tour of Finland and on audition tours of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. 

In addition to roles with the Met and New York City Opera, she sang with Baltimore Opera, Virginia Opera, and Saratoga Opera in Florida. She even sang a role in the 1966 New York City Opera production of The Consul staged by Gian Carlo Menotti himself.

In 1987, she had the honor of being chosen as a soloist for the Papal Mass celebrated at the University of New Orleans during St. Pope John Paul II’s visit.  She also appeared in recitals in the UNICEF Pavillion of the Louisiana World’s Fair in 1984. Ms. Monette was also a featured soloist in recitals at New York’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.

Throughout her career, LaVergne Monette has divided her talents between performances and nurturing young artists by teaching voice, performance, acting and world languages all over the U.S.  She taught privately in New York, at Illinois State University, Indiana University at Bloomington, and at Xavier University and Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Louisiana. She also gave back to the community through her work with elementary school children at St. Rita’s Catholic School in New Orleans.

Ms. Monette has also been a champion of New Orleans Creole culture. In 2000, she was featured on Sybil Kein’s CDs Creole Classique Music for a New Orleans Soirée. This CD brought the music of 19th Century New Orleans free composers of color to life, and she was a soloist in Dr. Kein’s CD Songs of Romance.

In retirement, Ms Monette continues to use her beautiful voice singing in Carol Dolliole’s choir at St Augustine Church in Faubourg Tremé, at St. Anthony of Padua with Larry Lydon, organist and member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus, and  at other churches throughout New Orleans. In 2017 she received the “Lift Every Voice” Legacy Award from the National Opera Association. She currently resides in New Orleans and is thankful to God for all her blessings.

Givonna Joseph, OperaCréole 

As Founder and Artistic Director of the award-winning OperaCréole, Ms. Joseph’s research on operatic composers of African descent has been featured in The New YorkerSouthern Living magazine, and on NPR. She was previously honored as a standard bearer of Louisiana culture on Le Grand Tour, a documentary for French TV, and Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins.

Her company received The Gambit affiliated Classical Arts Awards in 2018, and 2019. In 2020, The Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) of Washington, D.C. honored them.

Since 2011, the international soloist, along with her daughter, OperaCréole co-founder Aria Mason, has successfully mounted lost operas by composers of color such as Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Thelma, and Lucien Lambert’s La Flamenca.

In 2018 they created an original opera  The Lions of Reconstruction: From Black Codes to the Ballot Box in honor of New Orleans’ tricentennial.

Ms. Joseph teaches private voice, and specializes in Arts Integration using the science of music, and Creole culture.

She previously served as Education Director for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and as a singer, the mezzo-soprano has sung featured roles in many New Orleans Opera productions, and serves on their Advisory Board. She has also performed with Houston Grand Opera, and sang a leading role in Wading Home, which told the story of Hurricane Katrina.


WWNO Interview – The Guild Home Concert

Thank you to WWNO and Diane Mack for this interview with General Director, Clare Burovac and for sharing our news about the 20-21 Season Opening concert!

Click below to listen.

Program Book

Program Book

The Opera Guild Home Concert with Bryan Hymel and Irini Kyriakidou

January 15, 2021 – 7:30 PM

This production is generously underwritten with support from Drs. Ranney and Emel Songu Mize.

Nothing gives us greater pleasure than to sing in our hometown for our New Orleans community! We want to thank New Orleans Opera and Maestro Lyall for this incredible opportunity. We chose this repertoire with much care and love, hoping that it will bring a musical comfort to everyone during these challenging times.

Stay safe and optimistic, Bryan and Irini
Musical Selections

“Il est doux, il est bon”

from Massenet’s Hérodiade 

“Adieu donc, vains objets”

from Massenet’s Hérodiade 

Act One duet

from Puccini’s Tosca 

“Vissi d’arte”

from Puccini’s Tosca 

“E lucevan le stelle”

from Puccini’s Tosca 

“Senza mamma”

from Puccini’s Suor Angelica 

“È la solita storia del pastore” (Lamento di Federico)

from Cilea’s L’arlesiana 

“Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix”

from Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila 

Act Five, Tomb Scene

from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette