Donor Spotlight: Bruce and Betsy Giaimo

Donor Spotlight: Bruce and Betsy Giaimo

New Orleans Opera had not really been on Bruce and Betsy Giaimo’s radar before the 2020 pandemic. Originally residents of New Jersey – Bruce from a suburb of New York City; Betsy, a suburb of Philadelphia – the pair grew up with musical interests, but not necessarily inclusive of opera. It’s not that the art form was completely foreign to them. Betsy took 10 years of piano and also played in the Tulane Orchestra. Bruce grew up in a musical family – his father was a big band musician who played with several groups during World War II including the Glen Miller Orchestra. Although he died when Bruce was 5, his music was a great inspiration. Bruce began playing the piano in that same year and has enjoyed playing for others throughout his life.   

Through the high school he attended in New York City, Bruce was able to get tickets to see Beverly Sills perform at what was then the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Not long after, he almost got to see “a young kid named Luciano Pavarotti” at the Met. “We never made it,” he says, still with a little disbelief. “The car broke down going into the Lincoln Tunnel and we never made it.”  

Bruce and Betsy both attended Tulane and married in 1981. Although they intended to move back to the Northeast after the 1984 World’s Fair, Bruce made a wrong turn a month before they were to leave in front of a neighborhood in Jefferson Parish. They fell in love with the area and the couple decided to buy a home there and stayed.    

Betsy’s first experience with staged operas wasn’t until after Katrina when she and Bruce attended a New Orleans Opera production of Carmen. Before that, her own introduction to opera had actually been a little more stealthy. On staff at LSU Health Sciences Center for 39 years, she would sit in on lectures Dr. Ranney Mize would present about how people hear. The presentation would include an opera singer and piano accompanist. “I would always sneak into that class!” she said.   

The Giaimos’ mutual interest in opera was rekindled more recently after attending an Opus Opera performance of arias at the Civic Theater in 2019, featuring Brian Hymel and Irini Kyriakadou which they said “completely hooked us.” After the start of the pandemic, there were no other opportunities to see performances until their nearby neighbors, who had been attending the opera for years, hosted an event one afternoon. When New Orleans Opera sent performers to the homes of subscribers around the greater metro area, the Giaimos were invited to attend their driveway concert. “Over 100 of us showed up to listen to two tenors and a soprano singing with their car stereos going and it was literally one of the high points of the pandemic for us,” they agreed. “It was one of the things that made us interested in supporting New Orleans Opera.”  

The Giaimos first attended New Orleans Opera’s production of Wagner’s Die Walküre” in the fall of 2021. As soon as they saw an ad in the New Orleans Advocate that the opera was coming back, “we subscribed that day,” Betsy said. “We found seats we could afford and saw the first thing we could get to. It was fabulous.”  

The couple also became founding members of the Opera Sustainers (monthly donors to New Orleans Opera) in fulfilment of a request from Bruce’s Christmas wish list. “I wanted to be a part of the arts coming back after the pandemic,” he said. We’re retired and love showing up and enjoying what we can.”  

Since then, Bruce and Betsy have been all-in and have found the experiences to be surprisingly different from their expectations. “One of the things we like so much about the Opera is that it’s so accessible and inviting,” Bruce said. “We thought it was going to be a little highbrow and snooty and it has been quite the opposite.”    

“We loved Madame Butterfly last season and the twist ending,” they said. “The way the staging was done blew us away and when she walked off the stage at the end with the child, we were almost moved to tears.” We also participated in the discussion after (post-performance, hosted at the Twelve Mile Limit bar) and that was really wonderful.”   

Now the Giaimo’s are looking forward to the current 2023-2024 season. “We know so little about opera and love the experience,” they said. The productions will all be new to them, so each performance is eagerly anticipated. When asked about what operas they would like to see in the future, they said, “Our wish list goes out about 40 years, so we have years and years of opera to catch up on.”   

Thank you, Bruce and Betsy, for your support! We are so happy you are part of our opera family and your monthly donation makes more of an impact than you realize. We are so appreciative of the energy and enthusiasm you bring to each event and performance and hope to see you at the Opera Sustainer event on September 27.   

If you would like to become an Opera Sustainer and come to the event, you can find out more about the program and sign up here.

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