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Metropolitan Opera on the screen

It's is the season for opera and Southern Oregon's own company, Rogue Opera, is celebrating its 32nd anniversary.

This Saturday, Dec. 20 Rogue Opera artistic director Willene Gunn will be presenting a talk before the screening of the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast of "Thaïs" by Jules Massenet. Gunn has been Rogue Opera's artistic director and stage director for the last two years. She was the director of opera programs at San Francisco Conservatory for 30 years before moving to the Rogue Valley.

Gunn's talk will begin 20 minutes before the 9 a.m. live Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of "Thaïs" which will be shown at Tinseltown Theater, 651 Medford Center, Medford. The opera runs 3 hours, 21 minutes, with two intermissions.

Renée Fleming plays the Egyptian courtesan Thaïs in search of spiritual sustenance and Thomas Hampson is the monk Athanaël who falls from grace. In this new production by John Cox, Jesús López-Cobos conducts Massenet's rich score, which includes the well-known violin piece, "Meditation." Tickets are $24 for adults, $22 for seniors and $16 for children.

The next live Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast at Tinseltown will be Puccini's "La Rondine" at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10. Giving the pre-opera talk will be Fredna Grimland, Rogue Opera's board president. Grimland is an associate professor of music at Southern Oregon University and teaches applied voice, music education, and conducts the Concert Choir.

Rogue Opera recently received an $80,761 capacity-building grant from Meyer Memorial Trust. The grant was designated for funding a development and public relations/marketing director, board and staff training in the Benevon model for fundraising and ongoing board and staff organizational development.

The new position has been filled by Sarah Koca, formerly the manager of internal communication, events and recognition at Harry & David.

Rogue Opera was founded in 1976 by a group of musicians affiliated with SOU. The mission of Rogue Opera is to present high quality opera to regional audiences, to train young performers and to direct its resources into the education and enrichment of our youth and community. It is currently one of only four opera companies in Oregon and the only opera company between Eugene and Sacramento.

Since 1976, Rogue Opera has presented more than 950 school and main stage performances, and added three singer training programs for professional singers and college students in collaboration with SOU.

Rogue Opera was granted professional company member status in OPERA America in June of 2005. Its season activities center on an "Opera in the Schools Program" for grades K-12 that reaches 20,000 students in more than 100 shows in four months and a "Main Stage Production" each May. The highlights of the opera's coming seasons will be productions of Giacomo Puccini's "La Bohème" in May, 2009, and Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" in May, 2010.

There will be three performances of "La Bohème in Medford and Grants Pass. Rogue Opera's "Tickets for Youth Program" provides up to 250 free main stage and concert tickets a year for disadvantaged children and their families.

See rogueopera.org or call 608-6400.

Rogue Opera and Southern Oregon University collaborate on three singer training programs and two "Voices from the Valley Opera Scenes Concerts." The university provides rehearsal and performance space. Throughout the year Rogue Opera holds "Discover Rogue Opera Tours" in Ashland and Medford. The 45-minute presentations present the history of Rogue Opera and what it offers to the community.

See rogueopera.org or call 608-6400.

Renee Fleming as Thais performs in the final dress rehearsal of Messenet's 'Thais' at the Metropolitan Opera in New York Friday Dec. 5, 2008. - Metropolitan Opera