The Opera Orchestra of New York announced today that philanthropist Dr. Agnes Varis has generously donated $250,000 to the Orchestra, founded by Music Director Eve Queler forty years ago this season. Dr. Varis's donation was given in support of the company's opera-in-concert performance of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, to be conducted by Ms. Queler at Avery Fisher Hall on March 2, 2011. L'Africaine will be presented in honor of Richard Tucker, who performed the lead role in the opera during the company's premiere season; and dedicated to Dr. Varis's late husband Karl Leichtman.
"On behalf of the company, I want to express my enormous gratitude to Dr. Varis," said Board President Norman Raben. "Dr. Varis's recognition of the Opera Orchestra of New York's re-emergence and maturity is a significant milestone in Opera Orchestra's history. Her contribution to the Orchestra and Eve Queler is an important endorsement of our company and we are thrilled to have her support."
Ms. Queler added, "I am honored and thankful to receive Dr. Varis's spontaneous and generous gift in the name of her husband, Karl Leichtman. Mr. Leichtman was a great music lover and I am deeply moved to learn that he was an admirer of my concerts. It gives me great happiness to know that my beloved music has touched people in such a way."
Dr. Varis said, "Karl and I greatly admired Eve Queler's concerts of eclectic music and early choice of opera artists who later became our greatest opera stars and performed at our finest opera houses. Eve Queler's dedication of the March 2nd performance of L'Africaine to Karl is a singular honor for Karl and touches my heart."
Dr. Varis serves as the founder and President of Agvar Chemicals and Modavar Pharmaceuticals. She is actively involved in the arts community and has underwritten programs at the Metropolitan Opera including a rush tickets orchestra-seat program, a senior citizen orchestra multi-seat program, and a children's program. She donated the Agnes Varis Performance Stage to Jazz at Lincoln Center, and sponsors the Jazz Foundation of America's national educational children's Jazz In School Program, which employs elderly jazz musicians. Dr. Varis was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.