The close of the opera season last Saturday evening was a time for both celebration and remembrance.
Following the Chautauqua Opera Company’s final performance of the summer — its Opera Pops concert with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra — the Chautauqua Opera Guild held a season-ending get-together for the company and its friends at the Jane A. Gross Opera Center.
“This is our chance to recognize how vital everyone has been to our success this season,” said Steven Osgood, Chautauqua Opera’s general and artistic director.
Osgood, who acted as emcee for the event, was careful to give time and a kind word to the entirety of Chautauqua Opera. From interns to production staff, from coaches to costume and makeup designers, each acknowledgement was met with applause and cheers from the more than 100 people in attendance.
Osgood’s presentation also included a few moments of grateful, albeit emotional, remembrance.
At the end of February this year, Chautauqua Opera lost a longtime member of its family when William “Bill” Fabris passed away suddenly at the age of 57 after a brief battle with liver disease.
Fabris first engaged with Chautauqua Opera in 2000 when he served as stage director and choreographer for the company’s production of The Barber of Seville. During each of the next nine summers, Fabris (pronounced, at his insistence, “Fa-bree”) served as stage director, choreographer, or both for at least one Chautauqua Opera production.
“He was very giving and generous,” said Jeanne Wiebenga, a friend of Fabris’ since his first summer at Chautauqua. “He always had a lovely smile and was easy to hug. He was like a teddy bear.”
Fabris was a mainstay each season in the practice rooms, production offices and hallways of the opera center, so much so that Osgood and Opera Guild President Mary Mitchell felt it important to honor his memory this year.
One of the final honors Osgood presented during the night was a gift from the Guild to the singers of Chautauqua Opera’s Young Artist Program. In years past, the financial contribution from the Guild had been awarded to only a small handful of singers — maybe four or five.
This year, however, Osgood, Mitchell and others felt it appropriate to divide these contributions among all 24 of the Young Artists and, in doing so, name the awards the Bill Fabris Young Artist Awards.
Fabris’ final engagement in a Chautauqua Opera production occurred in 2009, which also happened to be Osgood’s first year at Chautauqua as a guest conductor. Though their paths crossed often, Osgood said that he and Fabris never formally met one another, a fact Osgood laments.
“That’s not OK. Take the time to stop and form those relationships,” Osgood said to those gathered. “Take the time to make those things matter.”