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Shared passion brings opera to Hingham community

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April 26th, 2011

Following monthly opera viewings in the Linden Ponds performing arts center, Ruth Beyer, Victor Coronella, and Gina Herron head to Beyer s place for a glass of sherry and discussion of the production they have just seen. You ve got to talk it down; otherwise, you ve got it all bottled up, Beyer says knowingly. Fueled by a shared passion for opera, the trio leads the Linden Ponds opera club called Music! Words! Opera! The club will complete its third season this month with an encore showing of La Traviata the 32nd opera shown to the community. Life set to music, that s what it is, Coronella says of opera.

Serendipitous conversation

Beyer met Coronella and Herron, who are married, during dinner one night at the Erickson Living community in Hingham. This whole thing is Victor s fault, Beyer insists. He turned to me out of the clear blue sky, and said, Do you like opera? The idea for the club may have been Beyer s following that serendipitous conversation, but the two continue to jokingly pass off the blame for the founding of the club shortly thereafter. Music! Words! Opera! debuted in late 2007 with a showing of La Boheme, considered one of the most often-performed operas in the world. At that time the club met twice each month first for a discussion led by Beyer and Coronella, with supplemental video clips, and second for a full performance viewing. The first meeting we had there, they were sitting on the window sills, Beyer remembers of the discussion in one of Linden Ponds classrooms. That number quickly grew to the club s current roster of 255 members. The leaders estimate between 60 and 120 people typically attend any given show.

Adjusting format

Since the club s beginnings, the leaders have adjusted their format and presentations to their exact science of one showing on the third Thursday of each month from September through May. The Thursday before each showing, Coronella and Herron appear on Linden Ponds in-house TV channel to provide story details and musical snippets from the forthcoming opera. Opera club members also receive a synopsis by email prior to the viewing. Before showtime the group leaders welcome the audience members as they enter the performing arts center. Those without email can pick up a printed synopsis of the day s show, but they will also hear a dialogue between Beyer and Coronella introducing the opera and relevant information about what they are about to see. A really good operatic production is pure theater on every level, Beyer says. Carolyn Engdahl, who lives at Linden Ponds and attends the opera screenings with her husband, Lee, says, When you leave after the three hours or however long it might be, you walk up the stairs and look out the window and it seems strange because where you ve been has been timeless. Behind the scenes and between meetings, Beyer, Coronella, and Herron thrive in their established roles. Beyer, a former president of the Indianapolis Opera Guild and a teacher of high school English and world literature, draws from her writing and research talents to write the dialogue she and Coronella present before each show. Coronella, a lifelong opera enthusiast who came to Linden Ponds with more than 200 tapes of recorded performances, carefully selects the best production of each opera for showing. Herron draws upon her creative talents to design posters advertising each month s show, while keeping the team organized. The team has added creative elements to performances, passing out carnations to each audience member after a showing of La Boheme and raffling off a bottle of wine made to look like the namesake beverage after Elixir of Love. The group s goal is to present the best production available and to educate the residents who want to learn about opera, Coronella says.

Discovering new music

The Engdahls say they had been exposed to many kinds of music through their lives, but opera had passed them by. Lee Engdahl says, It took this group of three people here at Linden Ponds to put that club together and offer up a way to get into opera, and we love it.

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