|The early '90s was a very exciting time for Latvia and Latvians everywhere. Free at last from communist suppression, Latvia was experiencing a spiritual and cultural rebirth. Yet, one of its cherished cultural symbols, the National Opera House of Latvia, stood crumbling under the weight of 50 years of neglect. Its doors had closed in 1991 for major renovations. However, funds for such an undertaking were scarce in a virtually bankrupt nation.
Soon after Latvia regained its independence, in August of 1991, a group of opera enthusiasts from the New York Latvian choir initiated the idea of establishing an association which would in some small way help restore their beloved opera house.
LNOG board and advisory panel members.
1st row (from left) Indulis Lacis, Aija Blumfelds, Juris Padegs,
Beatrise Rasums, Andrejs Jansons, Dagnija Ruse.
2nd row: Michael Israel, Maija Israel, Aija Pelse, Ivars Berzins, Vera Silins.
3rd row: Edvins Rasums Edgars Zalite, Olgerts Balodis, Eriks Niedritis.
The group was small and their expectations were modest but they were willing to work hard, without any compensation. At first informal but frequent meetings were held for the purpose of defining its goals and formulating work guidelines. On Feb. 9, 1992 the first LNOG board was elected with Indulis Lacis as chairman and Ingrida Berzins as vice-chairman.
No one was quite prepared for the enthusiastic response that followed. People from all over the United States and other parts of the free world wanted to be part of the cultural renaissance and so the Latvian National Opera Guild was founded. Since its inception, the guild has become the largest non-government contributor to the restoration of the opera. Its membership exceeds 1500.
These funds have been used prudently for the restoration of the opera house as well as for sponsorship of numerous projects aimed at maintaining the operas high artistic standards.
Some of the most noteworthy reconstruction funding has been for the purchase and installation of two Otis elevators, carpeting the opera halls, total renovation of the orchestra pit, reconstruction of the stage lighting, hall lamps and mirrors and numerous small projects.
The guild has paid for numerous musical instruments for the opera orchestra, strings for all string instruments and most recently an 1801 Franz Anton Stoss master violin. However, most noteworthy and very much appreciated has been the guild's gift of a "Steinway & Sons" concert grand piano.
Recognizing the importance of developing new operatic talent, the guild has been the sole sponsor of student opera productions at the Latvian Academy of Music in Riga. The student opera company known as "Figaro", travel throughout the provinces bringing opera to the local schools.
The Latvian National Opera Guild is also responsible for the addition of a libretto projection above the stage in the hopes of attracting more of the younger generation.
The guild also sponsors the opera website and its present expansion to include complete historical and biographical information as well as musical fragments. (for complete list of LNOG donations please visit the
In addition to membership fees and donations, the guild has raised funds by means of several well received benefits. Another successful fund raising device has been the sale of commemorative plaques to be attached to opera chairs. For a donation of $2000, one can purchase an inscribed plaque to be placed on the back of a chair in the opera hall. Donations of $10,000 and more are recognized by individual plaques adorning the walls of the opera house.
Expenses have been kept to a minimum by a devoted opera guild board, advisory panel and members who have volunteered their time and ingenuity. Running expenses for such items as
mailing and printing are estimated at about 4% of income. Under the leadership of its present chairperson Beatrise Rasums, vice chairman Juris Padegs, activities of the opera
guild are guided by 14 board members,15 advisory panel members and 3 auditors. They are elected by the dues paying members of the guild.
It has been a rewarding 10 years for the guild but a great deal still needs to be done. The first phase of the restoration has been largely completed. The second phase will entail construction of rehearsal halls, dressing rooms, workshops, storage rooms as well as administrative offices and several restaurants.
The Latvian National Opera Guild invites you to join the many enthusiastic members in this worthy endeavor. The Latvian National Opera Guild is incorporated as a cultural organization. Consequently, contributions to the guild are deductible under section 170 (c) (2) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States. Many corporations have "matching grants" programs, whereby the corporation contributes funds to a cultural institution to match employees contribution.
Yearly tax deductible membership is: single $25, family $50.
Checks are payable to: Latvian National Opera Guild, Inc.
Latvian National Opera Guild, Inc.
c/o Juris Padegs
22 Minturn Street
Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706-1133, USA