New Rochelle Opera, Inc. developed from an invitation to Camille Coppola, a vocalist from New Rochelle with a background in opera, to present a lecture on opera to students of the Immaculate Conception School in Tuckahoe, NY. Later presentations at other local schools followed. In order to add live performance to the lectures, Ms. Coppola enlisted several other professional singers and a piano accompanist to the program. The aim was to introduce and educate young people to the world of opera.
Billie Tucker, working at that time as Community Relations and Cultural Coordinator at the New Rochelle Public Library, was impressed with Camille’s knowledge and presentation. Mrs. Tucker being a lover of opera herself, it wasn’t long before Billie invited Camille to present opera highlights from La Boheme at the Library. The success of that program in the Spring of 1982 prompted a staging of highlights from Madama Butterfly in the Fall of that same year. In 1983, a production of I Pagliacci was mounted with a piano accompanying a small chorus. Ms. Coppola not only directed these presentations, but sang the leading roles as well.
It was in 1984 that the New Rochelle Public Library offered a full-length opera production, Cavalleria Rusticana, to enthusiastic audiences. In that same year, the Company revived the production twice–at the Hudson Park Bandshell in New Rochelle, NY and at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, NY.
Initially called “Camille Coppola and Company,” the troupe and the scope were clearly expanding, and a more suitable company name was necessary. Being a lifelong New Rochelle resident, Mrs. Coppola wanted to name the company for her hometown. The Company’s new name, New Rochelle Opera, was established in 1984
A year later, the New Rochelle Opera was incorporated as a non-for-profit organization.
Soon after, the Company was given a State Charter and the Board of Directors was formed. With Mrs. Tucker’s continued support, New Rochelle Opera found a permanent performance home at the New Rochelle Public Library.
In March 1985, Mrs. Coppola produced and directed a full-length production of La Boheme with 7 leading singers and a 24-person chorus consisting of adults and children. In 1986, a small orchestra replaced the piano-only accompaniment for the Company’s production of Tosca. In 1987, a fully orchestrated, full-costumed production of Madama Butterfly was presented at the library and at Hudson Park. Although this was the last production in which Mrs. Coppola sang the leading role, she continues to direct and produce every production.
Other fully staged and authentically detailed operatic productions followed in subsequent years, including La Traviata (1988), Die Fledermaus (1989) and The Merry Widow (1990). With each production season, the scope continued to broaden, more talented singers were sought, and audience appeal grew immensely.
New Rochelle Opera continues to present recreations of the operas the Company produced in previous years, which are generally regarded as the most popular with opera audiences. The Company’s goals have remained intact and New Rochelle Opera still succeeds in what it set out to do:
Since 1982, New Rochelle Opera has been successful in continuously achieving these aims and goals that were developed at its infancy as a result of Mrs. Coppola’s passion, the Company’s dedicated staff, and continued support from its audiences.
The New Rochelle Opera was formed for the purpose of presenting imaginative and appealing operatic productions to the Westchester community. It serves to create a deeper understanding and appreciation of live opera, and make it accessible and affordable to a diverse audience. The company presents the art form in various capacities–fully staged performances, concert, school programs, workshops and demonstrations–engaging aspiring young artists as well as experienced professionals.