$2 Million Gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation

November 19, 2010

Contacts: Linda Schulte< Manager for Media Relations
(314) 963-4225, lschulte@opera-stl.org
Maggie Stearns, National Press Representative


 Largest-ever gift to Opera Theatre will benefit endowment and establish the “Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize” recognizing extraordinary potential in early-career artists.

General Director Timothy O’Leary announced a $2 million gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundationto help endow Opera Theatre’s acclaimed professional development programs, which train more than 60 of the country’s finest emerging singers, technicians, and administrators each year.  The gift represents the largest-ever single contribution that Opera Theatre has received in its 35-year history.

The gift also makes possible the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize, recognizing extraordinary artistic potential in early-career artists and providing support for their continued artistic and professional development.  Each year, beginning in the 2011 season, a committee comprising Opera Theatre’s artistic leadership, management, and board representatives will select an artist with outstanding potential to make a significant contribution to the art form of opera.  The award recipient will receive a $10,000 grant, which may be applied to expenses that will further his or her artistic and professional growth.

In honor of this extraordinary gift, Opera Theatre will establish “The Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Young Artist Education and Development Programs” as the title of its comprehensive professional development initiatives, including the Gerdine Young Artist Programthe Emerson Behind the Curtain Program, the graduate study awards for Monsanto Artists-in-Training participants, and several others.

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous generosity and transformational support of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation,” said General Director Timothy O’Leary, “Helping to endow these programs, which are at the very core of Opera Theatre’s mission, will have a profound impact on our ability to identify, nurture, and launch the careers of the finest operatic artists of the current generation, as well as for generations to come.”

The Foundation hopes this gift will encourage others to support St. Louis’s greatest cultural assets, while honoring the generosity and compassion of Mabel Dorn Reeder.  “Aunt Mabel was an inspiration, and believed in preserving things for future generations,” said Mabel L. Purkerson, M.D., who is co-trustee of the Foundation, a professor emerita of medicine at Washington University, and  a member of Opera Theatre’s board of directors.  “I try to honor her wishes with the Foundation.”

Looking Ahead to 2011

“A strong endowment is especially crucial as we look ahead to a challenging funding environment in 2011 and beyond,” said Spencer Burke, chairman of Opera Theatre’s board of directors.  “This tremendous gift from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation provides an important boost at a critical point in our development, and will endow in perpetuity the annual support the Foundation has provided in recent years.  We could not be more grateful.”

Opera Theatre relies on generous support from the community to sustain quality and innovation.  While many opera companies of a similar size generate nearly 40% of their operating budgets from ticket sales, Opera Theatre’s ticket revenue is limited by the bloved intimacy of its theater to just 26% of the budget, even in the most successful year at the box office.  Contributed revenue has incaresed more than 10% since 2008, helping the company to continue its tradition of balanced budgets despite the economic downturn.  This year, Opera Theatre must raise more than $450,000 in new and increased support to make up for daunting institutional and governmental funding cuts and achieve a balanced budget for 2011.

About the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation

Mabel Dorn Reeder (1908-2007) grew up in the small town of McCormick, South Carolina, and was passionate about making a better world for future generations.  The daughter of a prominent businessman and state senator, Mrs. Reeder graduated from Greenville Women’s College and attended graduate school at Columbia University in New York.  She then taught elementary school for several years before marrying Thomas H. Reeder and moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived until her death at 98.  Today, her passions for music, education, photography, animals, travel, and history are carried on through the work of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation.

About Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is one of the leading American opera companies, known for a spring festival of inventive new productions featuring the finest American singers, sung in English, and accompanied by members of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.  As of 2010, Opera Theatre has presented 22 world premieres and 22 American premieres — which is perhaps the highest percentage of new work in the repertory of any U.S. company.  Described by The Sunday Times of London as “one of the few American companies worth the transatlantic fare,” and by Opera Today as, “the leading summer opera destination in the United States,” Opera Theatre of Saint Louis welcomed visitors from 47 states and 10 foreign countries in 2010.  Although the size of the theater limits box office income to 26% of the budget, the company has consistently produced work of the highest quality while never accumulating a deficit.


Wells Fargo Advisors is the presenting sponsor of Opera Theatre’s 2011 season.  
Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis, and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.