Some 200 supporters turned out for Opera Under the Stars, keynoted by artist, author and activist Mary Fisher, on April 4 at Kimberly and Frederic Boyer’s Hampton Green Farm in Wellington.
The event benefited Opera Fusion, a young West Palm Beach-based company that plans to mount Not In My Town, a musical drama about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard and the positive developments in its aftermath.
The Boyers are active equestrians and directors of the Van Kampen Boyer Molinari Family Foundation. At the benefit, they hosted the Opera Fusion singers, who performed popular numbers as well as select, poignant songs from the show, created by Fort Lauderdale composer and librettist Michael W. Ross.
With significant help from Opera Under the Stars, the company is now more than halfway toward its goal of raising $150,000 for a gala preview, set for June in Fort Lauderdale, as well as a week of world premieres in September in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, said Birgit Fioravante, executive director of Opera Fusion.
Dr. Xavier Garcia, a baritone and West Palm Beach veterinarian who heads the Opera Fusion board, entertained by singing the “Toreador” song from Carmen, and spoke about the opera company’s aim in premiering the show about Shepard, a gay college student and one of two murder victims whose name is in the title of the expanded Hate Crimes Bill signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
“We want, through our music, through our voices, to share the word of acceptance of others regardless of their religion, color, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” Garcia said.
Two men abducted University of Wyoming student Shepard, 21, on Oct. 7, 1998, pistol-whipped and tortured him, and tied him to a fence in a field outside Laramie, Wyo. After a cyclist eventually noticed the comatose Shepard, he was taken to a hospital in Fort Collins, Co., where he died five days later.
The murder brought international attention to hate crime legislation. Shepard’s killers were sentenced to life in prison. His parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and to help parents accept children who are questioning their sexuality. It is headquartered in Casper, Wyo.
Among the equestrian and Wellington-area supporters who attended Opera Under the Stars were Janne Rumbough, Joseph and Gaye Scarpa, Bent Jensen, Dr. Michael Kohl, Marc Ulanowski, Betsy Juliano, Ron Schultz, Andrea Mills, Tim and Kim Williams, Denis and Lola Boudard, Drs. Jane Bistline and Christopher White, Ronda Ellis, Joe Nasuti, Sharon and Charles Mineo, Monica and Dale Keitz, Janet and William Pearson, and Paul and Alexandra Episcope. Other supporters of Opera Under the Stars include Mark and Katherine Bellissimo, Jane Forbes Clark, Maura and Charlie Weiss, Robert Dover, Robert Ross and Carol Cohen.
To learn more about Opera Fusion, visit www.operafusion.org.
ABOVE: Christina Matson, Kim Boyer, Mitzi Presnell, Joan Javits Zeeman, Birgit Fioravante and Jeanne Chisholm.