Thursday December 14, 2017 12:48 pm

a mezzo-soprano for all seasons... and a variety of good reasons!

SUSANNE MENTZER: Serving a cause bigger than herself

JUBILATE = Songs of Joy

And songs of joy were what some of the world’s most celebrated opera singers, SUSANNE MENTZER and Friends, sang when every year for 14 years beginning in 1992 on a Fall evening they gathered in Chicago for a concert to benefit Bonaventure House.

mentzer-playlogoBonaventure House - a home for people with AIDS, established in 1989 by the Alexian Brothers and the Archdiocese of Chicago. Jubilate was the happy result of two chance meetings in 1991 aboard Europe-bound flights from Chicago.

As luck would have it, the Rev. Robert Rybicki, Bonaventure’s Executive Director, found himself seated beside American mezzo-soprano and Chicago resident Susanne Mentzer, who was en route to her operatic engagements. As the opera singer listened to the Reverend talk about Bonaventure’s mission, she saw in it a chance to serve a cause bigger than herself – indeed one that would fill a void she had been feeling in her life. Thus was Jubilate born. It would be a concert of great vocal music. Susanne Mentzer would organize and direct it and she would enjoin her fellow opera singers to donate their time and talent to a worthy cause. The concert proceeds would benefit the residents of Bonaventure House.

The following year Jubilate happened. On November 1, 1992 Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral became a concert hall for an inspiring evening of song. Baritones Samuel Ramey and William Parker, tenor Jerry Hadley, pianist Daniel Beckwith, and the choirs of Holy Name joined Susanne Mentzer in a memorable programme that included selections from “The AIDS Quilt Songbook” and songs by Mozart, Barber, Puccini, Rossini and (Johann) Strauss. That evening,Jubilate raised $50,000.

The success of the first concert virtually guaranteed that Jubilate would become a yearly event. Indeed it has become a tradition as many more of opera’s brightest stars lent their names to the cause. Placido Domingo was among the singers with golden voices (that included Ruth Ann Swenson, Susanne Mentzer, Jerry Hadley and Samuel Ramey) heard in Jubilate 1994 at the Rubloff Auditorium of the Art Institute. This third Jubilate raised over $100,000. Stars of other Jubilate concerts have included sopranos Carol Vaness, Sylvia McNair and Harolyn Blackwell; mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler; baritone Dwayne Croft and British tenor Graham Clark.

Jubilate 1998 took place on October 27 at The Field Museum’s James Simpson Theater. The programme was co-hosted by John Mahoney, Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce from the TV sitcom “Frasier” and featured, as usual, some of today’s leading opera singers: Jane Eaglen, Catherine Malfitano, Nancy Maultsby, Richard Leech, Eric Halfvarson, Wilbur Pauley, Brett Polegato and J. Patrick Raftery. The accompanist was Robert Tweten. With a line-up like this, Jubilate ’98 and in the years thereafter were certainly another magical evenings of song.

Jubilate continued in a Chicago venue every year without fail for 14 years during which it raised over $1M. Today, Bonaventure House offers supportive housing programs and focuses on transforming the lives of our residents by helping them transition to independent living.

About Jubilate we can only add:

BRAVA, Susanne Mentzer

- for your music, your vision and your big heart!!!

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