From the President: Column by Thomas M. Becker


At 8:15 p.m. Saturday, the Chautauqua Opera Company will stage Donizetti’s Lucia Li Lammermoor in the Amphitheater. The entire Chautauqua community, young and old, opera besotted and opera leery, all are invited to witness one of the truly beautiful works in this art form produced by a company that features professionals from across the country and members of our own symphony orchestra in the pit (actually the floor).  The Amphitheater stage is transformed into that of a craggy, Scottish moor, making the surrounding openings of the Amphitheater sides’ part of the perspective. This is Donizetti’s most famous opera, in which he composes amazing melodic invention and great vocal line. Within this work is the most famous mad scene in opera. The hysterics of the mad Lucia are woven with the flute in a complex and emotionally powerful duet.

For those of you who are interested in the nuts and bolts of production, take note of the fact that there are but two rehearsals available to the company (including the afternoon of the Fourth) to coordinate the movements, the lights, the costume changes and the cues. The lighting crew was in the Amp after you all left at the conclusion of the Diana Krall performance Friday night and worked in the wee hours of Saturday morning fixing the positions.

Jay Lesenger leads a talented, hard working and courageous company of artists. I hope you will be there Saturday night to celebrate their gifts to Chautauqua.

This coming week of lectures on the theme “Inspire. Commit. Act.” has been inspired by Dan Karslake. Dan is part of a clan who has been involved in Chautauqua since Miller and Vincent declared their mutual commitment. Dan is a graduate of Duke and the University of Southern California. After some early work in philanthropy, including a stint at Riverside Church in Manhattan, he followed his passion for film and societal change by becoming a documentary filmmaker. His remarkable award-winning film, “For the Bible Told Me So,” remains a frequent vehicle for conversation in schools, communities and churches.

He is now finishing a film called “Every Three Seconds” about the pernicious magnitude of poverty and the remarkably inventive and effective projects individuals have devised and implemented that truly mitigate poverty. One of the key figures in Dan’s film is Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile, who shares the platform Wednesday with his father, Jeff, who is executive director of a program addressing climate change. Josh was a student at Stanford when he had the inspiration that he could use cell phones and open-source platforms to create connected, coordinated health systems in 15 countries in East and West Africa, Asia and Latin America. So, imagine a young college student in international health and bioethics classes at Stanford who has the imagination, practicality, grit and sense of hope to act and thereby affect the quality of lives of people around the world. Now imagine that character, intelligent innovation and sense of hope as the characteristic of a generation of committed Americans.

During this week Chautauquans are witness to the reality of that image. From Michelle Nunn on Monday to Freeman Hrabowski Friday we are in the presence of those addressing our most difficult problems with efforts producing very real change. Dan Karslake’s work is to lift the awareness and understanding of not only the dire dimensions of the problems before us but of the inspirational examples of what we are capable of doing to respond to the issues. This is our work as well.

Welcome to Week Three.