Chautauqua music connection leads Johnsons to support opera through Intermezzo dinners

Leah Harrison | Staff Writer

Not every singer working at Chautauqua will be on the Norton Hall stage this Friday and Monday. During the Chautauqua Opera Company’s performances of Manon Lescaut, coloratura soprano Deanna Johnson will be running her restaurant.

As owner of Intermezzo at Chautauqua, the restaurant located on the lower level of the St. Elmo, Johnson has found a way to support the opera even though her job prevents her from filling a seat. At 6 p.m. on Friday and Monday evenings, Intermezzo will host pre-opera dinners benefiting the Chautauqua Opera Guild. The dinner falls between the guild’s “Operalogue,” a 5 p.m. opera preview given by Chautauqua Opera’s Artistic and General Director Jay Lesenger in Norton Hall, and the opera performance at 7:30 p.m.

Johnson’s musical and culinary ties to Chautauqua are robust. After having spent several childhood summers at Chautauqua with her family, Johnson attended the School of Music at age 18. The experience solidified her aspirations to become a singer. After earning a degree in theater, she went on to the Manhattan School of Music to study voice.

Johnson and Brad, her husband and Intermezzo’s executive chef, originally opened Intermezzo in 1990, but closed the restaurant while Brad attended culinary school. During his education, the couple opened and ran the Rhapsody Café in the Carey Cottage Inn for three years. When the St. Elmo space became available, they were happy to reclaim Intermezzo, which reopened last summer.

Currently living in Oklahoma City, Johnson taught music in Henrietta public schools, near Rochester, N.Y., until this spring, when she retired to make more time for performing.

When the Opera Guild asked the Johnsons to host their pre-opera dinners, they happily accepted the opportunity to support singing in Chautauqua.

“This is my husband’s labor of love for me,” Johnson said. “He felt like this was something we needed to do to help out the Opera Guild. Since I’ve got such a connection with music here, he just really wanted to do this for them.”

Pre-opera dinners require a reservation that must be made and prepaid by Thursday. Reservations can be made with Johnson by calling 716-357-2058. Five dollars from every reservation goes to the Opera Guild, and Intermezzo will donate an additional $400.