Sydney Maltese | Staff Writer
Eleanor B. Franks recalls the days when her mother would stand in line for opera tickets. As a teenager, she and her mother would go to opera performances — back when the Metropolitan Opera traveled.
Franks, who lives in Lakewood, N.Y., off-season, estimates that her infatuation with opera began in the mid-1930s.
“I guess I’ve been a fan ever since,” Franks said.
Franks’ late husband, Myron B. Franks, was also an opera enthusiast. The two came to Chautauqua every summer for years, and she still looks forward to it each season.
“He was always interested in opera music, so we just followed through with it,” she said. “Then we bought our house here, and I’ve been going to the opera ever since.”
In her honor, Myron established the Eleanor B. Franks Fund for the Opera in 1981.
“I think everybody that I know likes the music that opera affords,” Franks said. “It gives young people a chance to enjoy opera and be a part of it, especially those who participate — the singers.”
Franks was a vocalist and sang in her church choir and in a music club. Her appreciation for singing is apparent, and she attends many of the master classes offered at the Institution. She especially enjoys those with School of Music Voice Chair Marlena Malas and Chautauqua Opera Company Artistic and General Director Jay Lesenger.
“They’re phenomenal — what they can do and how the voice truly sounds different after they listen to what she has to say and what he has to say,” Franks said.
She also had the opportunity to meet some of the young vocalists studying at Chautauqua, and their expertise impressed her.
“I went to the Opera Guild luncheon and met some of the young men,” Franks said. “Some of them have already been singing in operas, other than Chautauqua.”
Opera is not the only enjoyment Franks finds at the Institution. She also attends morning and afternoon lectures, is a member of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club and has served on the Chautauqua Women’s Club scholarship committee.
Franks loves to cook, and it is a good thing — her house is often full with any number of her four children and their children.
“It certainly means a great deal in their lives, or they wouldn’t be coming back,” she said. “And while they have opportunities where they live, and they do attend musical things, there’s a different feeling about Chautauqua.”
Though the “different feeling” may be hard to describe, Franks said she experiences it particularly when greeted by strangers at Chautauqua.
“People are more friendly here. Many times you just walk down the street and people that you’re walking past say hello, or good morning, or something like that,” she said. “And you don’t find that everywhere else. It’s a totally different feeling here.”
Franks also recognizes the feeling in her interactions with her neighbors, who have been coming to Chautauqua as long as she has.
“It’s just wonderful to know these people,” she said. “We look forward to their coming, and they look forward to our arrival too.”
Difficulty in encapsulating all that makes Chautauqua singular does not prevent Franks from being certain that Chautauqua must be preserved by those who love it best.
“It’s a really special place, always has been,” Franks said. “It’s wonderful, so it has to keep going.”