Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Cabaret Celebrates Life of One of Pittsburgh’s Great Divas

Opera Diva Mildred Miller Posvar

    If the Holiday Cabaret planned for this Friday evening is anything like the ones that followed the mainstage productions of the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s Summerfest, Pittsburgh audiences are in for a rare treat.
   While enjoying seasonal goodies like mulled wine/cider and small plate appetizers (available for purchase), patrons will also be able to sit back cabaret-style and listen to Kevin Gavin and friends break out of the opera mold and sing lighter fare sure to warm the ballroom of the stylish Art Deco Twentieth Century Club. To add a bit of filigree to the musical soiree, Robert Frankenberry, Marissa Knaub and Matthew Feczko will accompany the singers on piano, harp and double bass respectively.
   More importantly, the gala event will give patrons to rub elbows with one of Pittsburgh’s greatest divas - Mildred Miller Posvar, who is celebrating a milestone birthday this month on Dec. 16 (rumors I’ve heard claim she’ll be 39). Mrs. Posvar, wife of late Wesley W. Posvar, former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor, plans to attend the event to cut the birthday cake that she'll share with the audience.
    Tickets for the Holiday Cabaret which begins at 8 p.m (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) are $35 or half price for students. Phone 412-326-9687 or online at otsummerfest.org. Tickets will also be available at the door.The Twentieth Century Club is located at 4201 Bigelow Blvd. in Pittsburgh's Oakland section.
     A mezzo-soprano, Mrs. Posvar was a featured artist for 23 consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She appeared with every major opera company in the United States and the leading houses of Europe and toured the world as an acclaimed recitalist.

Mildred Miller Posvar as Cherubino in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro:" Photo Credit Sedge LeBlang
    Her operatic roles include Cherubino in "The Marriage of Figaro," (her debut role at the Met and her exclusive domain there for a decade); the title role in "Carmen;" Octavian in "Der Rosenkavalier;" Suzuki in "Madama Butterfly;" Rosina in "The Barber of Seville" and Dorabella in "Così fan tutte."
    As a recording artist, she holds the Grand Prix du Disque for Bruno Walter’s only recording of Mahler’s "Songs of a Wayfarer," which has since become a classic. She appeared regularly on radio and television, polarizing the classics on The Bell Telephone Hour and The Voice of Firestone. She has sung to audiences as far-flung as Borneo and as all-American as the White House during the Nixon Presidency. She has also won special acclaim for her singing of German Lieder.
    In 1978, she founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh as a professional company featuring emerging singers and dedicated to education and audience development. She fashioned the company after Boris Goldovsky’s New England Opera Theater where she performed before beginning her career as a principle artist at the Metropolitan Opera. She has taught at Carnegie Mellon University for several years and conducts master classes throughout the country.
    Former classical music critic for the Pittsburgh "Post-Gazette" and retired professor and chair of the Voice Department at Duquesne University, Robert Croan, has followed Mrs. Posvar’s career for many years starting as a teenager growing up in New York City. For the past four years, he's also served as a fellow judge of the annual Mildred Miller International Voice Competition.
    "I’ve heard Mildred sing many roles including Cherubino, Carmen and Siebel in Gounod’s ‘Faust,’" Mr. Croan said. "At that time, not many opera singers could act as well as sing, but she was great at both.."
"To me, her artistry and phrasing were at the highest level, and I’ve admired her all my life. She had a beautiful, penetrating and honeyed lyrical voice and colored her words in a beautiful way."
    After Mr. Croan moved to Pittsburgh he heard her sing with the Pittsburgh Opera and met her at several functions. One of the roles with the Pittsburgh Opera that stands out in his mind is that of Elizabeth Proctor in Robert Ward’s "The Crucible." She could also be equally spellbinding in recital
    "She once gave a recital as part of the Y Music Series that was just simply wonderful," Mr. Croan said. "And when I got to take a German lieder master class with her, I realized that she is also a great teacher of the highest level. She is truly a remarkable woman."
    In a recent phone interview, Mrs. Posvar said she’s looking forward to the Holiday Cabaret that will feature lighter music as well as some Christmas songs.
    "The cabarets that followed our Summerfest performances were so popular it’s only natural to have another during the holiday season," she said. "It’s a wonderful outlet for our singers, headed by Kevin Glavin. At the cabaret, people can sit around tables, drink, talk if they’d like and listen to our wonderful singers. I’m really looking forward to it."
    They can also get a chance to honor one of Pittsburgh’s greatest names in opera. Happy birthday, Mrs. Posvar, and enjoy the Holiday Cabaret.

A Recent Photo of "Millie"  at the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh Gala: Photo Credit Amy Crawford

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