A Night at the Opera: Banker shows his support for the arts.
John Johmann's partner, Marc Deaton, has been a professional opera singer for more than 10 years. A tenor and a Wagnerian, Deaton was looking for an opportunity to showcase his talents.
"Two to three years ago, we asked, 'What type of project could we do that would have an impact?'" recounts Johmann. But the logistical and financial barriers to mounting a Wagner production can be rather prohibitive. "To rent a hall and a 100-piece orchestra in the U.S. or in Western Europe would be financially impossible," he explains.
So, just as banks move production to lower-cost areas, opera, too, can be outsourced to favorable locations. The Bulgarian government provided use of its National Palace of Culture for Deaton and Johmann to stage Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and a local orchestra was available for "a fraction of the price," relates Johmann, who contributed his management expertise and fundraising skills, hosting events in homes in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Even though there was a "terrible language barrier at times," notes Johmann, the biggest gap to bridge was artistic, he says. Compared to the Italian operas popular in Bulgaria, Wagner's works are rather long. "The musicians were all exhausted," Johmann says.
The four-disc recording of the opera was released in January, and a documentary on the making of the opera was aired on PBS in June. As for Deaton, he has been brought on as the understudy in a concert version of Tristan und Isolde by the L.A. Philharmonic.
"It's important that - in opera or in banking - you're in charge of your destiny," says Johmann. "You have to make it happen."
On the Net: