College of Fine Arts receives $2 million gift for the School of Music’s Opera Theatre program

Aug. 31, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas—The School of Music in the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin has received a $2 million gift from Dr. Ernest and Mrs. Sarah Butler to endow the Opera Theatre program.

In recognition of this gift, the program will henceforth be known as the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Theatre Program.

The endowment will provide a stable funding source for the program, which already ranks among America’s best, making it possible for students to work with accomplished composers, librettists, guest conductors, stage directors and other opera professionals.

The gift will ensure that students receive valuable training in all aspects of opera production and the most comprehensive, professional-quality opera education, while also funding scholarships to attract outstanding voices to the School of Music.

“Over the years, the UT Opera Theatre program has ranked as one of the prominent educational opera programs in the country,” said Dr. Robert DeSimone, director of opera studies in the School of Music. “The confidence, investment and trust reflected in Sarah and Ernest Butler’s gift will ensure continued quality and development of a greater vision for the program. Their recent endowment and previous scholarship funding will continue to touch the lives of many emerging operatic talent at the university, also supporting the creation of an Artist Diploma program, the addition of graduate degrees in opera conducting and coaching, and the creation of new works and productions."

This gift is the largest in a series of contributions the Butlers have made to The University of Texas at Austin. In the past several years they have given more than $3.2 million to the university, including the current gift, four Endowed Presidential Scholarships for voice students in opera at the School of Music, a recent gift for a dynamic Focus Gallery in the new Blanton Museum of Art building, and numerous other contributions to various areas of the university.

“Ernest and Sarah Butler have been wonderful supporters of the arts in Austin for many years through gifts to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art and to our opera program through previous scholarships,“ said Dr. Glenn Chandler, director of the School of Music. “They are extremely committed to nurturing young operatic talent and providing the best educational and performance opportunities for future singers.”

“Over the years we have followed the growth and development of School of Music graduates, and particularly of those voice students who have participated in the opera program,” Mrs. Butler said. “Many of them have carried their talent to young artists programs and to national and international opera companies. We value the contributions and influence the UT Opera Theatre program has had on Austin’s opera and beyond. The faculty, the students and professional guests are all a source of enrichment for our community.”

Because opera remains the most comprehensive of all the performing arts, endowing the university’s Opera Theatre program was one of the primary goals of the capital campaign initiated by the College of Fine Arts in 1997.

“Opera production is a collaborative effort involving not only student singers, but other musicians, actors, and graduate talent in costuming, scenery and lighting design from across the College of Fine Arts,” said Robert Freeman, dean of the college. “Opera brings to bear all the creative forces of music, drama, dance and visual arts. ”

DeSimone plans for an exciting 2004-05 season, which will open on Oct. 22 with Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” followed by “The Tragedy of Carmen” in February and the world premiere of composer Dan Welcher’s new opera, “Holy Night,” in April 2005.

For more information contact: Bruno Longarini, College of Fine Arts, 512-475-7021, or Suzanne Hassler, 512-471-5496.