Opera International is a signature program of OCAW. It was founded in 1994 by Muriel (Mimi) Hom, longstanding member of the Maryland Chapter and OCAW National Vice President for Programs. Mimi is Producer-Director of the company.
Mimi has been involved with music her entire life. She was a child prodigy on the piano, has taught piano lessons for multiple decades, has been a piano accompanist to instrumentalists and vocalists for many years, is a vocal coach, and is the pianist and Director of Music at a Maryland church. Earlier in her career, she performed in Germany, Austria, Mexico, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, and the U.S., and appeared on two PBS Television concerts. She still performs in the U.S. However, it was while working with singers that she noticed that many international performers were being critically acclaimed and receiving worldwide attention, but this was not occurring with Chinese artists. She set out to rectify this situation and create a platform for them, enlisting the aid of friends who had the financial resources to assist her in her endeavors. Madeline Li Leong Way and Dr. Edward Leong Way of the Li Foundation supported her initial efforts. With the backing of OCAW, Mimi organized and produced four concerts at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., from 1989 through 1993. They were extremely successful, receiving excellent reviews in The Washington Post and other media. Buoyed by this success, she launched Opera International in 1994, with the goal of promoting Chinese and other international singers, in addition to U.S. performers.
With its formation, the goals of the opera company were: 1. to encourage and inspire in young people an appreciation of opera; 2. to train and prepare aspiring vocalists of all nationalities for operatic careers; and 3. to offer world-class opera at affordable prices. These aims have been overwhelmingly met in the decades that Opera International has been in existence. Many performers featured in the company’s productions have gone on to have successful careers, including performing with leading opera companies such as the New York Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and others. Opera International’s influence on children likewise has been significant. In addition to young people attending the productions with their parents and being exposed to fine classical music at an early age, others were given opportunities to be involved in the productions themselves. In “La Boheme,” for example, two dozen youngsters were given the chance to sing in the children’s chorus. In other productions, young talented singers in solo roles launched their future careers.
Volunteers and Donors
In addition to professionals who have been monetarily compensated (performers, orchestra members, stage crew members, etc.), numerous volunteers have contributed to the success of the company over the years. In addition to Mimi Hom’s efforts, Mei-jong C. Hung was Co-Producer. June Tong, Administrative Director; Hongfa Chu, Director of Operations; and others poured countless hours of effort into each production. A number of generous individuals lent their beautiful homes to host fundraisers for the company’s operas and concerts. Sandy Clement founded and chaired the Opera International Guild and organized and coordinated many imaginative events to benefit the company’s funds. “Golf, Salmon, and Whiskey” and an elegant afternoon at the expansive Virginia estate of renowned American sculptor Frederick Hart were two such events. With her hard work, she reached her Millennium goal of $100,000. Countless other volunteers gave of their time and effort in numerous ways, and thousands of audience members supported the performances by buying tickets. Opera International appreciates the generous donations of hundreds of supporters over the years, but it is particularly indebted to the following notable benefactors: The Li Foundation, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Herman Lissner Foundation, and The Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation. Other significant contributors have been Pauline Tsui and the Dr. and Mrs. John Y. Woo Memorial Fund, the Han Wang Memorial Fund, the Ruth H. Kuo and Rhoda How Memorial Foundation, the Montgomery County Community Foundation, Dr. Adson I. Chuang, Muriel Hom, Betty Jean Wen, David and Teresa Ma, Esther C. Wy, and Amy C. Lee.
Operas and Concerts
OCAW and Opera International have created the following productions:
1989 Vocal Gala, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
1991 Vocal and Instrumental concert, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
1992 Vocal Gala, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
1993 Vocal and Instrumental concert, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
1994 Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)
1995 Cosi fan tutte
1996 La Boheme
1997 Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly)
1998 Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
1999 “The 3 Bass Baritones” concert
2000 Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi
2003 Tenth Anniversary Gala featuring scenes from Le nozze di Figaro, Otello, and Rigoletto
2004 Dialogues of the Carmelites
2005 Operatic Vocal Gala, The Music Center at Strathmore
2006 Operatic Vocal Gala, The Music Center at Strathmore
2007 Operatic Vocal Gala, The Music Center at Strathmore
2008 Operatic Vocal Gala, The Music Center at Strathmore
2009 Operatic Vocal Gala, The Music Center at Strathmore
2010 La traviata
2011 La traviata (encore performance)
2012 Lucia di Lammermoor
2014 Operatic Vocal Gala, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2015 Benefit Concert for the Wounded Warrior Project, with Hermon Presbyterian Church
2017 Concert to benefit Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief efforts, with Hermon Presbyterian
Church and Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
2019 Gala Benefit Concert for the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan
These productions have garnered excellent reviews in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Opera News (Metropolitan Opera Guild publication), and numerous regional and local newspapers.