CHAUTAUQUA It's always good news when good people do good things. It's even better when good people do good things to celebrate good people who have done good things.
On Aug. 14, beginning at noon, a number of very good people have scheduled a golf tournament, which will benefit the Young Artist Program of the Chautauqua Opera Company.
The tournament is the third annual event which has been held in memory of the late Marcia Connolly, who was a member of Chautauqua's Board of Trustees, and a passionate devotee of Chautauqua Opera. It's an opportunity to have a wonderful time, while honoring a generous and cultured person and supporting the respect and advancement of our culture and civilization. It's a win-win-win proposition.
The late Marcia Connolly was a lover of Chautauqua, and of opera. Because she devoted so much of her life to supporting the local company, her family has created a golf tournament, to be played on Aug. 14. The proceeds will support the Young Artists program of the company.
Let me tell you the facts about the tournament and then give you some of the background. And, because it won't take up the entire column, let me share with you a book about opera which I recently finished reading, and another of the historical biographies which I enjoy reading so much:
For $125 per person, an individual can have a nice box lunch, then play 18 holes of golf at the Chautauqua Golf Club, then enjoy a period of cocktails, appetizers, and a silent auction, then finish with a deluxe beef tenderloin dinner. It will be served at the clubhouse of the Golf Club, across Route 394 from the Main Gate of the Institution.
During dinner, a singer from the roster of the Metropolitan Opera Company will perform, along with some of the many talented young artists from Chautauqua Opera.
If you are already a member of the Chautauqua Golf Club, you can do the whole event for $100.
The chairman of the event is Hale Oliver. Honorary chairman is Jack Connolly, the widower of the late Marcia Connolly. Assisting as co-chairpersons will be Melissa Orlov and Jana Stone.
The actual golfing will begin at 1 p.m., with a ''shotgun start.'' For the non-golfers among our readers, that is what it is called when some golfers start their game on hole number two and end with hole number one. Some start with hole number 10 and end with hole number 9, etc. Everyone plays the same 18 holes, though in different orders, and it saves a considerable amount of time.
Golfers will compete in three divisions: women's, men's, and mixed divisions. You may arrive with a foursome of your choice and play with them, throughout, or the tournament staff will put individuals together into foursomes, so that all comes out even.
Prizes for the golfing will be awarded at the dinner. The staff is proud to announce that Ed Shults Chevrolet will be offering a new car to anyone who scores a hole-in-one on certain holes.
Anyone who is not a golfer who would like to participate, may choose to attend for the appetizers and the dinner, beginning at 6 p.m., for a fee of $50. That fee is the same for members and non-members of the Golf Club.
Organizers recommend a prompt reservation. You can pick up a registration form at the Colonnade Building's information desk, in the lobby of that historic building, or in the ticketing area of the Main Gate, which can be reached by those without gate passes, and with free short-term parking.
Telephone reservations may be made by phoning Virginia Cox at 357-5775. Email reservations may be made at WAVACOX@ verizon.net.
I never got to know Mrs. Connolly, but she is one of the rare people of whom I frequently heard, and about whom I never heard a negative word.
Dr. Lillian Ney of Jamestown told me recently, ''I served on the board of Chautauqua Institution with Marcia. She was an outstanding person, and she certainly knew opera and loved it, dearly - especially Chautauqua Opera.''
In 2008, the company dedicated their entire season to her memory. Here is the dedication from a program from that season:
''Marcia was unflagging in her support and dedication to our entire company. As leaders of the Chautauqua Opera Endowment for the 1996-2001 Renewal Campaign, Marcia and her husband of 50 years, Jack, helped to insure the future of opera at Chautauqua, for many summers to come. We celebrate Marcia's indomitable spirit, her energy, and most of all, her love for Jack and her family, with the music of Mozart, Janacek, Verdi, and Weill. Marcia will always be a part of us.''
And I know Marcia would want me to remind you that the third and final performance of opera in the 2011 Chautauqua season will be given Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. in Norton Hall, when the company will perform ''The Magic Flute,'' by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I hope you'll attend, if you can.
Anyone who knows anything about opera is familiar with the name Sherrill Milnes. But, if you've just thought, ''Ah, yes, I love her singing,'' you need to try harder.
Mr. Milnes was one of the great American-born baritones, who has often been linked artistically with names such as Leonard Warren and Lawrence Tibbett. In a career during which he was a headliner at all of the world's major opera houses, and sang frequently at the White House and for other of the world's leaders, on television, and at important national occasions, he would be a star at our country's Metropolitan Opera Company, beginning in 1965 and continuing through March of 1997, for a total of 652 performances.
He came to specialize in the baritone roles created by composer Giuseppe Verdi, although his career involved performances in the work of a great many composers, including dozens upon dozens of professional recordings.
The singer's autobiography has recently been released with updated material, and now bears the title ''American Aria: Encore.''
Although known for his hearty physique and his ability to shape his voice to the demands of a wide variety of roles, Milnes was born to a farm family, in Downer's Grove, Illinois. He does take some pride in claiming descent from an early Congressman from Vermont, Matthew Lyon, and from Lyon's wife, who was a niece of Ethan Allen.
Biographies are good reading, depending on their content, more than their style. Milnes is frank and his writer's voice is direct and plain. He discusses his career with clarity and provides a great many colorful details, although he is astonishingly kind to most of his colleagues, in a field in which big egos are necessary in order to survive. Perhaps the only name about whom I recall a less than enthusiastic description is James Levine.
He recounts his astounding career as though he were reciting ordinary events. If it is an unusual sensation to stand on the stage of the Paris Opera, or London's Covent Garden, or Milan's La Scala, and to hear an audience of thousands screaming with excitement, to the point that the performance needs to be stopped, the singer keeps those feelings to himself.
Now 76 years old and largely retired, Milnes is a Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University, and an artistic advisor to a number of regional opera companies. He and his third wife, Maria Zouves devote much of their energy to an organization called VOICExperience, which exists to help young singers overcome the challenges to establishing successful careers.
The book is an education in the art of opera, and all that goes into making a living at it. I didn't emerge from reading it with the feeling that I knew the singer as a person. I did emerge with the feeling that I understood the kind of work and stress which had produced that career, and a much clearer idea of how the profession works.
''American Aria: Encore'' has 266 pages in paperbound edition, plus extensive indices and chronologies. It was published by Amadeus Press, with a recommended selling price of $22.95. Find it with ISBN number 10: 1-57467-160X. There is one copy available from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library system, found at the Prendergast Library, in Jamestown. There are also 6 recordings of Milnes' singing.
One of the most controversial figures in the 20th Century was Eugenio Pacelli. Born in 1876, in the city of Rome, Pacelli is best known for the last 20 years of his life, when he wore the crown of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church as Pius XII.
Much has been written about the man's life. He is a candidate for sainthood, and in 2009 was declared ''Venerable,'' a title used for a person who has been officially declared ''heroic in virtue'' and a candidate for canonization.
In 1999, a biography of the former pope was published by historian John Cornwell, which has encouraged those who oppose Pacelli's positive reputation. It's title is ''Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII.''
The central core of the issue is the fact that Pope Pius sat in Rome, the capital of Hitler's greatest ally, Benito Mussolini, throughout the entire war.
The issue was what the pope did - or didn't do - to encourage opposition to Hitler, and especially to the deliberate extermination of millions of people, especially Jews, at the hands of Hitler's followers.
Cornwell claims that he began the book with the intention of proving that the pope was a positive force in the attempts to stop Hitler's rise to power and to lessen or prevent the Holocaust. He claims that the overwhelming evidence to the contrary has caused him to change his mind.
Obviously I don't know from personal observation what the pope did, who died before I started school, nor the motivation of a writer whom I have never met. I will say that the documentation of the book is impressive, and that anyone seeking to have a definitive understanding of the issue should read the book and be prepared to support or reject its challenges.
The writer claims that the pope was a good person whose focus only on the church and its advancement prevented him from doing all the things he could have done and which Cornwell believes he should have done to make a difference.
During the years when the Nazi party had not yet taken control of Germany, there were political parties, especially the large and powerful Catholic Center Party, which was ordered by the Vatican to disband, while Catholic bishops were instructed not to become involved in politics, although a few tried to do so, anyway.
Despite his claims of positive views of his subject, Cornwell seems to have gone out of his way to color Pacelli in a negative light. The cover of his book, for example, shows Pacelli in the starched robes and layered capes of a Cardinal of the church, sweeping down a staircase while men in Nazi-like uniforms salute.
That's pretty convincing, although if you dig through the footnotes and locate the origin of the photo, it was taken during Pacelli's term as the pope's official nuncio in Germany, during the pre-Nazi, Weimar Republic years in that country.
The author's need to include small ''digs'' at the late pope, which have nothing to do with his effort or non-efforts to protect the victims of the Holocaust, is a major red flag.
The Jewish state of Israel has recognized the late pope as having saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives, although there is some evidence that this was done to convince the Vatican to recognize Israel as an independent country, despite Arab claims to the contrary.
The important thing about anything in history is that different people, however sincere or truthful they believe they are, sometimes have different understandings of what has happened, right in front of their eyes.
The book makes interesting reading, and will teach you a great deal about how a country of educated and civilized people somehow agreed to perform some of the most shameful and barbaric actions in all of history. But, as with all history, I hope you won't just swallow what it says.
It deserves thought and analysis, not mindless acceptance nor rejection.
''Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII'' was published by Viking Books. It has 384 pages of text in paperbound edition, plus extensive footnotes and index. Find it with ISBN number 0-965-022721.
There are four copies in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System, located in the Jamestown, Lakewood, and Fredonia libraries.
From time to time we print our policies for your information. Any organization wanting a performance or exhibition reviewed should request, preferably in writing, that The Post-Journal review. In the case of conflicting performances, the sponsor requesting first will be reviewed.
No organization will be reviewed which doesn't request to be reviewed. Telling us that a performance will happen will get you an announcement. You have to ask for a review to get one.
Performances whose intent is religious rather than artistic cannot be appropriately reviewed.
Children and youth through high school will not be reviewed, and if they appear in a performance with adults will be named, but not evaluated.
Material intended for publication in The Critical Eye and its ''Winks,'' must be received at least 10 days before the Saturday on which you wish the information to appear. Exceptions are impossible.
Drop announcements in our night mailbox, or mail them to The Post-Journal, P.O. Box 190, Jamestown, NY 14702-0190. Make certain that my name or the name of the column is marked clearly on the outside of the envelope.
You may e-mail them to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, I cannot be reached through the Post-Journal virtual newsroom.
Suggestions for the subjects of full columns are welcome, but please be aware, they are usually booked very far in advance.