25. August 2010 · 3 comments · Categories: Opera

At 80 years old, Agnes Varis is trying to make opera audiences younger.

“Your average opera-goer cannot be 65—give me break,” said Ms. Varis. “You’re not going to keep an opera house alive with that.”

Ms. Varis, the founder and former president of several pharmaceutical companies, including Agvar Chemicals, Marsam Pharmaceuticals and Aegis Pharmaceuticals, is on a mission to build a younger audience for the Metropolitan Opera, where she is a trustee. “The opera’s like Broadway but better. It’s got sex, it’s got incest, it’s got rape,” she said. “You introduce young people to music, you’ve got them for life.”

Toward that goal, she has donated $2.5 million to subsidize a program offering $25 orchestra tickets for all but two weekend performances of the company’s 2010-11 season—13,600 seats in all. The program, which the Met announced Tuesday, is an extension of the Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program, started in 2006, which subsidizes 200 seats at $20 apiece for every weekday performance excluding galas.

While the beginning of the article sounds as if the discount is only for younger folks, it appears, from what I read later, that it’s for anyone, really. (Or am I misreading as I so frequently do?):

“The older people who have retired, they can’t afford the orchestra tickets and they can’t go upstairs where it’s $30—they’ll get a nosebleed. “I’m an old lady—if you’re an old lady and you wanted to come to the opera, would you sit on the floor in the lobby for tickets? I can’t do that to senior citizens.”

Ms. Varis has underwritten several opera productions, but she believes it her duty to build the company’s future audience, and she said she will continue to funnel her fortune toward that goal.

“Making money and doing good are not opposing values,” she said. “I made more money than I could use in many lifetimes…. If you want money, I’m ready to do it, but I want to see a plan for a younger generation.”

Very cool.

My friend Pam might enjoy this part:

Bay Ridge-raised and one of eight siblings, Ms. Varis is a product of Brooklyn public schools and Brooklyn College. Her mother held a factory job sewing buttons and her father sold ice cream from a street cart. “I came from Greek, poor, working-class people,” she said. (Asked if she lived at home while attending college, Ms. Varis said: “You cannot grow up with Greeks and think that you can move out.”)


Very obvious link to the article. 😉


  1. All I can say is “WOW!!”

    You dom’t a lot of that attitude around.

    Thanks, Patty

  2. Very cool. Can you post the link of the article?

  3. The link is there, Cooper, but not terribly obvious; it’s on the word “here”. But just for you — because you are such a nice guy! — I’ll add another. 😎