What We Are About
The mission of Guild Opera Company is to introduce opera to audiences, young and otherwise, by producing and presenting age-appropriate and culturally significant operas performed by professional artists in school and community settings.
Young Artist Training
Guild Opera Company has been one of the launching companies for famous artists such as Marilyn Horne, Heinz Blankenburg and Mary Costa, the voice of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. We believe in creating opportunities for young up-and-coming talent to gain experience and perform in fully staged opera productions with professional singers.
Art Education for Children
Since 1949, Guild Opera has introduced over four million children to live performances of opera and the vocal arts. From 1949 until 2000 students were bussed to local performance venues where we presented full-scale, two-hour operatic productions. Beginning in 2000 we changed our presentation model and began taking shorter (forty-five minute) contemporary operas directly to the schools to eliminate the rising costs of bussing and renting large venues and to accommodate the schools who wanted to keep their students on school grounds. Since 2000 Guild Opera Co. has performed at hundreds of schools for tens of thousands of students.
Meet the Board of Directors
Fran Benedict – Chair
In 2005, Fran Benedict was inducted into the California Music Educator’s Hall of Fame honoring Lifetime Achievement in Music Education. She had been honored by the CMEA Southern Section in 1993 as Outstanding Music Educator. Her career with LAUSD includes music supervisor, TV consultant, Project Director for Gifted/Talented and Master Teacher (USC). Mrs. Benedict was adjunct professor at Mt. St. Mary’s College, and Cal State and Northridge Universities for many years. Her academic preparation includes Oberlin College (BME), Univ. of Michigan, (MM) Occidental College (El Teaching Credential), CSUN (Admin. & Supervision Credential) and LACC & UCLA (opera workshops).
As part of Fran’s TV music instruction programs, each year she prepared thousands of students for their annual visit to the Guild Opera’s full-scale productions. As a result, she was invited to be on the Board of Opera Guild of Southern California. During this time, these outstanding experiences were threatened to become extinct. Mrs. Benedict was determined that Guild Opera survive. She has worked tirelessly over 35 years to insure that young children have exposure to this grand art form.
Dr. Robert Chauls – President
Dr. Robert Chauls is well-known in Los Angeles as a pianist, accompanist, coach and conductor, and throughout the United States as a composer and author of Piano for Adults, An Aural Approach. His first opera, Alice in Wonderland (G. Schirmer) was the second most performed contemporary opera in America in 1981-82, and continues to be among the most performed children’s operas in the United States, as well as in Germany and Poland. His other operas include The Magic Rhyme, The Thirteen Clocks (with Rhoda Levine), The Trial of Goldilocks, and Meanwhile, Back at Mario’s (a spoof of Tosca). His latest work for the stage is the musical, The Phantom of the Opera. He has also written numerous other works for voice, piano, chamber ensemble and orchestra. He has concertized in several countries, and has travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Latin America and throughout North America and is a winner of the Northern Bavarian Critics Award. Born in Port Chester, New York, he holds degrees from Antioch College (B.A.), the University of Michigan (M.Mus.), the Royal College of Music – London (A.R.C.M.), and the University of Southern California (D.M.A.).
A former Vice President and board member of the National Opera Association, he established, and is currently directing the N.O.A.’s Chamber Opera Competition. He has been on the musical staffs of City of the Angels Opera, Portland Opera, The American Institute of Musical Studies, Lake George Opera, and the Des Moines Metro Opera. He also served several times as a judge for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He founded Valley Opera in 1977 and directed it until 1984. From 1992 until 2009 he was artistic director and conductor of the Valley Symphony Orchestra and has been Professor of Music at Los Angeles Valley College since 1973. He lives in Westlake Village with his beautiful bride Deanna.
Gabriel Reoyo Pazos – Artistic Director
Gabriel R. Pazos is the recipient of the 2007 El Angel Award from the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts. He has sung leading operatic roles, as well as roles in zarzuela, oratorio and musicals with various companies, including Anchorage Opera, Spanish Lyric Theater in Tampa, Florida, West Bay Opera, Spokane Opera, Santa Barbara Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, LA Music Center, The European Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, and The Angeles Chorale, among others. Directing credits include Enrique Gonzalez-Medina’s opera Serafina y Arcangela at the Theater Center in Tijuana, Mexico, The Marriage of Figaro, Fidelio, Tosca, Faust,and The Ventura College Opera Workshop.
Gabriel, our Artistic Director has served Guild Opera Company for over a decade, and has dedicated countless hours, ensuring we maintain the highest level of quality in every one of our performances for which he directs; Alice in Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, including three (3) shows he authored, Wade in the Water, The Treasure of California and Estrella, a children’s bilingual show based on zarzuela music, all of which are being performed in Los Angeles area schools. A kind and humble soul, Gabriel has been instrumental in virtually every aspect of Guild Opera Company’s operations and has contributed significant value to our organization.
Kimberly Poli – School Programs Director
Kimberly Poli is a music educator, classical singer and stage performer with a B.S. in Music Education and an M.M. in Voice Performance. Having previously served as a choir director and music teacher in Pennsylvania public schools, she currently teaches private lessons in piano and voice to all ages in the Los Angeles area, was alto soloist for All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Kimberly has enjoyed performing principal roles with regional opera companies such as the Harrisburg Opera Association (PA), Opera Lancaster (PA), Capital Opera Harrisburg (PA) Loudoun Lyric Opera (VA) and Valley Opera and Performing Arts (CA); and has regularly performed children’s opera with opera outreach programs including Indianapolis Opera Ensemble and Guild Opera of Los Angeles. Kimberly’s roles with Guild Opera include “Alice” in Alice in Wonderland, “Mother”in Little Red Riding Hood, and “Mama” in Estrella as well as leading roles in The Marriage of Figaro, Suor Angelica and Cosi fan tutte.
Claudia Sobol – Treasurer
Claudia Sargisian Sobol has loved opera for as long as she can remember. For her it encompasses all the great performing art forms; music, dance, and theater, in a rich and moving way to tell a story. When she was first asked to sing in Guild Opera productions, she was very honored. When she was later asked to join the board, she was happy to bring her 26 years of accounting experience to the position of treasurer.
Claudia earned her B.A. in Music from UC Irvine, and her M.A. in Vocal Performance from CSULA. Her Opera credits include Mama in ‘Estrella’, La Badessa in ‘Suor Angelica’, Second Lady in ‘The Magic Flute’, Mother/Grandmother in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, Annina in ‘La Traviata’, Dritte Knabe in ‘Die Zauberflöte’, Cherubino in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, Suzuki in ‘Madam Butterfly’, The Second Spirit in ‘The Magic Flute’, Rosine in ‘Signor Deluso’, and Hansel in ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
Claudia served as Cantorial Soloist for High Holy Days at Temple Judea in Trazana, and as Alto Soloist/Section and Leader Cantor at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Brentwood. She has sung professionally with Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Opera Chorus, Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale, and Lark Master Singers. She has appeared as soloist with Los Robles Master Chorale. Ms Sobol is currently Alto Soloist and Section Leader at First United Methodist Church in Glendale, and Alto Soloist at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
Kathleen Belwish – Secretary
Kathy was introduced to theatre and developed a love of music when she attended Guild Opera Company performances in grammar school. She has worked in theatre, designing and constructing costumes. She is a retired administrator in the construction industry. For the past several years she has served as Secretary of the board and costume seamstress for Guild Opera Company. Kathy’s attributes her involvement in Guild Opera Company as her way to say thanks to Guild Opera Company for introducing her to the exciting world of opera.
Jeanne Mitchell – Director of Development
Jeanne was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. At the age of seven she bagan studying violin with Isabelle Thompson, concertmaster of the Fargo/Moorehead Symphony, and while in high school she played violin with the same orchestra. She received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota and her California Teaching Credential at California Lutheran University. For four years she served as President of the Los Angeles City Elementary Schools Music Association (LACESMA) and wrote grants for their scholarship program. She retired in June, 2019, after 22 years as an elementary school instrumental music teacher with the L.A.U.S.D. She has played violin in the Topanga Symphony and the Topanga Philharmonic for 25 years. She is now Director of Development of the Guild Opera Company and the President of the Topanga Symphony. She has three children and lives in Topanga with her husband Tom.
Eloise Porter – School Liaison
Eloise Porter is a native of Los Angeles and a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District. She holds a Masters degree from the University of Illinois in Vocal Performance and a B.A. from Occidental College in Choral Music where she studied conducting with Howard Swan. She also received Artist-Teacher Certification through the Choral Music Experience Institute where she studied with Doreen Rao. Trained in the Kodaly method of music education, she has over 30 years of experience in the schools teaching young people from kindergarten to college. Taking a leadership role in the childen’s choir movement in Los Angeles, Ms. Porter founded and directed the ENCORE Children’s Chorus that flourished in Los Angeles and Burlington, Vermont for 15 years, including multiple choir levels and serving treble voices, ages 7-16. Having recently retired from LAUSD, she continues her involvement in music by directing one adult church choir and singing in another. She also maintains a private voice and piano studio in Woodland Hills. Eloise remembers attending Guild Opera performances at the Shrine Auditorium as a child and was later involved in the Guild Opera production of The Elixir of Love when her ENCORE choristers were used in that production in the 1990’s.
Carol Tavis – Board Member
Carol Tavis’ talents and generosity in sharing her passion for music reflect a life-long dedication to children and music. A graduate of University of Southern California with degrees in Piano Performance and Music Education, she taught Choral/General Music at Stevenson Jr. High for four years before her amazing 29-year tenure as “the” music teacher at Frances Blend Elementary School for Visually Impaired. She received the “Music Educator Award” from Hispanic Musicians Association and the “Bravo” Award from the Music Center. She served as Special Learners Representative for the California Music Educators Association and Arts Commissioner for the City of Covina. Since her retirement in 1998, Carol has served on the Board of Guild Opera Company and has been the principal accompanist for Guild Opera performances. Several other local opera companies and her church have benefitted from Carol’s accompanying and Children’s Choir Coach. (She just can’t say “no.”) She also is the Instructional Designer for our Professional Development packages. Guild Opera Company shouts “Brava” for your many accomplishments and “Thank You” for your munificence in sharing with us and the children!
Randy Melson – In Memoriam
Board member and philanthropist Randy Melson is a lifelong opera fan – enthusiastic in her desire to bring music into the life of children and joy into their hearts. Long retired as a film technician and business woman, her contributions are designing and executing some of the many costumes for the operas and helping to present fundraisers and events. Famous for her annual holiday opera party; one might consider himself very fortunate just to get on the waiting list for this glorious and highly exclusive event.
This generous soul’s endless commitment, and love for Opera has helped us touch the lives of many. Randy loves to help put smiles on children’s faces as she remembers her own adult children’s first exposure to opera was in grammar school and was presented by Guild Opera Company.