Il Cenacolo Italian Cultural Club of San Francisco has had a longstanding support relationship with the Merola Opera training program, one of the premier opera training programs in the country. Beginning in 1979, Il Cenacolo has made contributions to Merola, either in direct support of specific artists or to the organization in general.
In 1957, Maestro Kurt Herbert Adler, the Director of the San Francisco Opera, and an active member of Il Cenacolo Italian Cultural Club, envisioned a program that would change the face of opera training in the United States. He wanted young artists to be able to train here, rather than have to travel to Europe to hone their craft. Maestro Adler wanted this program to be a living memorial to his predecessor, Maestro Gaetano Merola.
In the six decades since its founding the program in his honor, the Merola Opera Program has grown. It started as a four-week program for 14 singers from the Western U.S, with two instructors, and is now a 12-week program for 23 singers, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director from around the world, with a faculty of 30 internationally esteemed artists. These participants are the best of the best. Each year, Merola receives approximately 1000 applications. From that, 650 live auditions are held, resulting in the selection of 29 artists. At the conclusion of the Merola training, a select few are then named as Adler Fellows, for another two years of intensive training with the San Francisco Opera.
Several years ago, the Merola Board of Directors honored Il Cenacolo at their annual gala for its continuous support.
Many of the 57 artists who have received direct support from Il Cenacolo Italian Cultural Club continue to perform on the major opera stages throughout the world. Singers, directors, coaches and accompanists carry on their careers that were launched with Merola and with support from Il Cenacolo. Some of those whom Il Cenacolo has supported have made it a point to personally thank us for the support that helped launch their careers.