A NIGHT FOR NOTABLE WOMEN
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Patrick Henry Ballroom.
How much: $55, History Museum of Western Virginia members and Opera Roanoke subscribers, $45
Info: 342-5770; vahistorymuseum.org
Opera Roanoke and the Historical Society of Western Virginia have teamed up to honor a Roanoke native who was once an international opera star.
Hollins College and Juilliard School graduate Jane Stuart Smith made her professional opera debut in Detroit in 1951.
The next year she debuted in Europe, and through the rest of the decade she was an international opera star. She performed in Egypt, Italy, Austria and Greece, but also from time to time returning to the United States and even performing with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.
She was praised in Italy for her performances in the lead role of Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot.” She was the first American singer to sing “Turandot” in that country.
Yet she found her career dissatisfying. In 1956, she met Francis Schaeffer, the founder of L’Abri, an evangelical Christian organization based in Switzerland. Four years later, after a plane she was riding in nearly crashed over the Swiss Alps, she decided to join L’Abri and leave opera performance behind.
These days, she resides in Roanoke. And she hasn’t abandoned opera altogether — she serves as a consulting trustee for Opera Roanoke.
The tribute Thursday night to the woman once known as the “Yankee Doodle Diva” includes performances by soprano Amy Cofield Williamson, wife of Opera Roanoke director Scott Williamson, and the singers in Opera Roanoke’s Young Apprentice Artist program.