|Tribute to A.J. Fletcher’s Love of Opera Unveiled|
On Wednesday, January 29, 2003, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation unveiled a permanent tribute to its founder at the BTI Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. Shortly before the 8pm performance in the “Great Artist” series by the NC Symphony, a dedication and unveiling ceremony took place. Aptly, the great artist for the evening was renowned opera singer Heidi Grant Murphy.
The following description of the quilt and its significance will be inscribed on a plaque and hung to accompany the display:
Alfred Johnston Fletcher (1887-1979) was a lawyer, businessman and founder of Raleigh’s Capitol Broadcasting Company. In addition to his business acumen, Mr. Fletcher was a talented horticulturist and musician.
In 1948 Mr. Fletcher founded the Grass Roots Opera Company with three primary goals in mind: introduce young people to opera, take the art form of opera to areas where it was not readily available, and produce opera in the language of its audience. Over the years, Grass Roots Opera evolved into The National Opera Company and performed before live audiences that numbered more than 3,000,000 people.
In appreciation of his vision and dedication to opera, the board of the A. J. Fletcher Foundation created the Fletcher Opera Institute at the North Carolina School of the Arts and was a major benefactor of this A. J. Fletcher Opera Theater.
Louise S. “Scottie” Stephenson, long-time Corporate Secretary of Capitol Broadcasting Company, first had the idea of creating “The Opera Quilt.” She felt it would be an appropriate way to recognize Mr. Fletcher’s contributions and to explain his vision. Scottie died in April 2002, and thus never saw the completed product. The quilt and its placement in the Fletcher Opera Theater are dedicated to her memory.
Master quilt maker Amy Stewart Winsor devoted over 540 hours of meticulous work to the creation of “The Opera Quilt”. Its 15 panels depict scenes from operas produced during the Company’s 50-year history. Left to right, from top to bottom:
Carmen – Amahl and the Night Visitors – The Barber of Seville – Madama Butterfly
La Bohème – Hansel and Gretel – I Pagliacci
Elixir of Love – Daughter of the Regiment – Cinderella – Die Fledermaus – Martha
In the center is a portrait of A. J. Fletcher in costume as Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte. The white-columned house, located at 1117 Hillsborough Street, was the home of the opera company for 53 years.
The borders of the quilt contain the oak leaves that represent Raleigh, “The City of Oaks.”
As you may recall, the Foundation commissioned the creation of a quilt to commemorate the National Opera Company, and to provide a tribute to Mr. Fletcher in the Fletcher Opera Theater. Scottie conceived the idea of a quilt, and I’m sure the finished product would have pleased her!