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Classical 101

Irma Cooper and Her Competition-This Saturday!

The finals of the Opera Columbus Irma M. Cooper Vocal Competition are this Saturday in the Southern Theater. All are welcome to the final round at 2 p.m. They're charging $10.00 and an extra $15 for a post competition "do" but never mind. Just say you're with me. Cookies are cookies. I'm the M.C. I was new in town. Feeling my way, a nice boy from Boston out of New York City. With no Met Opera to stand in and no cheap seats I made my way to an Evening of Opera Scenes at OSU's Weigel Hall. Going in I met a stately elderly lady. She peered at me and threw a heavy ring of keys in my face. "Go park my car, honey." The car was a boat sized Lincoln in the middle of high street. Cops and buses and traffic abuzz around this beached whale. This was my introduction to Irma Cooper. Irma was a farm girl from Iowa. Irma went to Europe and became an opera singer. She made her way through several provincial theaters in post-war Germany. She sang the big operas of Mozart, Verdi and Strauss. Verdi's great La forza del Destino is enough of a trip in Italian but in German it's really a hoot as Die macht des schiksals. Irma sang both versions. She eventually made her way to a nice faculty berth at OSU. At her death she bequeathed a lot of money to the Opera Columbus Irma M. Cooper Vocal Competition. She herself presided regally, with a very salty sense of humor. Judges were elderly or retired divas: most now are in heaven or assisted living. Today we have agents and managers judging the young artists, people who can actually offer them jobs. Singers need to have some kind of Ohio connection. They come from all over the country to compete for the cash prizes from Irma's bulging posthumous purse. Some are relics from the high school musical. Others are very talented indeed. There's some attitude backstage, a lot of sweetness and the right touch of petulance. God forbid your suit or dress offended Irma. She was known to make loud offstage comments. It's true what they say, you really can hear wonderful new talent. Come hear,  this Saturday, 2 PM at the Southern. I'll be the one not singing. Irma in heaven will be daring anyone to sing Die macht des Schiksals or Der barber von Sevilla. Knock'em dead.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.