Americana: Fallen Angel

When Opera Midwest burst onto the music scene two years ago with a glittering production of Verdi's La Traviata, the Evanston, Ill., company was regarded as something of a musical mystery. Its general manager and financial "angel," Stephen Griffeth, had been able to conjure up a first-season budget of $400,000, a stunning amount for a group of virtual unknowns. Its star soprano was Griffeth's wife, Myra Cordell, a Northwestern University voice graduate. The music director was a former security guard who had conducted a children's choir in West Germany. Even Griffeth, a $369-a-week credit manager for a Chicago company, seemed miscast...

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