Des Moines Metro Opera Receives $1 Million Donation

By David Salazar

Des Moines Metro Opera has received a generous gift from Frank R. Brownell III worth $1 million.

The gift was received in support of the opera company’s Apprentice Artist Program for young singers. Notable alumni of the program, which was started in 1975, include Hei-Kyung Hong, Marquita Lister, John Osborn, Kyle Ketelson, Raymond Aceto, Daniela Mack, Brian Jagde, Dmitri Pittas, Alexander Birch Elliott, Megan Marino, Lucia Lucas, John Moore, Meghan Kasanders, and Daniel Okulitch, among others.

The gift lands in time for Des Moines Metro Opera’s 50th anniversary in 2022.

“Philanthropy on this scale is overwhelming on its magnitude alone. But when a major gift like this comes from a donor who has become a close, personal friend over the years, it is truly breath-taking,” said Michael Egel, General & Artistic Director of Des Moines Metro Opera, in a press release. “Frank shares my passion for identifying promising young singers and searching near and far to find them.” Brownell has been known to join Egel and the program’s current director Lisa Hasson for an hour or two of a long audition day in New York and sit quietly off to the side, making notes of questions to ask the panel afterwards about singers he heard. “Frank’s inquisitive and sincere interest in understanding what we hear and how singer training and development works provides a valuable perspective for us. His belief in our mission to provide performance opportunities for aspiring artists to hone their craft is genuine and unwavering. This gift helps to secure that opportunity for generations to come. We are deeply grateful.”

Brownell III and his wife have been attendees of the Des Moines Metro Opera since 1974 and over the years, Brownell III’s relationship with the organization has deepened. He has provided annual support for the Apprentice Artist Program for 10 straight seasons and in 2020, he continued his support for the company and helped honor contracts of all 40 apprentice artists.