Published in the Saturday, May 21, 2011 edition of the Orlando Sentinel
CLERMONT -- Norma Trivelli says she owes her success to a Spanish dressmaker in New York City.
Born to a Cuban mother and a Venezuelan father, Trivelli knew French from boarding school but needed to learn English. When she was 13, she went to work for the dressmaker, translating for her English-speaking clients, such as Hedy Lamarr, and learning to sew.
"The dressmaker liked listening to Italian programs on the radio because the language was like Spanish," Trivelli said. "We had all the operas."
Trivelli -- who teaches a monthly opera class at Cooper Memorial Library in Clermont -- was hooked.
She studied voice at the Manhattan School of Music.
"Then I got married," she said.
She still sang occasionally, as a lyric soprano with the Salmaggi Opera in Brooklyn and with small groups while she taught foreign languages in New York City schools.
After retiring in 1991, she earned a bachelor's degree in voice from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. She moved to Clermont 10 years ago and becoming an adjunct professor of voice and foreign languages at Lake-Sumter Community College,
When she met Cooper Memorial reference librarian Dennis Smolarek, another opera aficionado, "Opera @ the Library" was born. From 2 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month, Trivelli talks to the audience about a composer's life and times before playing one of her dozens of opera DVDs with English subtitles.
The reception she has received from the audiences makes it worth her while.
"One woman from Lady Lake said she had not been aware of opera, and that she didn't realize what she had been missing," Trivelli said. "The whole thing about music is enjoyment. Opera can change your mood."