Donor Profile: Rosa Cohn

by Carolle Carter

Rosa Cohn specializes in building donors’ long-term relationships with OSJ. “Every generous friend of OSJ is a friend of mine,” says the Vienna-born opera devotee who saw her first opera in Vienna when she was eight years old. She has been on the OSJ Board since 1987, after a friend took her to hear the company in a rehearsal hall on Race Street in San Jose. “That’s it!” she said, “I will raise money so OSJ can have a decent place to rehearse.” Now, she notes, OSJ has a fine rehearsal hall on Paragon Drive, “and a real opera house, the California Theatre.”

“From the beginning I noticed something so special about OSJ, the dedication of the singers, how they sang their hearts out. Irene Dalis is a great inspiration. She knows opera, music, knows people, understands how to run an opera company. She is gifted. If a singer feels he or she isn’t performing well on a particular day Ms. Dalis encourages them to do better.”

Rosa’s husband Werner, a retired GE manager, helps her with fundraising. “Fundraising is always on my mind,” she says. “When I call people, I tell them about the opera, get to know them, and develop a rapport. I have a very good memory, which helps when I’m talking to people about their lives.” She contacts a regular group of people who love opera and are interested in helping OSJ. They have become her special friends.

“Opera is uplifting. When Werner and I go to an opera we feel good for days. Opera makes you happy and happy people are generous.

“I hear new things in music I’ve never heard before or in operas I’ve previously seen.” She suggests that people who travel “broaden themselves” by attending performances in other cities. “During World War II, cities were bombed, opera houses bombed. Musicians and audiences went to great lengths to get to performances so they could receive the courage that music offers,” she commented.

Rosa is convinced that people who come to one or two performances of OSJ will be hooked and become future donors. “It is a wonderful company. When I see the new singers I know I will watch them grow, and get better and better. OSJ’s resident artists are coached very well in singing, acting, languages, and stage presence.

“I wish people who have never gone to an opera would go and see what they’ve missed. Bring the children, they are our future.” OSJ recognizes the need to introduce itself to this new audience with its well-received K-12 Outreach program. Rosa wants the next generation to learn how special opera is and to have the opportunity to develop an appreciation of this fine art form. She knows this is possible because many people share her philosophy that it is a duty to support education and the arts.  “I am very grateful to our artists, and to the wonderful OSJ staff, who goes through thick and the thin, for the company.”