Cross-ExaminationFebruary 13, 2012 – In The News
Stuart Dember is a partner with Fox Rothschild in Princeton, focusing on commercial real estate. While he likes negotiating complex real estate deals, he loves opera. Dember was recently appointed to the board of directors of Boheme Opera NJ in Hamilton, a regional opera company he has supported for years. He also appeared in a (non-singing) role in one of the company’s recent productions at the College of New Jersey, something that would only be a dram for most opera buffs. Dember, a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and earned his J.D. from New York Law School in 1973.
Q. You were born in the Bronx and grew up in Massapequa, Long Island. How did your interest in opera develop?
A. My father was always playing opera. He also sang—very nicely, though not professionally. He worked for an oil company.
Q. Can you sing?
A. No, not if you ask anyone who knows me. I do sing, but they ask me politely not to sing any more.
Q. Tell me about your appearance as the King of Naples in Puccini’s “Tosca”? If you didn’t sing, what did you do?
A. At the end of the first act I made an entrance, in full regal costume, with the queen. We walked across the stage, people came over and genuflected, and then we exited. It was a “supernumerary” role, which is a specific nomenclature in the world of opera. A supernumerary is more prominent than an extra, but you don’t speak or sing.
Q. Did you have to go to rehearsals?
A. Many. It was fun, seeing the intensity of the work that goes into a production. The baritone who played the evil baron—Daniel Sutin, who sings at the Metropolitan Opera —actually stayed at my house for the weekend, and sang for me and my guests.
Q. Do you have a favorite opera, or aria?
A. I knew you’d ask me that. No. There are so, so many.
Q. Do you go to the opera in New York or Philadelphia?
A. No, only in New Jersey. It’s just easier; I don’t like traveling to New York. I became a supporter of this opera company after I went to one of their performances, about 15 years ago. I was introduced to the artistic director, helped organize some of their events and got more and more involved
Q. We don’t want to paint you as a one-dimensional sort of guy. Do you enjoy other types of music?
A. Yes. Country western, especially Toby Keith. I’m also a major Yankee fan. And I like to scuba dive—in the Keys, the Caribbean, Belize.
Q. Some people consider opera elitist. What would you say to them?
A. Boheme Opera NJ has an ongoing mission to make the arts accessible. We’re trying to get rid of the image that opera is stuffy and inaccessible. Productions are in English, which helps people understand the stories. We also try to cultivate new audiences, and young people. The director goes to schools and gets students involved in productions.
Q. What about your own kids? Do they like opera?
A. Not yet. But Ryan, 19, is a baseball player and Liam, 14, is an incredibly accomplished musician.
This article was first published in the Bar Report in the February 13, 2012, issue of the New Jersey Law Journal. Copyright 2012 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.