Swan song for an opera heroine

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Marlo Faulkner put several thousand dollars in the JACC account and smiles on 150 faces Monday night.

And then she said goodbye.

Faulkner, patron saint of local opera and a fighter for the arts nobody wants to mess with, announced that henceforth, she'll be riding in the bus instead of driving it. In her summertime swan song, Marlo assembled a spectacular cast for the fourth time to raise money for the Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center in the heart of Post Falls.

Christina Kowalski, Heather Parker, Brandon Michael, Derrick Parker and David Demand all lent their considerable talent to a fun and fabulous evening of music, interspersed with an entertaining and illuminating narrative from Faulkner. The bookends to the show were two Wolskis: Dawn, a soprano who served two enlistments in the U.S. Army where she performed with the London Symphony, among others; and her husband, the extraordinary violinist Mateusz Wolski. Dawn is the newly appointed executive director of Opera Coeur d'Alene, which Marlo helped found years ago, and Mateusz is an artist whose mastery would not be out of place in any symphony on Earth.

When Marlo announced late in the program that her role in the future would be as a patron rather than an organizer, fundraiser, board member and so on, there was more than one gasp from the audience and a lingering pause of incredulity. For many of her 75 years, Marlo Faulkner has been a mover and shaker for local arts, and to a lot of us, those few steps from one side of the podium to the other represent an inconceivable and somewhat frightening gulf. What's going to happen in her absence? Who's going to step up? Is this the beginning of the end of a precious cultural niche for North Idaho?

In Faulknerian fashion, Marlo didn't linger on herself. Instead, she took the stage with the other singers to close out the show, and if there were tears from her eyes, they disappeared quickly in the huge grin on her face as she sang along joyously, if not quite professionally.

The opera community is losing the leading star that's shone brightest and longest in the North Idaho night. But don't despair. Opera Coeur d'Alene is a little powerhouse with talent galore and a devoted following, one that now includes indisputably its greatest fan.

Brava, Marlo!

• • •

Editor's note: “Tosca” is coming to Coeur d'Alene. See today's Entertainment section, C12.

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