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Joanne Bogart: Star of Stage and Lab

(Photo - Bogart)If you don't recognize GLAST programmer Joanne Bogart away from SLAC, it's probably because she's dressed as a nineteenth-century peasant, or a glittering star at a masquerade ball, or a haggard, eye-patched beggar woman.

She wears the costumes not for her own amusement, but because she performs opera. "People think that opera is a really arcane art form that isn't enjoyable to watch. But it's really as much of a production as a play with lights, costumes, and sets. The music is terrific, but it's also very dramatically compelling," Bogart said.

Now the West Bay Opera's Chorus Manager, she began her musical career as a piano student who disliked classical singing. After meeting her husband, a fellow Stanford undergrad and an opera fan, she began to warm to the style. "The opera that really grabbed me was 'Tristan and Isolde.' I remember it as the one that got me started." She's been hooked since.

"It's a very engrossing hobby," she said. "I devote a lot of time now that my kids are out of the house." Bogart spends her evenings and weekends at rigorous rehearsals. "During the last week before we open a show, it's very frenetic."

Bogart, who earned her Ph.D. in mathematics, never imagined she'd be singing Russian operas or working on gamma-ray telescopes. Though her day job doesn't require her to speak in foreign tongues, Bogart has found that the intellectual and collaborative challenges she faces in opera are much like those at SLAC.

"Opera is in some ways very similar to an experiment. They're both collaborations requiring a lot of thought and effort, and people really depend on each other's talents to pull them off. Each is a one-of-a-kind process."

The West Bay Opera will perform Tchaikovsky's music in "The Queen of Spades," a show based on a story by Aleksandr Pushkin, this February.

Alison Drain, SLAC Today, January 17, 2007

Above image: Joanne Bogart, inspired by her work at SLAC, dressed as a star in Giuseppe Verdi's "A Masked Ball" in 2003.