Actually, it’s Puccini.

Mary Tabor grew up in Memphis in an equally musical family. When Rob, Wells Fargo Securities’ head of investment banking and capital markets, began dating Mary – in Manhattan after both graduated from Princeton – he often took her to hear live music.

The Engels have been attending opera for years. “We order six season tickets,” says Mary. Always avid supporters, the Engels are taking their involvement to a new level this year as board chairs. They are the first co-chairs in Opera Carolina’s 66-year history.

While opera is an art form, there’s a business side to it, too. Rob brings business acumen to an organization that’s already in solid financial shape. “Rob’s background is in mergers and acquisitions,” says Mary. “He’s creative about making the most of the assets you have.”

Both Engels say James Meena, Opera Carolina’s general director and principal conductor since 2000, is one of the company’s – and Charlotte’s – greatest assets. Mary marvels, “He conducts without a score!”

The Engels credit Meena with developing a smart business model. A season contains just three shows – not an overwhelming commitment for season ticketholders. Opera Carolina’s current season includes Verdi’s Nabucco, Puccini’s Turandot and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

Not only does a love of music run in the family; community service does, too. Currie Engel co-chaired Opera Carolina’s Ma Mere et Moi (My Mother and Me) program when she was in eighth grade. The program, designed to cultivate an early interest in opera, is for middle- and high-school girls who, along with their mothers (and often, grandmothers), attend brunch with Maestro Meena before a Sunday afternoon matinee.

“People may look at opera and think it’s high-brow and serious,” says Mary. “But it’s universal; it’s for everybody.”

“You don’t have to be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman,” she laughs. You can feel opera’s power without being overcome.

To read the original story in SouthPark Magazine, click here.