Growing Up With Opera
Gene Santoro was raised in downtown Cincinnati, the son of immigrant parents from Fuscaldo, Italy. They lived near aunts, uncles, and cousins who immigrated to the United States, and Gene's exposure to opera began at an early age. It was not uncommon to be treated to a well-known aria while in the barber's chair! He was proud of his roots but even prouder to be an American. He never missed a chance to show his patriotism, and the Fourth of July was an excuse to fly a few more flags around the house.
Not long after Gene met his wife, Gail Lennig Santoro, they discovered their mutual appreciation of the arts, especially opera.
Together they enjoyed many Cincinnati Opera seasons, always the highlight of the summer. In fact, other trips and vacations were scheduled before or after opera season.
Following his early retirement, Gene focused his attention on the things he loved best: gardening at home in Clermont County, tennis, and skiing. His generosity focused first on his family and friends and then on various charities and organizations.
His enthusiasm for the arts led to long-term support for institutions including the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Cincinnati Symphony, and Cincinnati Opera, which he and Gail so loved attending together. It was a natural extension of his generous spirit to support the Opera with a bequest that he hoped would sustain opera in Cincinnati.
Gene Santoro passed away in October 2009. His life, a model of how to live generously, made a great difference to many people. Cincinnati Opera is deeply grateful for his generous bequest which will make it possible for future generations to enjoy this powerful art form—and perhaps a few more arias in a barber's chair.