A soprano with her eyes on the prize

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At the swanky post-performance party last night for Shen Wei Dance Arts and the Major Bang gang, hosted at the State Street Home of Susan Bass and Tom Bradford, a lively conversation with local marketing maharishi Gretchen Barbatsis centered around a little-reported piece of trivia regarding one of the L’ile de Merlin singers. Barbatsis is hosting the cast of L’ile de Merlin at her home while they’re in town for the festival, and she effused about the honor of hosting not just the singers, but the Bangladeshi father of one of them, Monica Yunus, who sings the role of Argentine in the opera and also appeared twice as Zerlina in Don Giovanni hereabouts recently. In Ms. Yunu’s bio in the Spoleto program guide, the very last sentence reads, almost as an afterthought, “Her father, Muhammad Yunus, is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.”

Come again? Surely this is a “Peace Prize” that pops won tossing rings at bottles in a Bangladeshi carnival last year? Maybe it came in a box of cereal? Apparently not. Muhammad Yunus was the recipient, with the bank he founded, of the actual Nobel Peace Price for his pioneering efforts in the economic field of microcredit, the extension of small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. He was here for his daughter’s opening night, and Barbatsis said she was positively giddy with awe. “Whenever I take somebody somewhere in my car,” she said, “I now tell them they’re riding in a car a Nobel Prize winner sat in.”

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