Governor Tom Corbett's Pittsburgh Opera Honor Stirs Controversy

05/09/2012 04:00 pm ET

PITTSBURGH -- The Phantom of the Opera may be fine, but opera fans say Gov. Tom Corbett is a problem.

"I'm kind of horrified by the rationale the opera is using to justify this," said Kathleen Andreassi of Butler, who's been a fan of the Pittsburgh Opera for about 10 years. Andreassi, 61, was one of hundreds of people who posted notes of protest on the opera's Facebook page.

"Any respect I had for the Pittsburgh Opera is now gone! You are honoring the man who has cut 1 BILLION dollars from the education budget in one year. Really? Please don't ask for financial support from me again," Andreassi said in post.

The award will be made this Saturday at the opera's annual end-of-season benefit gala. The Corbett's were selected for the honor in October, and the opera described the reasons in a statement last month.

"Gov. Corbett will be honored for his early work as a teacher as well as his long-standing protection of the public interest as Pennsylvania attorney general. Additionally, as governor, he has recognized the economic, educational and social value of the arts.

"Mrs. Corbett has been an accomplished producer and presenter of arts programs through the years, and, as First Lady, has championed greater participation in the arts in her role as chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts," the opera said.

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley says the governor and first lady are thrilled about the award.

"People can protest whatever they want. It is the season of protest," Harley said. "The governor has supported the arts throughout his public life and so has the first lady."

Over 300 people have questioned the award on the opera's Facebook page, and a local blogger says her post on the subject has gotten over 7,000 hits this week.


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