Opera Buffs Directors and Staff

Board Members

Frans Boerlage, longtime board member, is a Dutch-born opera stage director who has staged more than 180 productions in his professional career, principally at the University of Southern California (23 years), the Netherlands Opera (19 years), the Liceu, Barcelona and Seattle Opera. He has directed opera in Canada, South America, South Africa and many European cities. His American debut, in 1972, was a production of Lucia di Lammermoor with Beverly Sills. Boerlage is professor emeritus, USC School of Music. He remains active as a lecturer in operatic interpretation. Recently he has turned his attention to writing, publishing novels, memoires and poetry.

Anne Combs, board member/membership chair, has had a keen interest in opera since studying in Florence, Italy during her junior year at college. A founding member of the Los Angeles Opera League (formed to support opera and help bring Los Angeles an opera company at the Music Center), she served on that board 14 years, including roles as president and chairman of the board. As League president she also served on the board of Los Angeles Opera. She has served on the Opera Buffs board since 1996, currently as membership chair. After graduating from Radcliffe College, Combs worked several years as assistant program editor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Her community volunteering in Los Angeles includes serving as president of both her school and college local alumnae groups and as president, Los Angeles Guild of Planned Parenthood. She has also been active in the Junior League of Los Angeles, the Ebell of Los Angeles, the English-Speaking Union, the St. James Infant/Toddler Development Center and the Music Guild, a chamber music organization. Anne currently sings in the Ebell Chorale and the Hollywood Master Chorale.

David Alan Gibb, president, has served on the board since 1991. His other principal volunteer association is with Long Beach Opera, where he serves on the board. Gibb directs his own consulting firm, Practicable Marketing, providing marketing and communications counsel to nonprofits including universities and healthcare institutions, and to law and accounting firms. Gibb also speaks and writes on marketing topics. Prior to opening his own firm, Mr. Gibb was director of marketing at Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger, a 190-lawyer, Los Angeles-based law firm (1988-91). Previously Mr. Gibb served as director of communications for the Western Region of Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young); account supervisor for the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton; and administrator of communications and public relations and then administrator of video and audio programming for Young Presidents' Organization (YPO).
Barbara Merkle, board member since 2007 and currently events chair, has also served on the board of the LA Opera League and as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Western Region Auditions Committee. She has been a docent at the J.P. Getty Museum and the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, both in Los Angeles, and at the Gamble House in Pasadena. Merkle holds a B.S. in business administration from California State University at Los Angeles, and a Masters of Taxation from Golden Gate University, San Francisco. A California CPA, she held positions in the Internal Audit Department of Security Pacific Corp as an auditor and vice president; at First Interstate Treasury Services as a vice president and controller; and at Touche Ross as a staff auditor.

Peter Ulrich, board member/treasurer since its inception, Ulrich participates in numerous volunteer activities including Riverside Opera Co. (president), Idyllwild Arts Foundation (president), Guild Opera Co., Salvation Army (board chair), Arcadia Library Foundation, Arcadia Police Department, Arcadia Chamber of Commerce (board member), Los Angeles Host Lions Club (president), Arcadia City Council, and American Heart Association (chapter chair). His business career included 20 years in commercial banking (vice president, Security Pacific National Bank; senior vice president and branch administrator, The Bank of California) and 15 years in mortgage banking (president, Bancal Mortgage Co; president, Beneficial Standard Mortgage Co.). Since corporate retirement he continues as a part-time commercial mortgage loan consultant and arbitrator for NASD/FINRA.

Richard Wayne, vice president/chair, scholarship committee, joined up and attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point immediately after the U.S. entry into WW2. He graduated as an ensign in the Naval Reserve and a Deck Officer in the Merchant Marine. On active duty he traveled the Seven Seas and "visited" ports from Casablanca to Calcutta, Melbourne, Okinawa and Sasebo, Japan. While in the service he fell in love with Southern California and made a permanent move to Los Angeles. Wayne notes that he “was lucky enough to find the girl of my dreams” and also an opportunity to join Merrill Lynch's training program. He remained as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch for 50 years. He and his wife, Lenore, expanded their love for art and music and have become actively involved with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Opera. Most important, they discovered the Opera Buffs shortly after its founding in 1983.


Mona Lands, music director and accompanist, is a graduate of Mills College and received her masters’ degree in accompanying at USC. She has been an accompanist and coach at California State University Northridge, California State L.A., the Aspen Opera Theater Center, Opera Pacific’s Overture Company, the Ezio Pinza Council (EPCASO) summer program, Guild Opera and for the Metropolitan Opera Palm Springs Showcase Concerts. Currently, Lands is the accompanist for the Angeles Chorale and the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition. She is also the accompanist and music director for the Palm Springs Opera Guild and artistic director for the José Iturbi International Music Competition. As a member of the UCLA Music Department, she works as accompanist and coach for Opera UCLA and is coordinator of opera and accompanying.

Michael Van Duzer, stage director, has staged Opera Buffs Showcases since 1991, among them a complete production of Amahl and Night Visitors and his own adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. Los Angeles theater directing credits include The Collection, As You Like It, What the Butler Saw, Edward II, The Double Dealer (Drama-Logue Award, Best Director), Halsted Street: Chicago and The Lisbon Traviata. Van Duzer has helmed the local premieres of his own works including Hopeful Romantic (Drama-Logue Award, Best Playwright), Recalled to Life and Tawdry Tales. His one-act, Incitation to the Dance, won best play in the Chandler Studio’s Hot summer Shorts Contest while his Totally Gay! An Utterly Subjective History of Theatre, enjoyed a popular success at Theatre Out in Orange County. This summer Theatre Out commissioned his latest play, Trattoria of Terror.

Jenine Baines, public relations consultant, focuses primarily on spreading the great news about the world of musical arts. In addition to the Opera Buffs, she promotes the California Philharmonic, Pacific Serenades, Musica Angelica, the Verdi Chorus, Intimate Opera Company, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Program-Western Region, and the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts as well as conductor Scott Speck, Music Director of the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. Additional nonprofits she represents include Rosemary Children’s Services, Elizabeth House, the Autry National Center, and the Right to Life League of Southern California. For-profit clients range from The Folk Tree in Pasadena and Roundabouts Cupcake Sleeves to Brighton Collectibles in the City of Industry. Prior to setting up her own public relations practice, Baines was Director of External Affairs for The Pasadena Symphony.

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