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In the 29 years that Opera Buff Jo Schiano has managed the day-to-day operation of our art department, she has survived four art directors, seen Madame Butterfly 20 times and dealt with more artists than anyone since Lorenzo de' Medici. As administrative assistant to design director Steve Hoffman, Schiano does everything from bookkeeping to acting as curator of our art library. For this issue she helped coordinate the research for the surreal Ryszard Horowitz photographs that illustrate the environmental story beginning on page 78. She has wired cash to illustrators who forgot their wallets and reminded others to take their palettes on assignments.
"Jo is like your mother sending you off to camp," says illustrator Arnold Roth. "She makes sure that you have Kleenex in your pocket and that you're wearing clean underwear in case you get run over by a truck. I don't know what I'd do without her. Thank God she wasn't tall enough to play pro basketball." That last part is a joke. Schiano is 4'10�". "Actually," she says, "I was 6'3" until I came to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
Schiano puts a lot of words in a minute. Her voice is that of a perky coloratura, though during a three-year stint with the Amato Opera in Greenwich Village, she was a light lyric soprano. Anyone who hangs around our offices can attest to her plaintive appoggiaturas and hummingbird runs and trills.
The Brooklyn-born Schiano was 13 when she heard Madame Butterfly on the radio. "I was so intrigued by the aria 'Un bel d� vedremo' that I begged my mother to take me to the Met to see the great soprano Licia Albanese," she says. By the time Schiano entered Hunter College in Manhattan she was an opera addict.
The young Jo was also a fan of pro wrestler Antonino Rocca, whom she saw on television, but she soured on the sport when she saw it live. "It wasn't the same. It turned me off to wrestling for life."
Her father, Michael, was a butcher who owned a couple of meat markets by day and managed the Dodgers at the dinner table. At Bishop McDonald Memorial High, Jo learned to worship the Bums, literally. "The nuns made us stand and pray for Brooklyn to win," she says. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles she was devastated. "Ever since then, I've never been emotionally involved with a team," she says.
Schiano's devotion to opera, however, hasn't wavered. A woman who has attended four performances of Eugene Onegin in one season certainly qualifies as a phantom of the opera.