Regina Merwin adores the bombastic singing, dazzling sets and elegant
costumes of the opera. But what draws her and so many others to the
musical performances is the melodrama.
“People get into it for all of the sex and violence with revenge
and blood,” she said. "[The opera] is all about passion.”
Merwin, a self-described “opera zealot,” was a stay-at-home
Burbank mom whose obsession with the theater prompted her to start a
related business. Already making T-shirts and bumper stickers more
for fun than profit, she founded Operagraphics in late 1999, and set
out to create and sell opera-themed floaty pens from home.
The four novelty pens Operagraphics offers are of scenes from “La
Boheme,” “La Traviata,” “Don Giovanni,” and “Tosca.” She said the
pens illustrate each opera’s pivotal moment in a campy manner, such
as The Diva from “Tosca” falling from a building or a list of Don
Giovanni’s lovers that lengthens.
“The gamble when making these was whether opera lovers would go
for something that is kind of kitschy,” Merwin said. “When people see
the ‘Tosca’ pen, they either stare at me blankly or fall on the floor
Three of the four pens cost $6 each. The “Tosca” pen sells for $5.
So far, Merwin has sold about 1,300, mainly by wholesale to
music-themed stores or the gift shops at opera venues.
Merwin conceived the idea for the floaty pens with her friend
Susan Vandiver Nicassio, the author of “Tosca’s Rome: The Play and
the Opera in Historical Perspective.” She then hired an illustrator
and collaborated with Burbank’s Floaty Industries to make them.
The whole process, she said, takes about a year.
Silverlake resident Mary Corrigan said the meticulousness is
worth it because the creativity and craftsmanship is outstanding. As
an owner of three, Corrigan said she likes the pens for two reasons.
“They are tongue-in-cheek and fun without being disrespectful to
the opera,” she said. “And it’s easy to find the bright-colored pens
in a dark purse.”