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    I hate opera.

     

    That’s what I used to say.  Funny thing, I’d never actually been to an opera.  Hating something without ever seeing it or hearing what it had to say, well, that’s a type of prejudice, isn’t it?  

    Then, my friend Stewart Wise took me to see Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” or “Girl of the Golden West.”  

    “You’ll love it,” he quipped.  “It’s a spaghetti western.”

    We sat in the section above the nosebleed section and had it all to ourselves. I thought we’d be enduring a boring torture in an indecipherable language. What a surprise!  There was an English translation right above the stage! The translation was timed to coordinate with the music, so there was never a break in the action.

    Stewart had warned me there was a bit of English in the opera, since the plot took place in the wild west. However, the English was sung with an Italian pronunciation.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but in Italian, double consonants are pronounced doubly. “Hello” becomes “Hell-Low.   We giggled when the singers sang, “Hell-Low Meen-Nee” instead of “Hello Minnie.”

    We had a blast.

    A few years later, I found myself selling drinks to rowdy patrons in a very noisy, crowded bar.  Having to yell over the noise caused me to lose my voice completely.  You never realize how precious your voice is until you lose it.

    Luckily, Dr. Wayne Kirkham, one of the foremost otolaryngologists in the country, told me I could retrieve my voice.  He prescribed some drugs and vocal treatment.

    I’d been working with a voice teacher at the time, mostly on musical theatre songs.  The loss of my voice scared me into taking those lessons very seriously.

    To motivate myself, I signed up for an audition with the Dallas Opera.  The fear of singing for such auspicious experts scared me into doing my exercises everyday. I held absolutely no thought of singing with them.  Imagine my shock when they cast me!  

    The first opera was Puccini’s Turandot.  In between rehearsals, I translated the text word for word from an Italian dictionary.  It was like digging for buried treasure. I became completely absorbed in the plot.

    After several weeks learning the music, we were ready for dress rehearsal.  There we were, dressed as Chinese peasants, the lights sparkling like sunshine, the music pulling out emotions I never knew I could feel. It was at that moment my life changed. At that moment, I knew this was what I was meant to be.

    I love opera.