I came to opera late. While staying with friends in Chapel Hill, I came downstairs for breakfast one Sunday morning to be met by beautiful singing coming from our host’s CD player. “Who is that?” I asked. “Oh,” my friend said, “that’s Kiri Te Kanawa.” At the time, my office was at 61st and Broadway, just four blocks from Lincoln Center, so the following week I walked up to see when next Kiri would be singing at the Met. She was going to be singing soon in Le Nozze di Figaro. Alas, the only ticket I could buy was standing room.
5 minutes to 8 on the night of the performance found me at my spot at the back. A woman approached me. “Are you alone?” She asked. “Would you be willing to exchange tickets with me?” So I gave her my $12 standing ticket and she gave me her much more expensive orchestra seat next to her husband. He explained she had claustrophobia and couldn’t sit surrounded by so many people.
Kiri, the Countess, opened the second act with Porgi amor, and the beauty of the first note brought a collective sigh from 3800 people in the house. In Act 3, at the end of her Dove sono, I found myself on my feet, beating my hands together till they were red, with tears streaming down my face.
I was hooked, and have since attended countless performances all over the world. No other art form has the power to move me emotionally like opera.
As A P.S., I became sort of a Kiri Te Kanawa groupie, attending her recitals and opera performances whenever I could till she retired. Happily, I now have many “favorite” singers who have taken her place.
~ Philip Stine