02 May 2013

The Haushofmeister’s Diary, Part 14: Dedication

Full costume and makeup at last!
Like Callas, I perform without eyeglasses.

Today would have been the 90th birthday of my godfather, Dr. Blair P. Coleman. I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: I became an opera fan because, 38 years ago this month, Blair couldn’t use his ticket one night, and my godmother took me to hear Beverly Sills. It can be argued plausibly that I’d have discovered opera sooner or later anyway, but the fact remains that I became an opera fan then, and in this way, using a ticket that was meant for Blair.

Blair truly loved opera, and over the years he steered me toward some of the singers he liked best: by sharing recordings I didn’t know, he dramatically enhanced my appreciation of Eileen Farrell and Leontyne Price. He also tipped me off, years and years ago, to what was happening at Fort Worth Opera, and his excitement grew once Darren Woods took over as general director of the company. Darren’s management of the company has been nothing if not newsworthy, so, first as a reporter, I came more and more frequently to Fort Worth. Despite the increasing difficulties, Ann and Blair used to drive down for the Festival, and we’d share the reward and the fun of seeing one other and shmoozing with Darren and the singers after performances.

The Annual Meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society:
WVM, Ann and Blair Coleman, and Darren Woods at Bass Hall.

Selfishly, I’d hoped that Blair would hang in long enough to see me make my debut with the company. It’s all so right: this is not just any opera, but a German opera with the Fort Worth Opera, and opening night is Saturday, May 4. He’d have flipped when he heard the magnificent voices of Audrey Luna, Marjorie Owens, Cecelia Hall, and Corey Bix. Seriously — what better 90th-birthday present could I give him?


Blair died in September. I had the pleasure of sharing with him the news of my debut, but not the event itself. Ann will be coming to the performance, and I’m certain we’ll toast Blair — and, while I’m not much for believing in this sort of thing, you can’t convince me that he won’t be watching and standing with us, somehow.

On Broadway, playbills often contain little dedications in the performers’ biographies — to a teacher or parent, to a lover or (very often) to Jesus. This is never, ever done in opera playbills, and in the Fort Worth programs, there’s only a short list of credits to accompany our photographs. But I’d like to use this blog to announce that my performances in Ariadne auf Naxos will be dedicated to the memory of Blair P. Coleman, my godfather, who in many ways made this adventure possible.

NOTE: My professional credits in the opera playbill are all writing credits. I resisted the temptation to lie — to invent a vast list of Wagnerian roles in major European houses. Be it noted that this resistance required a tremendous amount of effort and was in fact one of the most difficult things I have ever accomplished.


Anonymous said...

Love your new look. Eager to catch up!


Anne said...

Well you made me cry. Fulfillment decades in the making always does

Blair may not see the performance in the flesh , but that he lived long enough know it was coming is huge imo and I'm sure it's a comfort .....as your awakened interest was for him over the years I'm sure.

Ms. Sills live as an introduction to opera! You hit the ground running!

You look amazing in your no fly zone costume and wig...I think you might have been born in the wrong fashion century .

Tell me they will be video taping this? Even if just to archive it?