My First Opera

Opera America Magazine
Fall 2019

Growing up on a small farm in the northwest Georgia mountains, “music” meant many things to me — bluegrass, classic rock, church hymns — but never in a million years did I imagine that classical music would become a defining element in my life. Middle school choir and piano lessons gave me a glimpse into this foreign soundscape. But it wasn’t until I was 16 and someone got me a compilation CD called Chopin and Champagne that I fell head over heels in love with classical music.

The disc, which I’m sure was purchased from the Block- buster Music bargain bin, featured Claudio Arrau. I listened to him breathe with the music, feeling the emotions well up in his chest and come out in exhales. I didn’t really get into classical vocal music until a family member gave me a com- pilation album titled Italian Opera’s Greatest Hits. It included many wonderful artists, but it was Anna Moffo singing “Una voce poco fa” that I put on repeat. Later, someone gave me a huge 12-CD set of the greatest composers, and the Queen of the Night’s aria on the Mozart disc absolutely blew my mind. I had heard high notes before (hello, Mariah Carey!), but hearing a trained classical voice sing something that virtuo- sic made the wheels start turning in my brain. What is this? Could I do this with my voice, too?

Read the full interview in the Fall 2019 issue of Opera America Magazine!

Beth Stewart