The 37th Anniversary of My San Francisco Opera Debut
to San Francisco Opera is especially poignant for me. Although I had
already sung some roles professionally beginning in 1972, my big debut
was here on the stage of the Memorial Opera House on Sept 13, 1974 as
the Maestro di Ballo to Leontyne Price's first Manon Lescaut. Back then
there were no apprentice programs, Adler Fellows, or Merola. I was fortunate
in that I had worked with Otto Guth, Kurt Adler's right-hand man, at
Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where I was completing a post graduate
opera degree. Through his recommendation I was invited to sing in San
Francisco, where Mr. Adler offered me a number of wonderful roles.
My work with Miss Price led to the role of my MET Debut. We had sung Ariadne auf Naxos in 1977 in San Francisco, and I had sung for James Levine in 1978, and they weren't sure in what role to have me debut, so Leontyne suggested me for the Tanzmeister as she was bringing her Ariande to the Met, so again, the importance of San Francisco Opera to my career.
In the 70's I had the opportunity to work in a number
of productions under the direction of Lotfi Mansouri here in San Francisco.
Through Mr. Mansouri, I debuted in Houston, as I was called in at the
last minute to sing Nick the Bartender in Fanciulla del West, as the
contracted tenor was released. Our collaborations continued in many
US houses, but our first collaboration was in 1974 when I sang Hortensius
in Daughter of the Regiment (Beverly Sills) under Lotfi's skilled direction.
Of all the years, 1977 stands out as I was priviledged to appear in
opening night ADRIANA LECOUVREUR with Scotto, Obrazova, Aragall and
Gavazenni conducting; Pong in the Ponnelle TURANDOT with Pavarotti and
Caballe's first performances with Chailly conducting; and the Tanzmeister
in Ariadne auf Naxos with Leontyne Price.
Although the character roles (comprimario) for which
I am noted, are now being given to apprentice artists etc, there are
a few houses that still value the "seasoned" touch of an experienced
character tenor, so happily, I am back as Altoum in the Hockney production
of Turandot, which was first seen here in 1993.
[Right: Joseph Frank as Emporer Altoum in Turandot. Irene Theorin and Marco Berti in the foreground as Turandot and Calaf. Photo by Cory Weaver.]