I was too young to have heard my father in opera at the Met, or any other opera house for that matter. But he frequently included operatic selections in his concerts and broadcasts, and over the years I acquired a taste for opera. He always set the scene vividly before singing. I could feel Mimi’s cold little hand as she searches for her key in “La Boheme,” or see Cavardossi’s shaking hand as he writes his farewell letter to Tosca. I could visualize the faithless Pinkerton bidding “Adio” to his Japanese bride in Madama Butterfly.
Attending my first Metropolitan opera, at seventeen, two years after my father’s death, was a little like going to a Shakespeare play. Suddenly I could see how all those familiar quotes (or in this case arias) fit into the whole story. My father’s close friend and head of the Met’s press office, Francis Robinson, invited my mother and me to be his guests for lunch at the Grand Tier restaurant and for a performance of Madama Butterfly. During the intermission, we were invited backstage to Francis’s office, where we were welcomed like celebrities ourselves, and shared a glass of champagne with Mrs. Douglas MacArthur. What a day! I was well and truly hooked on opera from then on.