My maternal grandfather Hugo immigrated to New York from Czechoslovakia for the American Dream. He became a citizen and worked extraordinarily hard as a doorman to support his wife and two children. Hugo also loved opera. Passionately.
Although he barely earned enough for his family, he would save some pennies for days, weeks, or even months, so he would eventually have enough money to buy one standing room ticket at the Metropolitan Opera (in its old location on 39th Street and Broadway) and enjoy his favorite art form. He dreamed of one day being able to share his love of opera with our entire family.
My grandfather passed away when I was one. I could never speak to him about his love of opera, but my grandmother and mother would tell me countless stories. They insisted that I had acquired my “love of opera gene” from him.
Many years later, I saw Lucia de Lammermoor at the Met. It was my first opera and when I was a young adult, I would occasionally buy a standing room ticket at the Met. As I grew more prosperous, I began living my grandfather’s dream; I could afford to take my wife and myself to the opera.
My wife, Karen, and I moved to Los Angeles in 1977 and our love of opera only grew with LA Opera. I saw the company’s first Otello in 1986 and I adored last year’s Figaro Unbound project. I have now been a Community Educator with LA Opera for over 15 years, sharing my love and knowledge with the Los Angeles community. I am thrilled that LA Opera is bringing Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick to LA next month.
Through my years in Los Angeles, and while watching the brilliance of an operatic staging, I have thought of my grandfather. What would he have said about the show? Would he feel moved by a new contemporary score? I do believe that he would have loved sharing this art form with me and would have been stunned by the grandeur of a production like Heggie’s Moby-Dick.
I often imagine where our opera conversations would take us. Of all the people in history, living or deceased, I would have liked to meet my grandfather, Hugo, sit down for a nice dinner in a Czech restaurant, and talk about opera.
Steve Kohn is a Community Educator with LA Opera. Tonight, he will speak about Moby-Dick at the Village in Sherman Oaks. His other talks will be held at Torrance Public Library (October 3), West Side Gathering for the Opera League (October 13), and the San Fernando Gathering for the Opera League (October 25).