Last week we did an ‘ask the audience’ poll requesting people share their first experiences of opera with us. The answers given have been fascinating in their diversity and thoroughly nostalgic. On this ‘throwback Thursday’ I’m pleased to share some of these responses with you:


“I was around 3 or 4 years of age.. I remember it was a saturday morning and my father was cooking us breakfast. I was walking into the living room and i could hear Domingo’s strong and powerful vocals echoing through the hall. Aahh it was such a spellbinding experience! I walked towards the television and was stunned on how much Placido looked just like my grandfather haha. I couldn’t look away! Partly because of the resemblance, but partly because of this new and facsinating sound i was hearing. Me and my father sat at the dining room table eating scrambled eggs and biscuits, watching the opera.. Ahh brings me back everytime i hear Recondita Armonia or E lucevan le stelle.. I believe it was the 1985 Zeffereili production of Tosca with Domingo as Cavaradossi and Hildegard behrens as Tosca. Beautiful beautiful beautiful! Been a fan of Puccini ever since.”

Edward Banda

“My first experience of live opera as a 17 year old was of a touring company performing in English in the seaside town of Torquay in the UK. They performed BARBER OF SEVILLE, FLEDERMAUS and TROVATORE in repertoire. Needless to say I was hooked. Having said that I had seen MIKADO with the D’Oyly Carte as early as 1963 in Plymouth and that hooked me on Gilbert & Sullivan. It is to Gilbert & Sullivan that I owe my love of opera in general and I do wish many more people would be honest and acknowledge that indebtedness rather than continuing to sneer and denigrate those works. The considerable value of Gilbert & Sullivan as a training ground for young singers, giving them valuable experience in stagecraft, diction and preparing their voices for the more taxing roles of heavier works, is still largely ignored and pooh-poohed by the music colleges and by professors and teachers who, quite often, have had no experience of Sullivan and have inherited their attitudes towards him from hearsay and the writings of the snobbish musical establishment of a century and more ago.”

Ian Bond

“When I was about 7, Tosca. No one told me she was going to jump. That was my biggest and the loudest inhale in the history of this opera house ever I suppose. My parents’ friend sung Scarpia… I stopped liking him for a while. Now I’m an opera singer myself…”

Natalia Malgorzata Brzezinska

Pagliacci on television when I was 16 in 1960. Robert Thomas was Canio; Rosalind Elias, Nedda; Bernard Turgeon, Tonio; Peter Glossop, Silvio. (Can’t even remember what I did last week!) I was hooked from then on – anyone else out there see it? Didn’t realise then I too would be singing Canio, albeit 55 years later! […] My wife’s first experience was hearing her father singing Tosca arias in the bath!”

Peter Clements

“We used to listen to opera on tape (cassette), or sometimes on television (and record it on VHS), way back in the early 80s – Channel 4 used to do a fantastic “Opera On Four” season, back in the days when they aspired to be cultural instead of trashy. First live opera I can remember seeing – I think I was about 5 or so – was an “Il Trovatore” at Covent Garden, in the very early 1980s.”

Jonathan Ellis

“At six at Sydney’s Independent Theare I was the little boy licking the lollipop in Menotti’s Amelia Goes to the Ball. The next youngest cast member was Marilyn Richardson. The director was the playwright Alan Seymour, who wrote The One Day of the Year. Amelia didn’t hook me. Attending Madam Butterfly a few months later I saw somebody else cast as Trouble and was told “You’re too old for the role.” but at seven The Mikado hooked me for life. Deranged for 59 years. For hearing opera you might as well ask for my first impression of mother’s milk – an expression of my contralto mother’s chest register. The first song I remember was the spiritual Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho but the first arias were the Habanera and the Seguidilla.”

John Lok

“First full opera experience was being taken to see Glyndebourne touring Death in Venice with Robert Tear and Michael Chance. I was 15 and I was mesmerised for the whole performance. I got to meet them afterwards, because my friends who took me were also singers, which was brilliant too as they were both lovely, even though Michael Chance was still covered in gold paint. I went home and told my dad I had met some bloke called Bob! When I met Robert Tear years later I told him this which he thought was very funny.”

Jess Wills