The year was 1984. I had just moved from Chicago to Des Moines when friends invited Stanley and me to a Metro Opera performance. Having cut my teeth opera-wise on performances of Lyric Opera of Chicago, you can never know how stunned I was to discover the outstanding opera produced in Indianola, Iowa. I remember thinking to myself...no amateur organization here! I wanted to stand up and shout to the audience, “Do any of you know how fortunate you are to see opera of this caliber - in an intimate 467 seat theater no less?!” I admired you to the degree that only an outsider could who had seen fabulous opera elsewhere and discovered its match (or often better) right here at home.
Fast forward to 1987 when I found myself as President of the Metro Opera Board of Trustees. With Doug Duncan as Operating Manager, I enjoyed a fairly benign reign until Doug died suddenly. Overnight, everything changed and as you remember so well, there I was knee-deep in a full-time effort (together with you, an exceptional Board and our angel friend, Doris Salsbury) to fund an opera season to be produced in a mere six months. Our efforts were facilitated by many corporate friends who wanted the extraordinary product you produced never to disappear from our community. It was like a thunder bolt of appreciation. It was all that complex – and that simple.
You and I are bound forever by that tragic life event and the many months that followed. I remember driving to Indianola before sunrise for our meetings at the Country Kitchen at 7:00 a.m., your only discretionary time in your entire day.
I am speaking of history long ago. What I saw in 1984 only became more brilliant. You never coasted on one moment of mediocrity. You didn’t even know the meaning of that word in your world. Robert, knowing you, incredible you, was a joy and a privilege.
This memory was written in 2007 for Des Moines Metro Opera's 35th Anniversary Book.