Tenor  Vinson  Cole

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


American tenor Vinson Cole is internationally recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation. His career has taken him to all of the major opera houses across the globe including the Metropolitan Opera, Opera National de Paris Bastille, Teatro alla Scala Milan, Theatre Royale de la Monnaie, Brussels, Berlin State Opera and the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Munich State Opera, San Francisco Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Opera Australia and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Seattle Opera and many more. Equally celebrated for his concert appearances, Mr. Cole has been a frequent guest of the most prestigious orchestras throughout the world and has collaborated with the greatest conductors of this era including Christoph Eschenbach, Claudio Abbado, Carlo Maria Giulini, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, James Conlon, Kurt MasurZubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Gerard Schwarz, Sir Georg Solti and Giuseppe Sinopoli. Mr. Cole had an especially close working relationship with Herbert von Karajan, who brought the artist to the Salzburg Festival to sing the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier – the first of many performances there together. Their collaboration went on to include works such as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Mozart’s Requiem, Bruckner’s Te Deum. Many of these were issued on recordings on Deutsche Grammaphon. He was the performer on the soundtrack for the film Immortal Beloved.


As a teacher, American tenor Vinson Cole has taught at the University of Washington School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Aspen Music Festival and School, Glimmerglass Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera. He has conducted master classes for San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program and the Canadian Opera Company. Currently, Cole is a faculty member at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Vinson Cole, born in Kansas City, studied at the University of Missouri, Kansas City before attending the Philadelphia Musical Academy and the Curtis Institute of Music. In 1977, Cole won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, the WGN Competition, and was awarded both the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Opera Institute grants. Cole’s career took off from there as he went on to perform principal roles with the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opèra National de Paris, Paris Opera-Bastille, Teatro alla Scala, and many more. Cole became well known for his interpretation of French repertoire after singing in the Manon centennial performances with Paris’s Opera Comique in 1984. Since then, he has performed singular interpretations of roles in such operas as Lakmè, Carmen, Don Carlos, and Faust. He has been honored with numerous awards including special invitations to perform with the Harriman-Jewell Series recitals and received an honorary doctorate from William Jewell College. He also received the Alumni Award from the Conservatory at UMKC, plus the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award for outstanding individual achievement and commitment to the arts.

==  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  

After having performed several times with the Chicago Symphony, both downtown and in the summer at the Ravinia Festival, in May of 1996, Vinson Cole was back in Chicago for the Mahler Symphony #8 conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.  Between rehearsals, the tenor was gracious enough to sit down for an interview.  Portions were used on WNIB, Classical 97, and now I am pleased to present a transcript of the entire conversation.

Bruce Duffie:   Many years ago, you won the WGN Auditions of the Air.  Was that a good launching pad?

Vinson Cole:   It was the beginning of my career, and it was kind of a crazy year.  I won the WGN, and the National Opera Institute grant, and the Rockefeller audition all in the same year.  That made it very nice for me not to have to go out and work in the real world, and also not have to accept things that I didn’t want to do.  I might have had crazy offers.  Luckily, I didn’t, but it just made a nice cushion for the beginning of my career.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  You turned down the role of Siegfried?

Cole:   [Laughs]  That would have happened anyway.

BD:   From the roles that you’re offered, how do you decide yes or no?  [Vis-à-vis the recording shown at right, see my interviews with Florence Quivar, and Simon Estes.]

Cole:   I’ve been very lucky.  I haven’t had too many outrageous things offered to me, and I have a very good agent.  He talks to companies and suggests things, so it makes it a lot easier, rather than somebody coming in and offering me something that is too outrageous.

BD:   Is your agent trying to stretch you a little bit?

Cole:   Not really.  We
ve talked about different things that I would like to do, and Ive also spoken with my voice teacher about different things, and where we thought the voice was going to go.  I’ve taken on a few things, which have been successful.  It is nice to vary things, but I retain a lot of the repertoire I’ve always done, especially a lot of the French repertoire.

BD:   Did your voice teacher map out a career-long path so that you will be aware ten years from now of things which might be good at that time?

Cole:   No, we haven’t really spoken about that.  Knock on wood, I don’t think that my voice will change much from what it is now.

BD:   [Surprised]  Really???

Cole:   Yes.

BD:   Are you going to be content singing these same roles?

Cole:   Yes, because I’m fortunate that I sing so much orchestral repertoire.  That balances everything.  I do just enough opera and just enough orchestral repertoire, which makes it a very, very pleasant combination.

BD:   Do you prepare your voice differently to sing in front of an orchestra rather than behind the orchestra, or from stage to in the theater?

Cole:   No, your technique is your technique, and you sing the same no matter if you’re singing from an organ loft
which I did a couple of weeks ago in Dallas in the Beethoven Ninthor if you’re standing in front of the orchestra for Damnation of Faust, or Mahler.  Actually, Mahler can be sung from behind the orchestra...

BD:   But there seems to be such a difference when you’re doing an orchestral performance as opposed to an opera, where you have the orchestra in the pit.

Cole:   At that point, you have the sound coming up like a wall, so your voice has to go through it.  That’s the difference, but you don’t sing any differently.  If I were doing a concert version of the same role, and was standing in front of an orchestra, I would sing it exactly the same as if the orchestra was in the pit.  It’s just that you would hear things differently, and I would also hear things differently.  Sometimes it’s better, and sometimes it’s worse because you feel like you’re engrossed in all of the music, and all the instruments, and the noise from the orchestra.  [Laughs]  It
s not noise’, but you don’t have all of that sound when the orchestra is in the pit.  You just sail over it.
BD:   It is a beautiful noise!

Cole:   Yes, it’s a gorgeous noise.

BD:   Do you change your technique at all for the size of the house, if you are in a very intimate room for a recital, or in a great big huge opera house?

Cole:   Again, you don’t really change the technique.  You sing still technically the same, but the repertoire is different.  You wouldn’t be singing a big Verdi aria in a very small intimate situation.  Maybe for an encore to the recital, but in a very small intimate situation, you would gauge how much voice you have to give.  But you don’t change what you do technically.  That always stays the same.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   We’ll come back to the orchestral repertoire, but I want to talk a little bit about the opera.  Is there a secret to singing the French style?  [Vis-à-vis the recording shown at left, see my interviews with Hans Sotin, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.]

Cole:   I don’t know.  It boils down to the point that your voice is either suited for it or isn’t suited for it.  People seem to be in agreement that the weight and color of my voice, and the way I sing the French language lends itself to the French style.  That’s not something I particularly sat down and studied.  It just evolved from working with different coaches in France and here in America.  Funnily enough, French was my worst language when I was in school, and it’s turned out to be the most successful language for me on the operatic stage.

BD:   Do you like the French or non-French characters that are imposed on you because of your voice-type?

Cole:   I must say, overall I do.  It’s great to sing things like Faust [Gounod].  Also, the Faust in The Damnation of Faust is a good one, as are Werther, and Le Chevalier des Grieux in Manon, and Don José, and the French Don Carlos.  Also, all the Gluck things I’ve done, and will do.  I enjoy the characters.

BD:   Some of these wind up being fairly long and heavy roles.  Werther is a fairly long role, and Don Carlos is a fairly long role, as is Don José.

Cole:   Yes, but you learn how to build stamina.  That’s what it boils down to, and the only way you can really do that is just by singing the role, and really working on it.  You find out where the really rough spots are.  There are rough spots in every opera, and then there are spots which are easier.  So you just gauge yourself, and adjust accordingly.

BD:   Do you make sure that you only sing a limited number of engagements each year?

Cole:   I try to, and I try to limit what I would call ‘medium-weight’ repertoire.  If I’m singing a lot of Don Josés, I am okay, but then I don’t want to sing it yet again.  I have to adjust in that area.

BD:   When you sing with an orchestra, it will be a little shorter period of time.  Is that as fulfilling as an opera engagement?

Cole:   Oh, yes!  My real love is orchestral repertoire and oratorios.  I find that extremely fulfilling because usually I’m fortunate to work with wonderful conductors.  It’s just you, and your colleagues, and the orchestra, and the conductor.  You don’t have the worry of costumes, or make-up, or the staging, and anything like this.  It’s just making music out of something, and that’s really very fulfilling.  Even though it’s three or four performances in a run, when it’s so concentrated it’s plenty.  If you’re doing three Mahler Eighths back-to-back, when you’re done you don’t want any more.  You don’t want to do anything for a while, because they’re heavy sings.  No matter what it is, even if it’s a Beethoven Ninth, you need a little bit of respite for a few days.  But it’s very musically fulfilling and enjoyable.

BD:   Do you find that you are in closer communication of the audience because they’re generally following the text in their programs?

Cole:   Yes.  I feel as if I can convey more rapidly and more easily what I want into the audience in an orchestral situation, not because I can see them, but it’s just they’re right there, and you don’t have an orchestra pit with the sound coming up.  Not that it blocks you, but it’s hard rising to convey a character over that.  You’re not conveying yourself even if you’re doing a concert version of an opera.  It’s still more of yourself, but you’re conveying the character with the one thing that you have, which is your voice.  You can really concentrate on what the expression is, and not have to be worrying that I’ve got to be over there to grab the soprano at that point!  [Both laugh]

BD:   Since we’re talking about characters, are there any of the characters that you portray which are perilously close to the real Vinson Cole?

Cole:   Being an incurable romantic, at some time, probably all of them are!  [Laughs]  I’d say I’m probably a cross between Werther and Nemorino, and a couple of Rossini characters.  I
m kind of a hodgepodge of people.

BD:   [Pointing out the obvious]  Nemorino gets the girl, but Werther blows his brains out!

Cole:   Exactly, so there’s always that side of you!  [More laughter]

BD:   I hope you don’t get too despondent...

Cole:   No, no, no, no, no!

BD:   [In the opera Werther,] if Charlotte had given herself to Werther in the first act, could they have been happy, or is he just a little too much of a misfit?

Cole:   Werther is a little bit of a tortured person, but who knows?  That’s something we’ll never see.  Maybe he could have been happy, but I don’t think that she would have been happy, because eventually she would have realized that this was a very, very tortured soul.

BD:   Would he have driven her to suicide???
Cole:   Maybe!  [Both laugh]  Also, she would feel very guilty about not doing what her mother requested of her, and that would probably be even more hurtful for her.  That would tear them apart.

BD:   Can stories which are steeped in the very Romantic tradition, such as Werther or Manon, still speak to audiences that have come through a couple of World Wars, and depressions, and the nuclear age?

Cole:   Oh, I think so.  Romance is wonderful, and especially now, people need that.  I was watching on a television program that seven out of every ten marriages now end in a separation or divorce.  It’s not real what you see on stage, but at the same time there are human emotions that you try to convey.  It’s not there to be a moral or teaching situation, but these things are there.  It’s for the people
s enjoyment.  It’s not going to psychologically help anybody with their situation, but one never knows.  It can.  It’s incredible what you bring to that performance.  It may touch somebody.

BD:   In a performance, where’s the balance between the artistic achievement and the entertainment value?

Cole:   We are artists, and it’s clear what we strive to do.  In the same breath, we are also entertainers, because people pay to come and see us perform.  That is a form of entertainment, and it’s something which is different from musical theater, or going to hear Johnny Mathis, or somebody like Sting.  I do consider myself a performer and entertainer, and I’m not saying that this is any better than these other performers and entertainers.  It’s just different, and it appeals to different people.  Now, especially in America, it seems to appeal to a lot more varied audiences.

BD:   Is the music that you perform, for everyone?

Cole:   No, I don’t think so.  There are people who will come to a performance and be brand new, and will enjoy it, and then there may be people who come and won’t enjoy it.  That’s perfectly fine, because I don’t enjoy all types of music myself.  That’s normal.  We all should have dislikes and likes, and not all be the same.  It would be wonderful if everybody did enjoy the opera because they’d all come, and there would a lot more opera houses, and more performances.  But, at the same time, I realize that is not the case.  I can respect somebody if they’re very honest and say they’ve listened to it, and even with the English words, it just doesn’t appeal to them.  I met someone recently who said he completely knew nothing about opera.  He’d been to a couple of operas, and said,
“It’s so loud, and there’s so much going on.  It’s not like going to see Oklahoma!  [Both laugh]

BD:   If he would go to a rock concert, it will be quite a bit louder!

Cole:   Exactly!  He kept saying that the music was too dramatic, and the people sang too dramatically.  I tried to explain to him that this is the way the music was written, but he kept asking,
“Why can’t it be like Oklahoma, or Carousel, or something like this?  The people sing too dramatically for me.  I like it when it’s sweeter, and not so loud and dramatic.

BD:   [Wistfully]  Send him to a string quartet concert.  They’re not so loud...

Cole:   Exactly!  [Much laughter]

BD:   With all this in mind, do you have any advice for audiences?

Cole:   [Smiles]  No, other than to be quiet when opening up candies.  [More laughter]  Do it fast if you’re going to do it, and try to do it before the performance begins.  That’s the most amazing thing...  Sometimes when I’m in the audience, I sit there and will see people not doing anything.  Then the minute the music begins, they’ll start to open up their candy.  I always wonder why they didn’t do this a minute before, and have it in your mouth.  Then you’d be much more comfortable, and you would not feel quite so obvious!  [Muses]  Maybe somebody wants to be obvious?  I have no idea.

BD:   It’s probably not conscious at all.

Cole:   Maybe not...  

BD:   In Orchestra Hall, they have candies with a new kind of wrapper which is much quieter.

Cole:   Oh, that’s great.  I commend them on that.

BD:   Do you have any advice for younger singers coming along?

Cole:   Just be prepared to work very hard.

BD:   Is a career like this too hard?


Cole:   No, it shouldn’t be.  It should be enjoyable, and the work is not boring.  It’s fascinating, even when you’re sitting in a rehearsal after six hours, and you’re thinking you don’t want to do this again.  But you get up and you do it again, and it all works out.  It’s a very fulfilling career because you do something that makes you feel good, and that hopefully makes other people feel good.  It is something they enjoy, and they have a good time looking and hearing and seeing what you’re doing.

BD:   Do you like traveling the world with your voice?

Cole:   [Sighs]  No, I admit I’m not a great lover of all the traveling.  It’s exhausting.  It’s very tiring, and it’s very difficult to have any kind of normal life.  Trying to keep in touch with friends becomes very, very complicated.  When you’re in Sydney, Australia, and you’re trying to call people, you’re trying to figure out how many hours different it is, and whether it is AM or PM, and even what day it is.  But even though you do have all these complaints, when it comes down to the actual performance, that’s the enjoyment and the magic of it all.  So that becomes fulfilling, and you really do have a good time doing that – sometimes! [Both laugh]  

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Do you like doing song recitals?

Cole:   Yes, very much so.  The shame of it all is that those are really very, very difficult to find, and to get a venue to do them.  America has become star-conscious.  It wants big stars, and it’s difficult to find places to give recitals where they are willing to accept people that are not The Three Tenors.  That’s too bad because song recitals are incredibly marvelous ways to demonstrate to an audience intimacy, because it’s you and a pianist sharing and making music.  You’re not having to deal with a conductor, or anybody else.  It’s just what you want to convey.  Whether somebody likes it or dislikes it, it’s your choice, and I love giving these songs to them.

BD:   From the mountain of songs, how do you select this group and that group, and a little bit of this, and a little bit of that?
Cole:   You just go through it, and you find things that you enjoy singing, or that you would enjoy learning.  You just read through music with a pianist, and go through books of songs, and decide on maybe five from that book, or four from this one, or one song here and one song there.  Then you put together something that you hope that will be interesting.  I enjoy doing that very much.
BD:   When you do recitals in Europe, do you make sure that you include some American songs?

Cole:   I have, yes.  When I did recitals in Paris, and Salzburg, and in Berlin, they all had American songs.

BD:   I would think that would be a particular point of pride for you.  [Vis-à-vis the recording shown at right, see my interviews with Karita Mattila, Suzanne Mentzer, and Bernard Haitink.]

Cole:   Yes, but I also want to make sure that I include something in the language of the country I was singing in.  It’s very important to show that as an American artist, I have the versatility of doing that.  We’re expected to be able to sing in French, German, Italian, English, Czech, Russian, Hungarian, etc., and to do this within a recital framework where so many European artists only sing in their native tongue.  [Pauses a moment]  Actually, in a song recital, or even in opera, singers are now venturing out a little bit more and singing a wider variety, which is really great.

BD:   Is it at all intimidating, or perhaps electrifying, to sing French for the French, or German for the Germans?

Cole:   The first time is a little intimidating but, after a while, you realize that it’s not a problem, and that they’re very accepting.  I did my first Des Grieux in Manon at the 100th anniversary of the first performance of the work at L’Opéra Comique, Paris.

BD:   [Amazed]  Talk about pressure!

Cole:    I thought,
God, how stupid could you be to have accepted this???  Then what did I do?  A few years ago, I did my first Hoffmann at the Opéra Bastille.

BD:   I trust you came away with a success in both places.

Cole:   Yes, because I worked at it!  That’s the hard work of it.  You make sure that whatever you do, it is to the best of your ability at that given time.  You make sure that you’ve tapped all avenues of knowledge.

BD:   Do you pay particular attention to your diction when you’re singing in their language?

Cole:   Oh sure.  
The French are known for their language, and they have great respect for it.  So when they come back and rattle off something to me in French thinking that I can speak perfect French like I sing it, it’s quite a compliment.  So that part is very nice, but I do that even if I’m singing French in America, because wherever I go, I have to be the best I can be at every performance, whether it’s Topeka, Kansas, or at La Scala.

BD:   Are the audiences different from a small Midwest town to La Scala?

Cole:   Yes, they’re different.  In Paris they’re very demonstrative of their likes and dislikes.  In America you find less of people showing their dislikes.  In America, if people dislike something they just applaud less, or don’t applaud.  So that makes a big difference.  But many times I’ve been at performances and heard demonstrations which were completely unwarranted.  That
s when you realize that sometimes it’s just a folly.  Sometimes it’s just because the person comes from a certain country.  There was the time when I was singing in Paris a great deal, and I was scared to go out and take my bow because they were very anti-American.  They were upset about this and that, and they demonstrated it in the opera house.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Let me ask about one other aspect of your career, the recordings.  Do you sing the same for the microphone as you do for a live audience?

Cole:   Yes, I do.  Maybe I haven’t mastered the art of recording yet, so I have a tendency to sing in front of the mike as if I was singing for a performance.
BD:   You sing full out?

Cole:   Yes, especially if it’s something with the orchestra.  I just sing and cross my fingers that the engineer and the producer will come and tell me what I should do, such as if I don’t need to sing quite so much.  I leave it in their hands.

BD:   Have you been pleased with the recordings so far?

Cole:   Oh, maybe one or two...  [Both have a huge laugh]  Most of them I listen to once and then put it away.

BD:   Then the public says they love this or that recording...

Cole:   I thank them very much!  I’m very gracious, and I’m glad that they enjoy it because it’s for them.  I didn’t make it for myself!  I’m going to be recording one of my favorite roles this next year, Faust in The Damnation of Faust.  I’m looking forward to that.  [CD shown at left.]

BD:   In general, is singing fun?

Cole:   It can be, and it should be, but not fun in the sense of ha-ha-ha fun.  Funny things happen, but the actual art of singing and the act of singing is a lot of work.  But it can be and should be in an enjoyable situation.  You should enjoy what you’re doing because you should enjoy your voice.

BD:   Is there such a thing as a perfect performance?

Cole:   No, I’ve never heard one yet.

BD:   But you’re always aiming for it?

Cole:   Yes.  You always try.  Maybe there are other people who have more, but in a year
s time I will have maybe five to ten performances which I would say were pretty good.  There might be one I really liked, but then I can always find something wrong with it.

BD:   [Facetiously]  You performers are always overly critical!  [Both laugh]  But you have to be that way.

Cole:   That’s the only way you get better.

BD:   I assume that those five to ten performances are very good, and the rest are just marginally less than that?

Cole:   That’s what people tell me, but in my estimation there are big differences.  It’s more acute to my senses.

BD:   Who should be the judge of these things
is it the performer, or the audience, or history?

Cole:   The audience is going to judge in their own way, but the performer ultimately has to be the judge.  If you think that everything you do is great, then you never think of improving yourself.  So, you have to be critical and know what wasn’t right, and go back to the studio, and work on that phrase or that note to make it right, so that the next performance is right, or closer to it.  Your teacher listens and gives corrections, and that’s also very important.  It’s a combination of things, but you’re on your own most of the time, and that’s when you really learn how to do it.  That’s why you have to rely on yourself, and you have to be honest with yourself when the performance has ended.  When you come back to your hotel or your apartment, you know that tomorrow or the next day, you’ll work on it to try and make it better.

BD:   When you get up on stage, are you portraying that character or do you actually really become that character?

Cole:   It depends.  Sometimes I feel I’m becoming that character, but then I can’t let it take complete control of my emotions.  You can’t let it go that far.  Then there are times when the production makes the character in such a way that there is no real portrayal, so you can’t become that person.  You just play as if you’re this character, but it has nothing.  I did a production of Alceste in which Admète absolutely meant nothing to me.  The music was wonderful, and vocally those emotions were all there, but the way the character was portrayed was far in another area that was so different.  That was very, very difficult.
BD:   It sounds like he was made unsympathetic.

Cole:   I admit it was a very bizarre production.  There was no intermingling of emotions between Admète and Alceste.  It was a very stylized kabuki-type situation, where you were standing still most of the time.  The real human emotions had to be brought out only with the voice.  That was wonderful, but at the same time I felt that I was not really a character.  I was not really a person.  I was Admète in name only, and the movements I was doing didn’t have anything to do with what I was saying.

BD:   Do you keep that in mind, so if you’re asked to come back into that production, you’ll turn it down?

Cole:   Surprisingly, I’ve done the production several times.  [Laughs]  The music is so great that I let it overtake everything else, and just enjoy and relish the singing of it.  I know that my turning around in a circle for twenty minutes makes no sense whatsoever, but that’s quite all right because this is great music.  I love singing it, and little by little I would add things to make it more normal.  Then I did have a character that I was trying to create.
BD:   So ‘prima la musica’?

Cole:   In this production, yes.  [Laughs]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Is your home base still Seattle?

Cole:   Yes.

BD:   It
s a lovely city.  Ive been there three times, and it’s a wonderful place.

Cole:   Yes it is.  It’s very, very quiet.

BD:   It’s got hills and water...

Cole:   The pace of living is gentle, without being boring.  It’s just comfortable enough, and there’s enough going on musically.  As you say, you can just the look out and see mountains and water.  It’s very pleasant.

BD:   Have you tapped someone like Alan Hovhaness [who lived there for many years] to write something for you?

Cole:   Oh, no.  I’m a little bit shy about things like that!  [Bursts out laughing]

BD:   Do you do any new music at all?

Cole:   Very little.  New music to me is Britten.  [Both laugh]  I’ve not been asked to do any new music.  I was asked to do a piece, and it was being written for me.  But when when we started working on it, we realized that the composer had not written the piece for a male voice, so a soprano ended up doing it.  It all worked out great.  It just didn’t suit the male voice, and it ended up winning this year
s Pulitzer Prize!  [The work was Lilacs by George Walker, who was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize.]  It was strange that originally it was to be for me, and I ended up giving it away, but rightly so because I couldn’t do justice to it.  I knew that.  The conductor talked about it with me, and we decided it really should be sung by a female.

BD:   If a composer comes to you and would like to write something for you, what advice do you have?

Cole:   I would sit down with him and explain all about my voice, and where to write that is most comfortable.  Especially if someone wants to stress words, don’t set them up on high C-sharps.  In any language, you’re not going to be understood too much up there.  You also don’t want to go too low.  I’d probably give them a copy of my CD of French songs [shown at right], and encourage them to listen to it and figure it out.  If there’s anything they want to ask me, don’t hesitate to ask, even as they write it!  That way I can look at it and make suggestions.  It should be a collaboration, and you should be able to ask them to rethink something.  Then, if it isn’t right, maybe it’s not necessarily for me.

BD:   Are there some characters in history that you’d like to see as operatic characters?

Cole:   [Thinks a moment]  Yes.  I would love for somebody to write an opera about Napoleon, and I would love to play that part.  I love history, and the last Romanovs would be very interesting.  That would be kind of fun, but I would love an opera about Napoleon when he went to Egypt, and the whole thing about when he went into the Pyramids, and spent the night.  But I’d probably retire before anybody does that!

BD:   You never know... keep mentioning it to people, and it may come to be.

Cole:   Okay, we’ll try!  [Laughs]

BD:   Thank you for coming back to Chicago, and for the conversation.

Cole:   It’s my pleasure.  I’m looking forward to these performances.


See my interviews with Lella Cuberli, and José van Dam






© 1996 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on May 24, 1996.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 2000.  This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.