Video Published: 01 Jan 2022

An Oral History with Hal France

On September 15th, 2021, conductor Hal France sat down with OPERA America's President/CEO Marc A. Scorca for a conversation about opera and their life.

This interview was originally recorded on September 15th, 2021. 
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Hal France, conductor

During a thirty five-year professional career as an opera conductor, Hal France has led organizations and performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras across the United States. He has completed tenures as Executive Director of KANEKO (2008-2012), Artistic Director of Opera (1995-2005), and Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic (1999-2006). In 1981, he made his professional debut at Washington’s Kennedy Center, and he served the Houston Grand Opera first as an Associate Conductor and later as Resident Conductor. Recently he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an Admiralty in the Nebraska Navy from the Governor of the state.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.

Transcript

Marc A. Scorca: Hal, you know, our 50th anniversary was stopped short by COVID. And part of our goal in our 50th anniversary was to do at least 50 oral histories with people who've helped shaped American opera over the last half century. So now that we're a little bit back in the swing, we thought we'd pick that up, and I'm just so grateful to have this time with you.

Hal France: Well, thank you. I don't know how I'm in the category of 50 who shaped, but I certainly am amongst the many who benefited from it. So I'm happy to talk about my experiences.

Marc A. Scorca: Well, fantastic. And as I always do, I like to start by asking who brought you to your first opera?

Hal France: That's very good and a very interesting story. I don't know it's actually an opera that I can say, but I guess I'd have to credit my grandmother who loved Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, and was someone who listened to The Met broadcasts from her early days as a teenager, growing up on a farm and then took it all the way through her life, and so she was always listening to opera. She stood out in the cold to get tickets to Carnegie Hall performances of her favorites. And Vladimir Horowitz was in that; (Arthur) Rubinstein was in that category. And certainly she never stopped talking about those two singers when they had that great time; that they were stunning the world. They made such an incredible sound in all of those bel canto operas that they did. And I came from an Italian family, so my grandmother and grandfather were Italian. And so the language and all of that was around our house. That said: I rejected it completely until I got into college, and opera came very late for me, as did classical music. I had lessons; I've a very musical family, and I was good, but I wanted to be a quarterback. I didn't really have any interest in doing that. So my entire high school was spent devoted to sports. And then when I got to college, I kind of saw the end of that line and in searching for something, I found music. And so then I found the piano, and the piano led me to my undergraduate degree, which led me to realize that that line was going to end. I was not going to be Van Cliburn, and so I found the rehearsals for The Magic Flute at the Aspen Music Festival with James Conlon. And that led me to Juilliard. And then I would say I started seeing operas all the time, because I'd go to The Met and I was studying at Juilliard and I was coaching at Juilliard. And so, I don't have a typical background, I think in that way. But once I took on the whole idea of theater and music together, and started to work on it, it never left me. It was something I wanted to do. And then somewhere in the middle of all that, I decided that I wanted to become a conductor, 'cause that was fun. And I probably wanted to be in that kind of position.

Marc A. Scorca: It is a kind of musical quarterback, isn't it?

Hal France: Thank you for making that distinction. And so I went back to school. I studied conducting at University of Cincinnati and that led me to all kinds of great things. While studying conducting, I would spend the summers at different festivals, coaching or playing the rehearsal piano. I had a summer at Glyndebourne and I had several summers at Wolf Trap and my first summer Wolf Trap, I met John DeMain, who's very important in my life, as was John Nelson. They were two really important mentors for me. And John DeMain was, of course, the music director of Houston Grand Opera, and so that was my first job out of college was to go down there and be his assistant, which was a treasure trove of experiences for me.

Marc A. Scorca: A couple of things. One is that the reason I ask people to tell me who brought them to their first opera is because I usually get such a rich story about their family and about their backgrounds. So, it's a question that just gives rise to rich answers. It is coincidental that in the sequence of recording these interviews, my most recent one was with John DeMain, so it's a nice connection here. But I was fascinated within your story there, and because I know you went to University of Vermont, and you went to Aspen. Not everybody goes from discovering music as a love in college and at University of Vermont: it's not known as a music school, but there you are playing at Aspen. How did that happen?

Hal France: Well, Aspen was a great place to go in the summertime. I went to Tanglewood as well. For me - this is what I say to young people - "Your summers are invaluable for your furthering and deepening of your contact with the thing you want to do. You meet people that you haven't met; your horizons broaden; you see what the possibilities are." Every time I went to one of these summer programs, I came away a different person, when I went back to school in the fall. Everything is coincidental in life. I met John DeMain at Tanglewood when I was sneaking into the Tanglewood (Festival) Chorus. And then years later, I was his assistant at Wolf Trap. I went to Aspen to study piano, but I decided I didn't like my piano teacher, (who I had gone to LA to study with), and we had a break-up and I had nothing to do, and they needed a pianist to play for The Magic Flute at the Wheeler Opera House. So there I was, cramming my first opera into my fingers, and it was so different. I mean, I was a good pianist, but it was so different, because opera: it's not just a pianistic thing, it's sort of kicking it in the hole. I worked my way up the ladder in the music school realm: I went from Vermont to Northwestern, where I got my degree, and that was more of a music school than Vermont was. And then, every summer I was going to Aspen, and then I went to LA to study with Aubie Circa, who was a great teacher. And then I followed him to Aspen one summer, and that's when the opera thing happened.

Marc A. Scorca: When did the conductor idea really take hold in all of this?

Hal France: Very interesting. My first fall at Juilliard. Martin Smith, who ran the program at Aspen also ran the program at the AOC (the other AOC which is called the American Opera Center), and he hired me as a fellow, and so I was playing. My first production was with Bliss Hebert, Emmanuel Rosenthal and George Balanchine. Can you imagine? I was playing for George Balanchine in a American premiere of (they called it The Reluctant King) Le Roi malgré lui, and it had a ballet in it that Balanchine over all of his years at City Ballet had always put as one of his big show pieces. So he choreographed the students at Juilliard and I was playing for all of that. And it was a tremendous experience, but even halfway through, I was saying, "I don't want to do this all my life, because I want to do what he's doing." And so I immediately started to form, "Well, I'm not ready to do what he's doing," and by the way, so many great conductors have come up the ranks through that process. And I probably should've stuck with that longer, because you'll learn scores much better as a pianist than you do as a conductor. But anyway, that bug bit me, and it was already there. I had a sung with John Nelson in a choir for many years, and I was an unofficial assistant to him for a number of years, so I saw what the conductor life was. And then I started to work with John DeMain, who was an amazing theater creation. I learned so much from John; a real musical theater man.

Marc A. Scorca: And he would own that: that musical theater and opera are such a seamless continuum for John.

Hal France: Exactly. I was lucky enough to get into that place, which was the Houston Grand Opera. And it was such an interesting place, because it was starting to make its mark as one of the real sources from which American opera was flowing. At the same time, it was trying to be an international company, and it was, of course. And so in one year, I was working with Hal Prince, who was directing his first opera, Carlisle Floyd's, Willie Stark, which I conducted after John left to go back to Houston; I was at the Kennedy Center. So that was my debut. So I got to work with people like that. And of course in those years, we also did Showboat, and we did Sweeney Todd, and we did Candide 'cause we were Houston Grand Opera and we did Philip Glass; we did a lot of things. And we did Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place, and I got to work with Leonard Bernstein, which of course was amazing. But at the same time, I also made a debut working with John-Pierre Ponnelle, by accident. I conducted his Boheme with Mirella Freni and Julia Migenes and all these people. So I had this opportunity to be part of two really strong strains of the opera universe: the more contemporary and American part and the international. So, it was an amazing place for me to be.

Marc A. Scorca: Oh, how spectacular. Because I have in my notes that you made your debut at the Kennedy Center in 1981. I'm sorry to remind you that that's 40 years ago now. So it was Willie Stark?

Hal France: Yeah. Willie Stark. Totally not ready for the opportunity, but somehow I survived it; conducted 12 performances of that. I had one rehearsal to take it over; get it under my belt. John did the opening and a couple, and then he had to go back and then we later recorded it for Great Performances, and John, of course, was conducting that. But it was a great experience with Tim Nolan as Willie Stark and just this amazing cast of singing actors: Don Garrard, I remember well, and just so many wonderful people, and I loved it and it was really exciting for me, because Hal Prince would come and watch it, because he was getting ready to film it, so, I really had exposure to some amazing people.

Marc A. Scorca: I should say; just the names you've already mentioned, whether it's Bernstein or Balanchine or others.

Hal France: Yeah. This is the name-dropping interview. I feel embarrassed to talk about this with anybody else, Marc. So you've given me an opportunity to brag a little bit; it's not really bragging about me. It's just amazing good fortune.

Marc A. Scorca: Absolutely. And what I really enjoy about these oral histories is an opportunity to ask someone: what was it like watching Balanchine choreograph? What was it like working with Bernstein on an opera? What were these people like? Balanchine choreographing...

Hal France: This is what I will tell you, which (is) what you learn almost without a question: these iconic people who have larger than life identities are often the most generous and the least iconic-acting people, and of course I didn't have great contact with George Balanchine only to say that he was complementary to my playing, and he said, "We never used to do this with only one pianist; we always had two; you're doing a really good job," that kind of thing. That was nice. You know, it wasn't hours spent. I spent more time with Leonard Bernstein because it was a full rehearsal period. John was conducting it, so I was assisting. So I got really to be with Leonard Bernstein, and everybody says "Lenny," and I always feel bad about saying it because he is an icon; he is a god, but he is Lenny. Everybody who's ever met and worked with him, really thought of him as Lenny, because he made sure that you felt comfortable. He was so supportive. I learned so much from him. He conducted the Houston Symphony while he was down there. And so we got to watch him work as a conductor, but very humble about his opera, and very concerned: he'd put so much into it. I got to sit with him for all the rehearsals and take notes and I thought, "Well, here was a guy who had a photographic memory, who conducted almost everything he did from memory, who seemed to be always able to sit down and play the most complex music at the piano keyboard - without a stitch of music - without even thinking about it.” And he was complementing me on my ear...he took my notes. When I said something, a balance note or something, he said, "Yeah, that's right." And he was very supportive. My big story with Bernstein was that the very first moment he walked into Houston, and he came with quite a group of people. He had his publishers, and he always had a couple of assistants around, and he walked into our rehearsal that I was conducting of Trouble in Tahiti, which was our first reading and the parts weren't in great shape, but I was so nervous, and I was so not ready for that. And it was really a tryout for me to maybe conduct that. That was the first act of the evening. It was Trouble in Tahiti, followed by Quiet Place. And I failed the test. So after that, they thought he's not ready to do this, but it was so interesting after that moment that he was so warm and supportive of me throughout the whole process.

Marc A. Scorca: It's wonderful to hear it. And while we're talking about some of the iconic people in your life: your relationship with Carlisle and the work of Carlisle, (who) just turned 95. I have the honor of knowing him and just knowing what a gentleman he was. What was your relationship with Carlisle like?

Hal France: Well, first of all, Carlisle: if you're watching, I love you and thank you for everything you did for me in my early years. My first chance to work with Carlisle was as the composer of Willie Stark, but he also was one of the co-directors of the Houston Opera Studio. And, we did workshops of new works. We did a piece by Richard Warlow back then. I first got to really work with him more as a teacher, and then as a composer. Everything has its ups and downs. (After) my first orchestra rehearsal of Willie Stark, I know he went to John and he had some questions and doubts about my ability to do it, but he ended up being such a great friend and supporter in my life because I next got to work with him as a director, and he's a fine director. So we first did Madam Butterfly at Minnesota Opera. And then we did Jonathan Wade; we did it in Seattle and down in Miami, and so I got to be with Carlisle and later on - I never did it with him - but his Cold Sassy Tree was something I greatly admire and got to do that several times, and out in Utah, he came and spent some time with us. I think that might've been the last time I saw him, but for years I've wanted to reach out and say, "Carlisle, you just did so much for me." His approach to opera was: he really understood the art form and how it needs to work. And, there was so much interest; interior look at operas through the composer's eyes that I was able to get, through my friendship with him.

Marc A. Scorca: So, we're talking about Houston Grand Opera and Leonard Bernstein, George Balanchine, Carlisle Floyd, Kennedy Center, then 1984 to Mobile, Alabama, and taking responsibility for a smaller opera company and what it put on stage. What was that shift like, going from a rather grand tutorial into a smaller company setting?

Hal France: Really, quite honestly, the smaller company setting is where - from that point on - I spent most of my career: regional opera. That was an interesting change. I was with friends. I was with David Gately and we had a wonderful cast doing The Daughter of the Regiment there the first time, and I loved meeting the people and it was a new culture. I had never been to Alabama. But as the years went by, I used to stay at Katherine Wilson's house and she was once a director of the company, and then sort of passed it along to Pat Pearce, who was a lifelong friend. It was interesting, Eb Swingle was the chorus master, and he was the brother of the famous Swingle of Swingle Singers fame, and Eb was a consummate musician, but a very quiet man. And he had this wonderful band of dedicated choristers. And, that is an icon in itself, because that component is a collective of people that are in all the opera companies. And it's changed over the years because companies have gone more professional and less amateur. So '84, you're 20 years out of the forming of lots of these companies and now, as you pointed out, 40 years past it. And what's happened is: you used to go from support groups that used to do the props and the costumes. Opera Omaha had this great craftsmen guild, for years and years, and still does, but they used to do everything. And then little by little, it got professionalized. Chorus too; it used to be completely no payment. And so, going to Mobile was a real change, but a welcome one because I really enjoyed making the show with people and working with them from where they were. Every city was different. I spent a lot of years traveling and doing the regional circuit and every place was different. There are lots of different pockets of different ways of looking at opera in the country.

Marc A. Scorca: Why did the smaller company - what you call the regional circuit - what about that spoke to you as part of the American opera spectrum. Here, Houston Grand Opera, an international company, and one that is a leader in American opera production, and you conducted at many of the finest companies, not that these smaller companies aren't fine in their own way, but what about that smaller company spoke to you?

Hal France: For example, Beverly Sills came here and opened the Orpheum Theater in 1976. Renée Fleming did one of her early things here in 1990. Stella Zambalis was in that cast too. Those people, when they came to places like this did not act like 'I'm above this', because there was something for even people who were going to be at the heights all the time, that was so refreshing to be part of a place that was more like doing it for the love of it, rather than a higher professional purpose. And I think that that spoke to me too. Opera Omaha, which really became my company, had a tradition, which John DeMain and Mary Robert really started. But even before then, there were so many people. In the '70's, just about every American singer who then became very well-known, from Frederica von Stade, Maria Ewing, Sam Ramey: they all were here as younger singers. There was a great tradition and there was an expectation of excellence amongst the leadership. And so you had to reach that standard, but they were still people doing it. Not getting paid a lot of money to do it, and that would go from people that were doing our stagehands, our designers, our craftsmen's guild, our Omaha Symphony, everybody, the way it was a real team effort. And I guess that ended up being my mantra for why I did opera, which was that I liked the team aesthetic. I liked the idea of 'we're doing this', and it was stronger in some ways in regional situations where it had to, by necessity, be that way.

Marc A. Scorca: You've also done some symphony conducting, and of course the symphony performance doesn't tell a story quite the way opera does, and it's not quite as collaborative as opera is, but does symphony work also inform your opera conducting? Is it an important aspect of your work as an opera conductor to do symphony?

Hal France: Well, I would say coming up the way I did as a pianist, going into conducting in that route, I always envied the people that took the orchestral route, because in some ways I felt like that was the highest art of the conductor and I missed not having as much of a background in that, when I started - and quite honestly, I tried to get into the Exxon program; I tried lots of things and I never succeeded. I found, in general, being an opera conductor, I was viewed differently by the symphonic realm, and did not get opportunities. The opportunities that I did get were largely through doing gala concerts and performing with opera stars, my ex-wife being one of them, Sylvia McNair, who was spectacular in all of those things. I got so many opportunities through that, but also Sam Ramey. I did The Date with the Devil with him several times. That was one avenue. But in Orlando, I had the one thing that never happened to me. After I conducted The Barber of Seville, the manager of the orchestra came up and said, "Would you come and do some concerts with us?" And that was the opening I'd been waiting for. So now I got to do Haydn and Mozart and Beethoven, and I became the music director down there for a short time, at a time when that orchestra had had some financial problems and was reconstituting as a non-union orchestra, and it was being run by the players. And so it was a great time of about 10 years of working with them that I learned so much and I became a better conductor, and did it inform my opera work? You bet it did. That's a very important piece of all of this is that: when you first start to bring the orchestra into the process and they come in later: you've been working a couple of weeks and then enter the orchestra; bringing them in and making them feel a part of the process...when you have a success: that's because you did that.

Marc A. Scorca: I hear from young conductors (about) the challenge of how do you audition? Here at the opera center, we have lines of singers waiting to audition for the general director. And if you sing the two arias like nobody else, you get the job, and there you go. But for a conductor, "No one wants to hire me unless they see me; but no one sees me if I don't get hired. And it's not like I can audition with an entire symphony orchestra." What advice do you have for the aspiring conductor in that regard?

Hal France: I have a colleague who is a set designer, and I worked with him here at the university and he spent his early years in New York assisting everybody he could. He got every assistant job he could on Broadway and in New York theater, and that would be my advice for young conductors. Well, first of all, you could start your own company and do your own thing, and I had friends who did that. They would get an orchestra and a cast together and they'd go to Carnegie Hall and do one performance on a Sunday afternoon. That would work, or it wouldn't. It's very hard to get noticed. For me, I was an assistant and unbelievable opportunities came my way because of fate. And then I proved that I could do it. And then I got re rehired.

Marc A. Scorca: The assistant role is really important.

Hal France: I would say: prepare, prepare, prepare; be impeccably well-prepared; work really hard. If you have that fire and the talent to do it, just make sure you're ready when the iron strikes. There are many other ways. The symphonic way was to be an assistant and lots of orchestras do hire assistants, and have people to do their educational programs or be an assistant, and they cover all of the main series concerts. They learn a lot of repertoire; I would say, learn the repertoire. If you want to be an opera conductor, it's hard. It's easier to do it if you're a pianist, because it gives you an in; you get into the room that way. But if you're not and you love opera...Edo de Waart was an oboe player and he's a brilliant, brilliant opera conductor. There's, there's lots of ways to do it. Giulini was a violist; you don't have to be a pianist necessarily. Be aggressive and go after it and you might not get that opportunity and an opportunity, no matter how small, is an opportunity: take it. Don't be above this.

Marc A. Scorca: You've talked about Butterfly and Daughter of the Regiment and standard repertoire, and my familiarity with your work has tended to be around American opera. And it's one thing to perform an opera that has an inherited performance practice: this is how it's been done since Puccini's day, or since Donizetti's day and different, of course, when you're doing a new work or doing a work by Carlisle or Leonard Bernstein, or some of the other contemporary composers you've conducted. As an artist, how were you fulfilled differently doing works from the inherited repertoire versus new work?

Hal France: First of all, established repertoire has been in a process of being reviewed and reseen because of the rise of the stage directors, and of which there've been so many really excellent people, and I always love it when I'm getting into a situation with a director who's extremely creative, and who wants to try to not do something standard. I think those worlds of new work and a more theater-centric approach to works has melded in with the approach to standard opera. So I don't think I was ever the perfect person to go to companies that tended to just view traditional opera as an opportunity to do Boheme 'the way it's supposed to be done', or Tosca 'the way it's supposed to be done'. I certainly respect all of those traditions and I always love doing it, but I guess it comes down to the words and what are people saying and what are they meaning? And I guess why I would love musical theater is that it sprouts more from the text than it does from the notes or the singing. And what I don't like about opera is when it is entirely sonic-based, and never idea and communication; and sentence-spaced: what are you saying? What are you meaning? How are you showing that as an actor? I think we still have a very long way to go in our training of opera singers. I do really feel like everybody should take acting classes, that they don't sing in. If sometimes the voice tends to overwhelm (especially if you have a great one), it ends up being the dominant factor in your work, whereas I think every person that gets on stage telling a story, the story should be the dominant factor in their work, not their singing. There's so many different people; it's such a rich and infinite universe of all the different kinds of talents there are, and the way people approach the work. I'm right now working on a production of Sweeney Todd with a very good friend who runs a theater company here in town; we're doing it for Opera Omaha next February. And I've done numerous productions with her of plays with music, and she's a real theater person, and she looks at it. It's so different walking into a theater company than it is walking into an opera company, although opera companies have changed enormously and have become more theatrically based; less traditionally based; less hierarchical, because the diva system and the whole idea of that was there when I first started in 1980. It's changing. That's what I think. It's harder to do it in a language that's not your own. It takes a lot of work to really know...everybody does their translation, but it's really different working in a language that is not your first language.

Marc A. Scorca: New operas over the last several decades - it's not just the most recent decade - certainly are exploring opera's theatrical side more than did the bel canto operas or some of the opera of the 19th century?

Hal France: No question. Composers, librettists...Gene Scheer's a good friend of mine; a wonderful actor. I've done a couple of shows with him and I'm so happy for the success he's had with his collaborations, with some of our really fine new opera composers: maybe not new anymore, but like you say, the last 20, 30 years. The prize at the end of all of this is very different for them, than it was earlier. We know in America, that more people love musical theater than love opera, and musical theater is amazing. It's not just tap dance numbers. It's so varied and so creative and lots of our great directors that come to The Met now come from Broadway, and so those composers know that audiences have a different expectation and it's hard because they're trying to do it in a way that I think musical theater doesn't do it, which is the sophistication of the scores they're writing is far greater; they're not writing musical numbers. They're writing through-composed sonic creations. They're writing for voices that are going to go above the clef; they're going to sing higher, which is not where people talk. And so they have a different thing to get that same kind of excitement, theatrical storytelling-excitement across to an audience. I admire all of them that want to do that, because I think the point is: can you just thrill an audience with your storytelling? That's the whole thing.

Marc A. Scorca: You've mentioned John DeMain, John Nelson, Carlisle, others: are there any other role models, whether you knew them or not, but people whose work you said, "I want to do what that person is doing," either as an opera company artistic director, or as a conductor? Are there other reference points you've had in your great career?

Hal France: This is the kind of question that makes my mind go blank just because I can't grab hold of it, 'cause I'm sure there are. I have heroes that are not involved in opera. My life now is so different than it was when I was really doing opera a lot, and our world has changed so drastically. It's a really tough time right now to imagine, not only for the arts, but for every single one of us. Where are we going next?

Marc A. Scorca: I wanted to explore that with you, some. Because in reading your bio and a couple of interviews with you, you really are an active citizen artist. You are not isolated in your studio, but you are working in your community; you're working to address community issues, and I'm fascinated by the intersection of the artist as active citizen. And I don't necessarily mean 'activist' by that; I mean active citizen. So how have you blended active citizenship with your work as an artist?

Hal France: Well, I had a period in which I really got to be very involved in the community here in Omaha, where I now live, and that came out of being the artistic director of Opera Omaha: that melding of that; between working with Jane Hill and Joan Desens, who were the two directors I worked with, and doing outreach programs and things like that. Then just really getting to know the community better and to see how the social service community and the arts community were kind of natural companions, because one was good at putting on events and shows; and the other was really good at contacting and doing something that would directly help other people. So I've always wanted to see the arts be elevated from an elitist platform to a more community-centric platform. I was fortunate to be involved in a number of different kinds of things. I was a member of a church and we had a food pantry and we were connected to a network of food pantries through the state, and we did a number of performances to benefit that, and that became a natural thing to do. It led me to become more of a part of this community, which I greatly appreciated: being able to do outdoor concerts that anybody could come to. There's still so far to go right now. I'm working with one of our high schools that's in south Omaha, which is a largely Latino community. The arts magnet is there and they're working on a lot of really interesting things. Each time I get to do one of these things, I feel richer for it. What I'm doing at the university now is trying to get more students to know about our programs and to find ways to get them into college and to bridge some divides. We have a lot of divides, where you still go to a symphony or an opera performance, and you're seeing almost entirely white audiences. And so there's a lot to do. I applaud the Opera Omaha Holland Fellowship Program, which broke some new ground with Roger Weitz, and creating this idea that we are really arts people; we're not opera people, so we are encouraging creativity. Even through the mediums of music and singing and storytelling: that's a really great thing. I have no grand plan and I'm not a saint. There's lots of times I'm not at an event or something like that. I do have a life and I want to live it, but I think it's a privilege, and I was privileged to be in a position where I got invited to be involved in things. And in many cases I took the invitation.

Marc A. Scorca: It's just beautifully put. I was reading about a number of your honors: honorary doctorates and things like that, and one I needed to ask you about, which is the Admiralty in the Nebraska Navy. It seems to me to be a dubious distinction: 'Admiral in the Navy', where there's no water.

Hal France: Yes. And I think that that's the point. I do want to say that the life that I was talking about has been for 10 years with a wonderful woman, Judi gaiashkibos, who's my partner. She's the director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. And she works at the state capitol and she's been working there for 25 years and she's a very influential woman. Since I was honored by then lieutenant governor, Dave Heineman, who then became the governor on stage, before HMS Pinafore, given this Admiralty, which I knew nothing about. And I thought it was a big deal. Lo and behold, my wonderful sweetheart, Judi gives out an Admiralty to someone almost every week, but deservedly so. And that's probably an exaggeration, not every week, but yesterday she was giving an Admiralty to someone who was retiring from the Lincoln Journal Star. So thanks for asking about that. Yes. There are lakes. There are boats. There is a USS Nebraska. I don't know the origin of the Admiralty. There are a number of real admirals here in Nebraska who I know, but there's a lot of us that are land-landlocked-honorary somethings. That was a nice thing Joan Desens did a while back and I appreciated it.

Marc A. Scorca: Well, the next time I see you, I will absolutely salute you and fly a naval flag in your honor. I'm so grateful for your time today, just to hear your personal story, which I think has lessons for everybody rising in our field and your memory - your connection to some of the greats who really were at the birth of American opera back in the '70's and '80's.