Video Published: 24 Aug 2022

An Oral History with Patricia Wise

On April 12th, 2022, soprano and educator Patricia Wise 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 April 12th, 2022. 
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Patricia Wise, soprano

After 30 years singing leading roles in an international opera and concert career, lyric coloratura soprano Patricia Wise began a second career as Professor of Voice at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. During her career Ms. Wise appeared in nearly all the world’s major opera houses and concert halls and has extensive recording and film work to her credit. In addition to her operatic career, Ms. Wise’s concert career included performances and recordings of many of the great vocal orchestral works with some of the world’s best orchestras, and she is in demand as an adjudicator in various vocal competitions including the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions. Recently retired, Ms. Wise has relocated to New York where she is teaching voice.

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Transcript

Marc A. Scorca: Thank you so much Patricia Wise for being with us.

Patricia Wise: Sure. Glad to do it. Very happy to do it.

Marc A. Scorca: I always start off. Who brought you to your first opera?

Patricia Wise: I did. My very first opera that I ever heard, I was in the chorus of Madam Butterfly, at the university that I had just matriculated into, University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and they had a fabulous music department and orchestra, which was made possible by the summers of band camps and music and art camps that they had, which I had attended. I was from Kansas anyway, born in Wichita, Kansas. So I went to school there and they were doing an opera and I thought, "Oh, that'll be fun." I'd never heard one, but I thought, "That's music. I can do that." So I tried out, got in the chorus, and that was it.

Marc A. Scorca: Had you sung before in high school choir, in high school shows? Did you know you had a singing voice?

Patricia Wise: Yeah, I did. I think my mother and father knew. My father was a barber shop quartet singer and director in our small town of El Dorado, (13,000), and it had an orchestra and a band. I played violin in the orchestra and (sang in) choruses, of course. I was in choruses really more in high school, which was then in Great Bend, Kansas, but the music education was just top notch. So, I was in the chorus and I would go out in the wig and the makeup: that was exciting. I had done high school Gilbert and Sullivan performances. I sang in those. So I knew that I could perform; I knew I loved to perform. I didn't like plays so much, 'cause I was scared that I couldn't remember the words; with music you can do anything. I really had only sung in high school one, maybe two recitals with German and Italian. The very first aria, I probably sang was 'Non so più..." My teacher didn't know what I was, and I also sang on that same recital, 'Caro nome.' And I listened to a recording of those high school performances. There was actually a (recording I did with) José Carreras, one back in the '70's (too), and I listened to my voice on the high school recording, and it sounded exactly like (my voice in the recording with Carreras), even the phrasing.

Patricia Wise: It was in Texas that happened.

Marc A. Scorca: You know, and I probe this about your early singing, because I know that within two years of that Madama Butterfly performance where you were a chorister, and where opera became your focus and your interest, that two years later, you were making your debut at Lyric Opera of Kansas City as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. And from thinking that "Gee, I really like opera. I wanna be a singer," to making your debut at Lyric Opera of Kansas City is a remarkable feat. How did that come to pass?

Patricia Wise: I thought it was no big deal. Doesn't everybody do this? I think they thought I was really a ditz. I was in a music education (program). Not that it's credentials for music education degree, but you know, back in the '60's, your father said, "Sure you can major in music, but get an education degree, something to fall back on." I said, "Okay, daddy," so I did that, and minored in voice. And right away, people knew who I was. They were watching me, but I don't think they really took me very seriously for some reason. I don't know why I say they didn't take me seriously, maybe 'cause I didn't take myself seriously. It was just all so easy; it was always so easy for me. So my teacher didn't have much to say to me either. She said "Lift your palate" and that's all I remember. It just came naturally. And so I knew then that Madam Butterfly was my life goal. I had to get on that stage. I had to have an orchestra behind me. I had to sing the lead role. With any luck I had to die, and mad scenes and all of that. I heard that there were mad scenes in opera. I didn't know about that. The other thing I learned right away as I was a freshman was Fiordiligi's aria 'Come scoglio'. My teacher gave that to me. Thank goodness.

Marc A. Scorca: But that's no appetizer. That's the main course.

Patricia Wise: But she heard something, and she didn't nurse me along. She said, "Let's try this." And you know, in my later teaching, I didn't challenge my students with Wagner or anything, but if I heard something that they had, I threw something challenging at them and my teacher just had an eye on me. My teacher was Miriam Stewart Green. She had come to New York with a voice like (Kirsten) Flagstad's voice, a big soprano voice, and she performed at the university too. I became her favorite student after Joyce Castle whom you know? Joyce was studying with her too. So, she nurtured me and the other people who nurtured me: Clayton Krehbiel was the director of the choirs and Robert Baustian, who conducted also at Santa Fe Opera for many years. In the background, I had no idea if they were talking me up or what was happening, but suddenly somebody said, "There's a soprano that got sick and they're doing Marriage of Figaro at Kansas City Opera, which was just a half an hour drive up the road from Lawrence. And I said, "When is it?” And they said, "Six weeks away or something." I don't know. It was something ridiculous. Must have had more than that time, but I was always a very fast learner. So I found myself on the stage at the Lyric Opera in Kansas City, singing Susanna in English, with colleagues that were much older than I was.

Marc A. Scorca: Sure. I mean necessarily. So you were barely out of college, if that.

Patricia Wise: I was still in college, strangely enough. I was actually doing my student teaching at that time. It was in my senior year that I did that.

Marc A. Scorca: Well, I think performing Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro is a good senior project. But two years later you were at New York City Opera singing Rosina in The Barber of Seville. Again, this remarkable trajectory. How did you come to be discovered by City Opera in your early twenties?

Patricia Wise: Well, let's see, I got married, I think when I was 21 and that was time to come to New York. And I found that I wanted to go to New York. I knew that, because I had spent two summers at Santa Fe Opera, after my junior year and after my senior year.

Marc A. Scorca: In their apprentice program?

Patricia Wise: In their apprentice program, certainly. And everybody was in it: Ruth Falcon and Sam (Samuel) Ramey and David Gockley, and all of those people who had real careers. And there, I was kind of thrown in the middle of all these people who were mostly from the east coast, but I just felt comfortable. I felt so confident in my own talent, always - and in my own ability to learn. So, I never got trashed. I don't know. I just was lucky. I always felt lucky.

Marc A. Scorca: So there you were at City Opera, in amazing years because in the late '60's, the company had only recently (in 1966) opened at New York State Theater at Lincoln Center.

Patricia Wise: And I graduated, so I wasn't even here, then.

Marc A. Scorca: Beverly Sills in her great stardom there. What was it like being at City Opera in those days?

Patricia Wise: Well, I came to town and I was in The Met studio for those two years, from '66 to '68. And, of course, when I was at The Met studio and I had met some coaches out at Santa Fe, and they evidently they talked me up. So I was out on the road, over in Brooklyn and so forth with Sam Ramey and some other people. We were doing our things. All of the names that everyone got to know - a lot of those people stayed at The Met. Many of my colleagues stayed at The Met or stayed in New York or stayed in America. Anyway, people heard of me and John Gutman who was there running the program, it's the Lindeman now, but back then it was The Metropolitan Opera Studio Program. I think he talked me up to important people. He never told me about it necessarily, but he said, "Go talk to so and so; go talk to them." And before I knew it, in another year and a half or so I had an agent, Herbert Barrett, and I just thought, "Doesn't everybody?" I didn't know. So I had an agent and I guess I sang for John White and Julius Rudel on the stage over there. And they said, "We'd like you to come in the fall, but before then we'd like you to come over here to City Center, and sing Pirates of Penzance.” So I learned Pirates of Penzance, and John Stewart and I sang in that down there and did our run. And then I came over to City Opera in the fall and they said, "We'd like you to do Rosina." So it was just like, "Okay."

Marc A. Scorca: So let's pause there for a second, because clearly the young artist program: Santa Fe for two years, and The Met Opera Studio for two years. Clearly these played a really important part in your development, as an artist in your career development, both performing experience, stage experience, and connections. Clearly these were really important.

Patricia Wise: Absolutely. I was so lucky and that came from my university and those people who knew the right people.

Marc A. Scorca: Now, one of the things that I note is that your Marriage of Figaro in Kansas City was in English, but I think your Barber of Seville at City Opera was also in English. And here you've had an international career. Was there value in having some of your early work in English?

Patricia Wise: Probably. I can say probably, because my Italian wasn't that good. I had studied Italian in college. I didn't know a thing about German or anything else. And yes, I'm sure it did, because it imbued me probably with the character, without my having to delve in and translate, and everything. So yeah, absolutely. It certainly did help, I'm sure.

Marc A. Scorca: Certainly Kansas City did everything in English at the time; City Opera was somewhat mixed. There were more companies at the time that performed only in English, believing that for audiences who were new to opera, that having it in English might be helpful, but for young artists to connect with the characters directly and without translation?

Patricia Wise: That actually was a plus. I never really thought about that, but that was really valuable. It certainly was. I couldn't wait to do things in the real language though, because I loved languages and I wanted to learn languages and I wanted to go where the life was in opera. I wanted to go to Europe. But I was very happy to stay and learn at home, so to speak, in New York. So I didn't go out and do all of the auditions that a lot of singers do because - and I never did The Met auditions because I was doing a competition in Dallas (that I won) at the same time they were doing (theirs). I would've sung for those Met auditions. And I would've encountered a friend, who was not a friend at the time. I didn't know her: (Frederica) Flicka von Stade. She won it that year. I'm glad I didn't go, because I wouldn't have won it if she was in there. But I just jumped in and started performing rather than auditioning. I did a lot of competitions, and I won most of them actually, This was when I was in college, and I had my first ride on an airplane to Midland, Texas, where I performed with the orchestra. Also my place - I was born in Wichita, Kansas (where) I also sang Nuits d'été with the orchestra. So anyway, it was valuable that I performed in English. Absolutely.

Marc A. Scorca: So Europe: and I know that you made your Royal Opera debut in 1971, Glyndebourne debut in 1972. What made you pack up and head to Europe?

Patricia Wise: Well, the first time I ever went to Europe, I had just learned Italian in college, so I wanted to get going, I think I was on my way to Israel, to sing Micaëla in orchestral performances with Plácido Domingo, and Zubin Mehta was the conductor. I don't know if you remember the name, Katie (Catherine) Christiansen. We became friends and she was in the cast. And so I was gonna sing Micaëla. I'd never sung Micaëla. I'd sung arias in French. So on the way over - first time I ever crossed the ocean - we landed in Rome and I stayed there for seven days, so I could practice my Italian, and I almost had a heart attack when we started to land in Rome. I can't remember when I've been more excited. I had to see the world. I always wanted to see the world. So, I got to Rome, and then I went to Israel, and then I saw all those things. I had adventures with Israelis who took me all over Israel in their cars to show me the sites. And that was eye-opening: the Bible and all of those stories and there we were. And then I flew back over London, had an audition with an agent in London, because of the people in the cast there with me, and a year later, that's when I got the call. I was sitting in Houston, Texas. (My husband) said, "Covent Garden"...we both laughed, and I said, "What do you mean?" "Well, Marilyn Horne was supposed to sing the mezzo version of Rosina in The Barber of Seville. And they heard you audition last year and you did the aria and they want a soprano and they want you." So I got on an airplane and went over.

Marc A. Scorca: And I was gonna ask you whether your manager, Herbert Barrett, who got you auditions in London, but I hear you say that, in fact, it was because of some of the cast members who heard you, liked you, thought well of you. And they made a phone call, and there you were.

Patricia Wise: It didn't hurt that Zubin Mehta and Plácido Domingo, who had an agent in London had said, "You should sing for the agent." That came from people who heard me and encouraged me. And they were my agents the whole time. People who had confidence and told me that I had what it takes. I wouldn't have known otherwise, because I didn't do that much performing in college. I was busy teaching choir in Kansas City.

Marc A. Scorca: I think it's such an important lesson for young singers to realize that yes, a manager does one thing, but your colleagues are able to help you in all sorts of ways if you have done well, and been nice.

Patricia Wise: I'm sure you've heard of that with all of the people that you're interviewing.

Marc A. Scorca: Now your bio then goes on to say that you were a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1976 until 1991. That's an incredible 15 years as a member of the Vienna State Opera. We hear the terminology, 'a member of the Vienna State Opera', but what does that actually mean? Does that just mean you were a regular artist, or were you somehow a member of a core company? What does that mean?

Patricia Wise: Usually it means that you have a contract with an opera company in Europe. They have the funding from governments usually, which we didn't really have in America. So that was something to get used to. So they liked to hire their staffing. They had their orchestra, always there. They had their chorus, always there, like The Met, and they had their house artists who had contracts per year. I never, in my professional life, signed a house contract. I wasn't a member, per se, of the Vienna Staatsoper, or the Munich (Bavarian) Staatsoper, or Dresden or Berlin or London or Spain or anywhere, because I wanted to be free. I had to have that freedom and I made sacrifices for that. I guess I did. But I got what I wanted, which was the freedom to choose and to say, no, and I didn't have to just jump in and do the second soprano on the left?. I did some of that, of course, early on. Once I jumped in...I learned Poussette overnight and sang in City Opera, when Beverly Sills was singing that wonderful Manon.

Marc A. Scorca: So of course, if you were a member of the company, signing a contract for a season, you more or less do what you're asked to do; it isn't a choice of opera by opera. Do I want to do that or not?

Patricia Wise: I was not gonna do that. I sang (auditioned) - just very quickly - for the heads of the companies in Vienna, Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. Now they're quite famous. They were then too, actually. And they each one offered me a house contract. Every one of them; every one of them. And they took me by the elbow afterward, "Patricia, we really liked the way you sounded today. We'd like to offer you a contract at the house beginning then and then," and I said, "How does that work?" And they said, "Well, you'll be on our roster." Roster. I didn't like that word. "You'll be on our roster and you'll get this much and so on and so on." And I very quickly understood what that was going to mean. And, you know, I said, "Thank you very much, Mr. Famous Director, but I'm not interested. I don't wanna be gone from my home in America for six months or over six months a year. So I'll be happy to come as a guest." They were nonplused. But I got my way eventually.

Marc A. Scorca: Wow. And you were awarded the title of Kammersängerin in Vienna, which is an incredible honor. And you did that, not as a member of the company, but as a regular for 15 years.

Patricia Wise: That's right. Other people do that quite a bit when they're very busy with a lot of European and German-speaking houses. Wolfgang Brendel, for instance, a colleague of mine then, and also at IU, because he teaches at IU now, if they were beloved members of the house, they could get that. It wasn't only that you sang at that house for 25 years or so. Those people usually get a Kammersänger award too. So I don't know, they just appreciated me, and I had sung there 15 years and they said, well let's do it.

Marc A. Scorca: It's fantastic.

Patricia Wise: I was really fortunate.

Marc A. Scorca: Absolutely fantastic. Now, you also sang orchestral repertoire. You did concertizing. And of course, for a busy singer, that's wonderful. It's a way to vary the vocal repertoire. Did you find that that concert work enhanced your work as an opera artist? How did the concert work sustain and support your artistry along with your opera work?

Patricia Wise: That was kind of the brains of a singer; the challenge and the brains, and also carrying that particular repertoire over a whole orchestra with a huge audience. You know what the Coliseum's like in London?

Marc A. Scorca: Sure.

Patricia Wise: I sang the Lulu aria on that stage with Colin Davis, and so the challenge was big. I sang on lots of concert stages, fabulously interesting ones too: Mozart under the Parthenon once in Athens. So I learned along the way, and could learn because I had good education, and I was a fast learner. Everybody found that out, I guess. I don't know why that was, and I had the languages and the pronunciation eventually. So I did all the Mozart repertoire and Haydn and Bach and all of those, as I was in Vienna and Munich and Berlin and Copenhagen and Dresden and all of those places, I was very often offered concerts - that probably due to agents, because I was fixed in the opera houses. So they said, "She must know what she's doing. Let's have her do ..." So I had wonderful challenges.

Marc A. Scorca: And Patricia, did you do much recital work, solo recital work?

Patricia Wise: I tried to avoid that.

Marc A. Scorca: After doing all that you had done, why did you try to avoid that?

Patricia Wise: Because I didn't want to be there. Like 'Patricia Wise is singing this recital (groan)'...of course I've done recitals, but I just got so nervous. I just practically got sick every time. I needed a costume and I had to be somebody else. Then I was happy.

Marc A. Scorca: So, when you were singing a costumed character, the nerves might be excitement, but if you were a solo recitalist, the nerves were real nerves.

Patricia Wise: Oh gosh. I knew what nerves were when I was there in my concert dress. Did I enjoy it once I was in it? I mean, obviously I was my not gonna fall on my face, but once I was in it and interpreting those words, mostly the audience didn't understand what it was about, but I did. And it was up to me to communicate that. So that was a lovely challenge. And I think that was very good for me. So I did that throughout my career, not often. I don't think I ever sang a recital per se in Europe. Cause they liked to have Janet Baker and some real big stars do their recitals.

Marc A. Scorca: And some of those big singers' careers really were (predominantly) recitals. We don't have that as much. Janet Baker did very, very little staged opera. She was a great recitalist. We don't really have that today the way it was then. Now, I look at your repertoire and you've already been describing it: Susanna, Rosina, Micaëla, but then I see Lulu on the list, and I love the opera; I love the role, but it seems kind of out of the blue. How did the Lulu come about?

Patricia Wise: Well, I knew that I could do coloratura stuff. I mean, I'd done Zerbinetta at City Opera and then in Vienna and Glyndebourne, so I had the chops and all of the Rossini that I sang and Mozart and everything. So I certainly had the chops for that, but I knew that I had the acting chops too. And I was well enough into my career that when that came along round about 1984...I was doing a concert with Jeffrey Tate in Southern France, doing the Mozart Exsultate Jubilate, and it was a pleasure working with him (while we talk about musicians). So we were finished with our work there and I was ready to go on vacation on the French Riviera. And he said, "Oh, Pat, by the way, I'm doing a new Magic Flute in Geneva next year. Would you be interested in singing Pamina?" I said, "Yes, I'd be thrilled. Thank you, Jeffrey." So, we were working on that and I was getting excited. And then the word came through that, no they were not gonna do Zauberflöte. They're gonna do Lulu. I said, "What?"

Marc A. Scorca: That's a horse of a different color.

Patricia Wise: Wait a minute. But I was at a point in my career where I was really ready for challenges. I was up to them. Everybody knew that I was. They knew that I could, and I knew that I could, and I thought, "Well, I probably wouldn't have had that on my schedule, but I'm ready for a new challenge instead of just repeating another Pamina, another Rosina, another all those other roles out of 40.” I had a lot to do, but especially in Europe, because it wasn't just The Met and then lots of houses kind of educating the audiences. I was in Europe. I didn't have to educate the audiences. I could just be and soak it up. So that was really my thing. And so I taught myself Lulu. I taught myself all my roles at the piano because I could play the piano. I'd teach myself thoroughly, memorize it at home. And sometimes I had to do it really fast. Then I could get into a rehearsal and get going. So that was a big challenge, especially since I was pregnant that spring and Lulu opened, I think, in September and I was gonna return to Vienna and sing Susanna in Marriage of Figaro right after Lulu. Lots of performers do stuff like this. And you think what? But you just do, you're a pro, you know how to do it, you're up for the challenge or not. And I always liked that challenge, I guess.

Marc A. Scorca: Now, Lulu is notorious and it is not like singing Mozart, which is so kind to the voice. Lulu is very different. Did you approach it as if it were Zerbinetta? How did you tackle a role that is so notoriously difficult on the voice?

Patricia Wise: That's a very good question. I was thinking about this the other day (and I decided) that I'm going to sing it like I would sing any lyric piece, because it's a lyric role. It lies high. There's a lot of jumping around the notes. It's complicated musically - really complicated, but turns out I was up for that challenge too, which is kind of amazing. I sat there for a good month, month and a half, and in six weeks I had 1, 2, 3 - it was a three act Lulu. So it was a three hour one. And I'd work on one for four weeks, and have it pretty much memorized and I'd go to the next act, go to the next act. So by the time May came along and my daughter was born on the 23rd of May in '85, I had that role learned, and I was well into brushing up my Susanna in Italian, because I think the last time I had performed it, it was in English, in Kansas City. So I had a pillow over my stomach sitting at the piano for the Lulu learning.

Marc A. Scorca: So, time out here. (counting with fingers) May, June, July, August, September. So you were in rehearsal for Lulu three months after you had delivered your daughter?

Patricia Wise: Two months.

Marc A. Scorca: Okay. I just wanted to have that for the record.

Patricia Wise: I took the nanny with me, and we were in Geneva, so actually, it was great. It worked out beautifully. And so Jeffrey was conducting, obviously. I did quite a few Lulus. I did seven different productions.

Marc A. Scorca: Lulus don't grow on trees, and once you know the role and you do it well...

Patricia Wise: They hired me a lot. So that was fun going around Europe, doing Lulu. Pretty soon they said, "Do you do anything besides Lulu?" I said, "Yes, I'm singing Gilda in Madrid next week." I was still singing Lucia too.

Marc A. Scorca: Now through all of this, were there role models for you - (for) the kind of either career you wanted to have, or people who were mentors, even if they were just mental mentors and not actual mentors: were there role models for you?

Patricia Wise: There were probably a lot. I would say one of my first role models probably was Beverly Sills, and then a lot of singers that I never got to know, like Roberta Peters.

Marc A. Scorca: Sure.

Patricia Wise: And Reri Grist. I heard them. I did see them once or twice, so yes, they were role models and I could see how musical they were and how free they were vocally, and how much fun they were having. So I had role models early on like them and then, of course, the colleagues that I worked with professionally in staging rehearsals and so forth, I learned a lot from pros like Hans Hotter (who) was my Schigolch in Paris. And just some really memorable colleagues that I never stopped learning from, but by that time, I was well into my career, so it was just enjoyment of the Kollegialität.

Marc A. Scorca: Those are wonderful musical colleagues. Was there anyone who gave you career advice? Was that Herbert Barrett? Was it managers? Where did you get the career advice?

Patricia Wise: Oh, I'm sure they did. They said, "Show up on time." That was never a problem. My last teacher, Margaret Harshaw - wonderful teacher... Certainly teachers gave me the best advice along the way. And coaches, of course. I really owed so much to each and every coach...their patience with musicians and with singers...

Marc A. Scorca: So, on to teaching... Indiana University. Was that transition sudden where you decided, "Okay, I'm done singing. I wanna teach." Or did they lure you into teaching? Did you put one foot in to see what it was like? How did you become a teacher?

Patricia Wise: I saw that the roles that I loved singing were not going to come down the highway as often as they did. So it was time to transition. And the opportunity came up, as I was still singing in Europe and South America and still had quite a few contracts: Dresden, Munich. So they asked me to come over and try out and I said, "Okay, let's see what that's like.” And it happened to be the best university for opera and singers in the United States, I was told, and I knew it was a very, very good school, comparable to Juilliard. So I thought, "Well, that's good. I'm not sure I wanna be out there in Indiana, but we'll go see." So I looked at some other places and my daughter at that time was 10 years old and she had been going to an American school in Vienna, so I thought that'll be good. It'll be an easier place to raise a daughter than in Boston. I was considering Boston and a couple other places. In a way, it was sudden, but in a way I was looking for it always, because my career had been really long; a good 35 years of constantly being on the road.

Marc A. Scorca: Well, when you start that young. Yes, absolutely.

Patricia Wise: I wasn't missing anything. I was continuing to sing; I had contracts and even out there, I sang with the orchestra and I could sing whatever I wanted to - Christmas programs and so forth, but I didn't like that so much, because I was an opera singer. When I went, I promised to do a Merry Widow, as they wanted to show me off as new faculty, so I worked with the students, but that was the last role I had to learn.

Marc A. Scorca: Not every singer's a good teacher. What does it take to be a good voice teacher?

Patricia Wise: Ears. Good ears, and patience.

Marc A. Scorca: Patience I understand. When you say 'good ears', what is it you are listening for?

Patricia Wise: I listen intuitively to vocalism. My brain and my ears hear how it's being produced, and I know what to do, and I know how to correct it. I must have had that a lot. I don't think I actually learned it. I'd always taught privately, and I gave masterclasses even when I still lived in Europe. So I knew I could teach obviously. And when they wanted to hire me, they wanted to know if I could teach? So I showed them I could teach...

Marc A. Scorca: Intuitive?

Patricia Wise: No, intuitive is something else, and that's also important, of course, and I loved reading about teaching. I was very curious about that. I learned a lot of stuff from lots of different books and from wonderful artists that came and gave masterclasses at IU. I learned from them. And I learned that my ideas were in accord with theirs. That was a really wonderful experience for me as a new teacher, in an academic situation. Academia was harder to learn - but I did it.

Marc A. Scorca: They say opera companies are complicated - until you get to a university.

Patricia Wise: It was all good. I was lucky.

Marc A. Scorca: Does teaching work across voice types, so you could teach a baritone, as much as you could teach a soprano or mezzo-soprano?

Patricia Wise: There's some I had to learn obviously about some of that. And I always said that the greatest teacher is your students. Probably everybody says that, but I found out that I learned more from students than I probably gave to them. I could learn so much from them, and their struggles and their hopes and their ears and their responses to things, and it taught me how to be a better teacher just by listening to my students. And I really adored masterclasses, because then of course you can perform a little bit. I always loved to perform; we all love to perform, we teachers. I had a couple of countertenors and I had some baritones. I think I might have had a bass at one time, but it was just a question of listening to how they were singing, and having my instrument tell me, "I know what they need to do here. They need to lift," or, "They need to keep their jaw free," or whatever, because that's what I would do. So I just kind of told them what I do. And, I have pretty good confidence that I knew how to sing because I could prove it.

Marc A. Scorca: Now you must still be asked for advice so frequently, given the scope of your career, the scope of your repertoire: are there themes to your advice? What are the things that you try to impart to young singers today?

Patricia Wise: It's hard, isn't it today? It's a little harder today, but that challenges us as teachers and as mentors, even more to give them the courage and the hope, and hopefully the places that they can perform. I just like to say, "Perfect your instrument for your own soul. Keep perfecting; never stop." I know that I always tell them (if it's true) that their voices are beautiful. "That was a beautiful phrase you just sang. Now sing the rest of them like that one," or, "Put your heart into it. Don't forget the words." but that's what all teachers say to encourage the students. They're learning. Actually, they're learning so much. They're not learning just how to sing; they're learning how to control themselves in a lesson. Not all of them can do that. They have to learn that too. So, I hope I was able to mentor and challenge. I know I challenged them a lot. I don't know. I have some very loyal students who keep in touch with me, so I must not have done such a bad job.

Marc A. Scorca: I suspect not. Why is it so much harder today?

Patricia Wise: Well, the atmosphere of fear, with the pandemic and everything, and the way it's affected everything, and the way it's slowed down career developments for all those reasons.

Marc A. Scorca: Absolutely. It is hard to imagine a young singer singing at Lyric Opera of Kansas City before they graduate college. There are so many more singers today I suspect than there were years ago; so many more opera departments and bigger opera departments. Every university has one.

Patricia Wise: Opera has grown since OPERA America has started. I've noticed and attended a couple of meetings along the way from my university. And you have brought so much out into the world of young singers: to them and for them that many, many young careers have been established, thanks to you, Marc and thanks to your organization.

Marc A. Scorca: And I think OPERA America isn't as much an instigator as a mirror; that we have grown as the field has grown, but it has also grown more complicated and more populated by challenges and barriers. I so love hearing about your discovery of opera and your making it to the stage, before you graduated college. I think it's a phenomenal story.

Patricia Wise: It is. It's amazing to me still. I never quite get over it. I was so lucky.

Marc A. Scorca: Well, Patricia Wise, we are lucky that you spent this time with us today, really marvelous to capture a little bit - the edge of the story of your wonderful career.