CLASS OF 1945 | 2017 | ISSUE 2

← 1944 | 1946 →

There’s a saying here in Colorado that we have two seasons, July and winter, and we had winter beyond belief this year.

In mid-May, we had a walloping storm that they are still trying to clear up in the High Country. But at the same time, I got a warm letter from Donald Dunn in balmy Ohio. He’d been reminded of something that happened a long time ago, because he’d been at an event where they were discussing World War I. There were pictures, and one of Geraldine Farrar, which called to mind the fact that he had been an opera buff for years, partially because when he was in Italy with the 10th Mountain Division, as I was, he was wounded and during his convalescence he was assigned to Naples for a few months until they could figure out what to do with him. During that time, the Naples Opera Company reopened, and Donald went to see La Traviata—the first time ever that he had been to the opera. He said that it was a real treat. “And then came Carmen, Il Trovatore, Aida, The Barber of Seville and I’ve been an opera fan ever since,” he said.

Well, reminding him of that time was the reference to Geraldine Farrar, because when he got back to Wesleyan—about the same time I did—we both signed up for an opera course with George McManus. It was a dandy.

I’m going to quote part of Don’s letter, where he talks about that experience, because it’s really very warming. He was “mightily impressed with George McManus’s leadership. And one of the things that is unforgettable was that among our various assignments, we did go to the opera and one of them was The Marriage of Figaro. After that performance, George McManus got us to see the conductor, meet some of the cast, and on our way back to Middletown from New York, we stopped and had a visit with Geraldine Farrar. It was a memorable visit because she was quite a testy person. She was suffering a little from gout at the time and was very entertaining in her comments about how things had been in the old days about opera.” During the course of pursing operatic matters with George McManus, Donald and he became pretty good friends and they continued that friendship after the war.

The significant part of that visit was that the McManuses stopped on their way back to California for a few days’ visit with Donald and his wife. During that time, not only was there good conversation, but also George played for them. And Donald remembers that vividly, particularly Beethoven’s “Apassionata,” which was a remarkable treat.

Donald reminded me that we have three things in common:

One—10th Mountain Division in our combat experience; two—Wesleyan, before and after the war;  and three—that mutual love of opera. He got his in Italy; I was brought up on it because my mother was a soprano and insisted that I go to every opera that came to Smith College or to Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

It was a fine letter from Donald. I appreciate his long memory and his warm regards, and I intend to pursue our conversation a little further, once I get a computer back—and that’s another whole story I may be forced to tell you out there at some time in the future.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves. Don’t let Donald Dunn be the only correspondent with your secretary. And to all of you, slán go fóille.

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