Q: So when last we left our brave singer, you had gone to college, angered your professor, survived food poisoning in Germany, and gotten a "howdy" from Leontyne Price. That’s a pretty exciting first year. What next?
DA: Well, during my freshman year I had met Henry Angel and we had began dating. I continued my studies at Newcombe and finished my four years there and wanted to continue on to get my masters.
Q: Where did you go for that?
DA: I went to Northwestern University, outside of Chicago. By this time Henry and I wanted to get married, but I wanted to be finished with college before I married. So I did my masters in a year and after I graduated we got married in August.
Q: Did you stay in the Chicago area?
DA: No, Henry was going to law school in Virginia. So we moved there and I became the breadwinner while he finished his degree.
Q: What did you do?
DA: All sorts of things. I traveled with the Washington and Lee Community Concert Series, going from town to town. I taught voice, I did recitals….
Q: So you literally sang for your suppers?
DA: Yes indeed!
Q: Where did Henry go after he got his degree?
DA: He got a federal clerkship in Greenville. But soon after that he got called in for army training.
Q: Did he go into combat?
DA: No, he wasn’t able to do that. He ended up stationed San Antonio. And since he was a lawyer, they naturally sent him to the burn center to be a doctor!
Q: Where you able to stay with him?
DA: Not on base. We lived in separate states and I flew out to see him occassionally until at last I was able to join him in Texas. We lived in a tiny little flat across from the base. There was no air conditioning and it was dreadfully hot!
Q: Boy, you were really moving around!
DA: Yes. But as it happens, on one of my layovers through the airport I read in a newspaper that Fletcher Wolfe was doing the Magic Flute in Atlanta. I was very excited because I love the opera and I had actually sung the role of Pamina and directed the opera once before.
Q: Were they holding auditions?
DA: No. What I did was I called up and got Fletcher’s assistant and explained that I really would like to audition for them. She to me they had already cast the role of Pamina and that the singer was in rehearsals at Fontainebleau. But she was interested in hearing me, I assumed to act as a cover (understudy) for the role, so did I have anything I could send her?
Q: Did you?
DA: I only had a cassette tape of my senior recital from Newcombe. But she said that would be fine and gave me the address. So I sent it off and hoped for the best. And one day I got a phone call from her saying she had listened to it and was very impressed with it and she was going to pass it along to Fletcher.
Q: Did you hear from him?
DA: After a time, I DID get a note from him. It was very formal and explained that he would hear me, but that I needed to learn specific pieces, in German, and they had to be perfect and I had to come to Atlanta on this specific day and perform them in front of the entire cast.
Q: What did you do?
DA: I panicked! I was in Texas in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have my score or any way to rehearse. So I had my mother mail me the score and I frantically set about learning the music. I had sung it, but in English – not German! And worst of all, I had no piano.
Q: A rather vital part of learning music!
DA: I had no idea what I was going to do. There was, however, a Baptist Church in town, and I knew they had to have a piano. So I kept going over and knocking on doors and trying to find someone to ask, but I was never able to find anyone.
Q: So what happened?
DA: I found an open window climbed in!
Q: WAIT! – You I broke into a Baptist church in Texas to work on German opera for an audition?
DA: (laughing) Yep! And every afternoon I would go over and spend several hours working on the music. I was terrified that someone would discover me.
Q: Did they?
DA: YES! But after I explained the situation they were very nice and said I didn’t have to climb in a window any more, they gave me a key!
Q: Did you learn everything?
DA: I hoped that I had! The day of the audition I flew to Atlanta. I was to go to the First Presbyterian Church on Peachtree Road. In those days there was a shuttle service from the airport to various hotels, but the church was quite a ways from any of those. So here I am, dressed in my best, with my suitcase, walking blocks and blocks to sing for Fletcher Wolfe.
DA: You bet! But I tried to stay calm and appear collected. As I approached the steps, I took a moment to compose myself. Suddenly this great big man stepped out of the church onto the top of the steps. He glared down at me - I had no idea what was going on!
Q: Was it Fletcher?
DA: No – it was actually Bill Supon who had been in charge of the Washington and Lee concert series that Henry and I did. He was singing the role of Papagano. But I didn’t realize it at the time. All I knew was there was this big guy scowling at me. Then he suddenly threw his head back, turned towards the church and shout “I TOLD you Fletcher – it HAD to the same Donna Angel!” (laughing)
Q: And how did the audition go?
DA: Wonderfully. I was offered the role of Pamina and went on to do a great deal of work with Fletcher.
Q: And what happened to the soprano that was in rehearsal for the role?
DA: (smiling) SHE became MY cover.
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