Questions for a Retired Opera Singer

Peter Pesco, 77, once a tenor who sang in places like Tanglewood and Bayreuth, retired to Bellevue in 2004. But Kirkland Choral Society made him sing again.

Photo by Kyle Johnson

When did you catch the opera bug?
The Army sent me to Japan. My friend Danny Robazzo says, “I got tickets to the opera!” I said, “Ah, get out of here with that opera stuff.” But Madama Butterfly blew me away. The next day I said, “I want to sing opera.” My teacher, Anna Naldi, said, “What do you want to be: a tenor or a baritone?” I said: “Which one makes more money?” She said the tenors. I said, “We’ll do that then.”

When did you discover Kirkland Choral Society?
Kevin Miller, the tax assessor, came by. I explained I had sung opera. He said, “You’ve got to check out KCS. My wife is the president.”

Did you have to audition?
Yes. It was a struggle. It’s part of the aging process: the vocal folds become a little more calcified in men than in women. They asked if I wouldn’t mind singing baritone.

Was it a difficult transition?
I had to seriously concentrate. At fi rst I didn’t have any low notes. But now I’m able to sing the low E-fl at and the high A-fl at, which is a pretty good range for a baritone.

If you could sing any opera role again, what would it be?
Rodolfo in La bohème.

What will you sing at your eightieth birthday party?
The Songs of Travel by Vaughan Williams. They deal with the idea of not being fixed in any one place.

What was the hardest job of your life?
Singing in Pinafore. We had to go two hours early every day to ballet practice. We thought, “Ah, this is sissy stuff.” But after about twenty minutes, we were really tired. The ballet people were fine — they were tough.

Visit our Multimedia page to view our video interview with Peter Pesco, in which he leads us through a beginning singing lesson and sings a few classics.