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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Nino
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I was 18, about to start college, and quite taken by a very exciting 24-year-old Italian tenor. It was with him that I first listened to an opera recording, lying on the living room floor, Toscanini audibly bellowing to Jan Peerce and Licia Albanese, "Buona!" during the love duet from Madama Butterfly.

Like probably a large fraction of 18-year-olds, I thought I was very wise and sophisticated, to be having a fling with this older man. But I knew that within a few weeks I would be leaving Peoria for Urbana to go to college and that would be that. (With only a couple love affairs under my belt, I was already developing a certain sang froid about terminations, I guess.) Besides, it seemed to me Nino was very much the "love the one you're with" style of lover, something of a rake, which explains my associating him now more with Verdi than with Puccini.

It was Nino who told my mother in very definite terms that I was gay, a perhaps slightly risky step, considering that I was a minor at the time. It's reported elsewhere in these pages. In any case, it worked out well.

I never saw him again after that summer and have no idea what became of him. But the love of opera has been there ever since, though I now prefer baritones to tenors, when it comes to male voices. Butterfly is still one of my favorite operas, too.

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