by Mary Hammann, violist
Note: The photos in this article are by Rose Callahan and originally appeared on Last Night at the Met. They are used here with permission.
For years I have been intrigued by an extremely well-heeled couple who are often in our audience at the Met. Many opera fans are elegant at the Met, but this couple has a friendly ease and playfulness that accompanies their elegance. From the viola section I can spot them easily. First of all, they often attend more than one opera at the Met per week. Second, they are always elegantly dressed in outfits that subtly match each other and coordinate with the stage. For Aïda, the night before Halloween, she wore an Egyptian-inspired “costume” and for Carmen she wore a dress with a jagged red line down the front, perfectly matching the curtain on stage. Of course she sported a large red flower in her hair as well. He always complements her ensembles with his ties and cummerbunds.
One recent night, right as intermission began, I scrambled up to the conductor’s podium to get their attention. I think they were a bit surprised by my entreaties, but graciously agreed to let us interview and photograph them.
Dick and Cathy Soderquist are both now retired and live outside Washington, D.C., but they travel often and far to attend opera. It is their passion. And it is fair to say, they are Opera Fan(atic)s. They have been Met patrons since 2001 and are members of the Wagner Society. Even with subscriptions to both of their hometown opera companies, the Washington National Opera and the Washington Concert Opera, they manage to have an astounding five subscriptions to the Met Opera. “We like to see every production once,” Dick explains, but they have seen the Met’s new production of Marriage of Figaro five times this season. They also travel globally, catching performances from Adelaide, Australia to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Dick played accordion as a child and his mother sang in a choir, so he has always loved music. As a teenager he started watching his first operas from standing room at the old Met. So he has heard live all the great legends - many of whom I’ve heard only on recordings. Cathy started loving opera later in her life, once she fell in love with Dick. His favorite opera is Tristan und Isolde, but Cathy can change favorites weekly - currently it’s The Marriage of Figaro.
They not only love the Met’s productions, they love the Met audience. “It is the most educated and appreciative audience we have ever encountered.” But they add that Met audiences are also the loudest, with cell phones going off and all the coughing.
In summers they go to Gilbert and Sullivan and other operettas and American musicals at the Ohio Light Opera. “It’s fun watching younger singers getting their feet wet. They really put their hearts and souls into it.” During the winters they stop by New York on their way to ski in Vermont.
Dick says, “This Met season has started out fantastic with Macbeth and Marriage of Figaro. The casts’ singing, acting, and interactions have been superb.” Cathy adds, “For us it’s all about having fun.” That’s what really caught my eye from the pit all these years.