1968 Fidelio

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Norwegian-born Ingrid Bjöner, later Seattle’s first Brünnhilde, was also the company’s first Leonore. She also had a local connection: her husband, Thomas Pierpoint, was head of Boeing’s Vertol helicopter division. The production played to the company’s largest-ever Boeing audience. William Wildermann, Bjöner’s Rocco, calmly walked off stage in the middle of a scene to retrieve the prop gun from Bjöner’s dressing room, after she whispered to him in considerable alarm that she left her pistol behind, prior to the crucial scene where she confronts the evil Pizarro at gunpoint. As Glynn Ross later wrote: “I could only imagine what would have been the audience reaction if she’d had no gun and just pointed her finger. Billy had saved the production, and it seemed like my life!”

Wildermann’s role was taken in the other cast by newcomer Archie Drake, who sang Don Fernando in the German-language performances. In the years to come, Archie would become synonymous with Seattle Opera.