One day when I was in the seventh grade at Christ the King School in Dallas, the Ursuline nun who taught our class dragged in a phonograph with 78 rpm records from the convent. She put on an album of Puccini love duets sung by Licia Albanese and James Milton. I just fell in love with the sound of opera right away—I didn’t have to work at it. Every time she came in with the phonograph I was the only one who got excited; everybody else got out their comic books or made ready with the spitballs or to pull the girls’ pigtails. I never had a conversation about the music with her because I thought she was a pretty terrifying person, but I liked the records she played. In those days the Met Opera went on tour, and it came to the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas, so I campaigned and got my mother to take me. I had a big choice that year: Don Carlos, Carmen, Così fan tutte, or La Bohème. It was a hard choice. I had hoped to see Samson and Delilah because I knew it would end with the temple falling down and all the people getting killed, but I liked the music in Carmen. Still, my mother said two was the limit. She wasn’t going to see all of them.

Playwright and screenwriter Terrence McNally attended grammar school in Dallas and high school in Corpus Christi. A film version of his 1995 Tony award—winning play, Love! Valour! Compassion!, was released this summer.