FRANCE: Prot'eg'e

The citizens of France's bustling, southern city of Nimes (pop. 75,398) were every bit as proud of their local opera house as Belgium's aging ex-Prima Donna Eva Closset was of her protégé, José Faés. Nimes's playhouse, built in 1798, is billed as "the oldest theater of its kind" with no attempt to define its kind; Eva's protégé was her favorite nephew. The theater and José were brought together last June when Eva sent a circular letter to every opera manager in France, proclaiming José's brilliance and immediate availability as a tenor. Francis Lenzi, Nimes's entrepreneur, took a chance and...

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