Music: Firehouse Coloratura

Soprano Roberta Peters, 23, was just sitting down in the hairdresser's shop one morning last week when the phone rang.

It was a message from the Metropolitan Opera, warning that she might have to substitute for an ailing Susanna (Nadine Conner) in that night's performance of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and advising her to go home and rest up. Pretty Roberta went home, all right, but not to rest; she had never sung the opera, had not even studied it for five years. She called in a relay of coaches, who put her through the...

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