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Thread: The Opera Man

  1. #1

    Default The Opera Man

    Those of us who were at least semi-concious during the late 70s and the 80s might remember a street character whom I'll call The Opera Man.

    This was guy who used to spend his time on the sidewalks of W 57th St, holding a can or styrofoam cup and bellowing operatic arias at the top of his lungs to the passerby, his face turning red.

    At least they sounded at first like operatic arias until you stopped and actually listened to him, and then you began to realize that he was singing in no known language, those weren't real arias, and he was probably crazy.

    For some reason, a few days ago, this guy crossed my mind. I hadn't seen him on the street in decades. I began to search around the internet, and found a terrific picture of him from back in the 1980s by Garry Winogrand.

    But The Opera Man lives!

    As I was leaving a building on 57th St the other day, I turned around and I'll be damned, there he was, right in front of me. He looked a bit older, but was totally recognizable.

    He was stopping people on the street and handing out religious tracts. So I went up to him. He instantly handed me a tract, and then rather fiercely insisted that I talk with him about Christ. I tried to talk with him a short while. He pulled a small tattered Bible out of his pocket and pointed out various passages that he had underlined in ball point pen.

    He was almost completely incoherent, talking at an insane speed and I really couldn't understand anything he was saying. At first I was a little guarded interacting with this guy because he seemed very crazy and driven; but then I noticed a kind of sweetness and gentleness about him which put me at ease. I could see he was trying very hard to communicate through whatever mental damage he was suffering and I felt sadness watching him struggle so hard with his words.

    He vigorously shook my hand and asked my name. I said "Nick" and he said "Thank you for talking with me Nick." I didn't ask him his name. I asked if I could take his picture and he said with great dignity "Yes." and I took this picture of him.

    I then said "And didn't you used to sing opera on the street during....." and he suddenly became very impatient and cut me off, and said "Yes yes yes yes ! And I still do!!"

    A CLASSIC New York character.
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    Last edited by Nicholas West; June 29th, 2011 at 04:50 PM.

  2. #2


    Thanks for sharing this story.

  3. #3


    That's incredible. I'm glad he's still around & I hope he's ok. Did he sing again? Maybe it will be another Ted Williams rag to riches story. That would be fantastic.

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