College of Liberal Arts

All the World's an Opera Stage for English Alumnus Speight Jenkins

Posted April 28, 2014

By Jessica Sinn

Many of us go through college without a clear career path in mind. But a lucky few have the great fortune of knowing their true calling at a very young age.

For Speight Jenkins (BA, English ’57), that passion was opera. It all began in the early 1940s when a first grade teacher introduced his class to opera music.

“After class I hurried home and asked my parents about the opera,” Jenkins says. “I was completely fascinated when my mother told me about an unusual story in which a father puts his daughter to sleep in a ring full of fire. She showed me a book about the Ring cycle—and from that moment forward I was hooked.”

Since his first encounter with Richard Wagner’s famed Ring cycle—an epic story of the clash between love and power, gods and men—Jenkins was caught in his own star-crossed love story.  He believed a lucrative career in music was impractical and unattainable, yet he couldn’t resist the gravitational pull toward the Metropolitan Opera.

“I always wanted to work in the opera, but my parents wanted me to become a professional man,” Jenkins says. “So I chose to study law in New York City because it was close to the Met.”

To read the full story, visit Life & Letters.