Webster’s describes opera as “A musical drama made up of vocal pieces with orchestral accompaniment, overtures, and interludes.” Some humorists describe it as “Music, with a lot of killing.” However, most people think of opera as a very sophisticated form of musical entertainment, enjoyed by an esoteric few.
In fact, I’ll wager that the average person has never attended an opera and couldn’t define the terms “aria, libretto, or mezzo-soprano.” I include myself in that group because my idea of sophistication is an occasional visit to the Myerson Symphony in Dallas, and only when my good friends aren’t using their season tickets on a given Sunday.
Yet, we’ve all heard of the great Enrico Caruso, who sang to great acclaim at the opera houses of Europe in the early 1900s, and the late Luciano Pavarotti, who became the most commercially successful tenor of all time and gained worldwide fame for the brilliance of his tone. More recently, Placido Domingo, the phenomenal Spanish tenor, performed a concert during the World Cup tournament in Brazil.
One of the major reasons I enjoy doing these personal profiles is because of the marvelous people I get to meet and the education I receive from them. When my wife Annette and I learned that one of our neighbors is a diva who has performed across the country and around the world, we eagerly sought some time with her.
NaGuanda (pronounced Nuh-Gwanda) Nobles began singing within the supportive walls of her home church in Thomasville, Georgia. After graduating from Florida State University with Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees in voice performance, she made her debut on the opera stage as Papagena in a production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, with the FSU orchestra.
Throughout her years of college, Mrs. Nobles was a featured soloist in the FSU Singers, directed by Dr. Andre Thomas. In the summer of 2002, Dr. Thomas invited her to be the soprano soloist on the Soul of America tour throughout Germany. Since that time, NaGuanda has performed in Germany, London, The Netherlands, Viet Nam, Hawaii, Australia, Bahamas, Pennsylvania, California, Dayton, Chicago, and Dallas, just to name a few.
Recently, during a lunch visit at our home with her husband Kirk, daughter Kaira, 7 and son Kirk Jr. 15 months, we learned more about opera in a couple of hours than we ever knew before meeting this delightful family. “I grew up singing gospel in church and there was a woman who would sing in the higher register. I remember going home and imitating her,” NaGuanda said. “My mom was a singer too, so one night at rehearsal she had me sing the song I was imitating. Then there was a lady who played the organ in our church and she also was a soprano who sang spirituals so beautifully that I fell in love with the music.”
Before long, she was asked to join the chorus. “I started going to chorus and was tutored by a man named Dr. Allen. He was the community head of music and drama which consisted of all of the high schools in the area, and he introduced me to the choir in the schools. So I got involved and started competing in the solos and ensembles. When I started bringing home first-place awards, I thought, “Oh, this is cool!” Believe me, I never thought that singing could bring me all of this and provide so much fun too.” Dr. Thomas offered Mrs. Nobles a full scholarship if she would pursue a career in singing.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can get a degree in just singing?’” she said with a smile. “That was kind of mind-blowing. My thinking was that I would go to Florida State on a full scholarship and get a voice performance degree and for my graduate degree I would do what I really wanted to do, which was interior designing. So that was my plan. However, on my graduation day, Dr. Thomas took the choir to Viet Nam to do a tour. So I graduated that morning and we left that evening headed to Viet Nam. I began to replay all the steps that had gotten me to where I was at that point. It was then that I realized I had to rethink this whole interior designing plan.” Thus began a career that would ultimately take her to some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world.
By the way, NaGuanda is not the only talent in the Nobles household. Kirk, an executive with the Samsung Corp. is also a jazz trumpeter. They met when Kirk was living in Austin and NaGuanda moved there from Tallahassee. He was playing in a couple of bands and she moved there to be part of the Austin lyric opera. While living in Austin she attended a church service where Kirk was playing the trumpet. He was playing in the band at church and his minister had just released a CD that was pretty popular at the time. NaGuanda saw him on a morning TV program, which led to the church visit.
It was the beginning of a love affair that continues to this day. I must also mention that Kaira is about the most charming girl you could ever imagine meeting. We first became aware of her charisma when her dad accompanied her as she sold Girl Scout cookies in the neighborhood. Not only did we buy several boxes, but we learned that she had been the subject of a Fox News broadcast, which publicized her sales success with the delicious treats. Incidentally, she also plays the piano. We can hardly wait to see the aptitude that emerges as Kirk Jr. begins to tap into those talented genetic gifts.
To learn more about NaGuanda, please check her webpage: www.naguandanobles.com.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.