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Wife of injured Andris Nelsons makes BSO debut

Kristine Opolais will sing part of Verdi’s Requiem.Marco Borggreve

The whodunnit is solved. The maestro did it.

Now that Andris Nelsons, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s newly named music director, is expected to make a full recovery from a severe concussion suffered last weekend in Germany, his wife can laugh.

“It was dark and the door was closed and he didn’t see it,” Kristine Opolais said as she recounted the accident Friday. “He’s big and he’s like a big child. It is comic.”

Nelsons hit his head on a door at his residence last weekend in Bayreuth, Germany, the town where he was slated to conduct at the prestigious Wagner festival. The accident resulted in a hospitalization of several days.


Opolais, a rising star in her own right, spoke from Tanglewood, where she will make her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night singing the demanding soprano part in Verdi’s Requiem. Her husband was supposed to conduct. Out of the hospital but under doctor’s orders not to travel, Nelsons continues to recover from home, and will be replaced by Carlo Montanaro.

As soon as Opolais learned that Nelsons would be OK, she said, she knew what she had to do. The soprano, who made her much-praised debut with the Metropolitan Opera in January, would keep her engagement to represent the family at Tanglewood.

“It was very important to me,” said Opolais, 33. “I was one of the people who told him very strongly that he has to take this position [as BSO music director]. This orchestra is absolutely brilliant and this is a really big step for him. For me, it’s exciting to be here and representing both of us.”

Back in Germany, Nelsons’ mother is staying with him, said Opolais. The couple’s 18-month-old daughter, Adriana, is at their home in Riga, Latvia, with Opolais’s mother.

Opolais madeamuch-praised Metropolitan Opera debut as Magda in Puccini’s “Rondine” in January.RUBY WASHINGTON/NEW YORK TIMES

But don’t expect the family to stay away from Boston for long. In her first interview since her husband was named to the BSO post, Opolais said she was eager to get an apartment in the area before Nelsons takes over in 2014. This is despite the fact that Opolais has a steady gig at the Met in New York. “I am a good wife so I think we need to live where my husband is working,” she said. “And Boston is a fantastic city for that. It’s a very safe city. It’s a beautiful city.”


Opolais is no asterisk. Her career is taking off, with engagements around the world.

A “lovely woman and an affectingly natural actress,” New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote after her Met debut in Puccini’s “Rondine.” “She has a plush voice with a throbbing richness that lends a touch of poignancy to every phrase she sings, even when she’s being coquettish.”

Tony Fogg, the BSO’s artistic administrator, calls Opolais “one of the leading singers of her generation.”

“She’s come into her own maybe the last four or five years,” he said. “She’s in her early 30s now, at a time when the voice really starts to come into full bloom, a period in a singer’s career when you’re reaching the first pinnacle of their development.”

Saturday’s concert is not, interestingly enough, the first time a husband and wife were scheduled to play these roles at Tanglewood. On Aug. 2, 1975, the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich conducted the Requiem with his wife, Galina Vishnevskaya, as the soprano.


Fogg and Opolais imagine it’s only a matter of time before she and Nelsons share the stage at Tanglewood or Symphony Hall.

In fact, Opolais mentions specific composers she would love to sing with the BSO: Strauss, Wagner, and Rachmaninoff. She admits she’s disappointed that Nelsons is back in Germany. And it’s not just because they’re married.

“It’s very difficult, with all my respect for the conductor we have now, who is a great conductor,” Opolais said. “This piece, I feel it’s a little bit difficult and I’ve sung this twice and only with Andris.”

“First of all, we are very close to each other, and we feel each other really well,” she said. “Secondly, I feel Andris is a very high-level musician. Everything comes from his heart and soul.”

Opolais also says there is a lesson to be learned from Nelsons’ incident with the door. Slow down.

“He will be very careful the next time,” she said, with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Next time, switch on the light before you’re going somewhere.’ ”

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com.