The Perfect Date
An Operatic Remembrance of Alice J. “Julie” Holmes
by Charles “Gentleman Caller” McKelvy
(Chicago, Illinois) Besides that amazing first date with my wife Natalie back in November 1976, my other date was the one I had with our friend and neighbor Alice J. “Julie” Holmes on a perfect fall day in the early years of the present millennium.
Madame Holmes, you see, was the consummate opera lover, and as such she loyally subscribed to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She initially opted for an evening series and would drive herself into the city and stay overnight at a downtown hotel. But then, as she geared down for the long haul, she switched to the matinée series and would take the South Shore in and the South Shore out, all in a day’s opera work.
Well, it wasn’t work for Julie.
Opera was the one and only reason for getting up in the morning and for taking another breath. It was, in her view, DA BOMB!
And, thanks to Julie Holmes, Natalie and I became serious lovers of opera. All we had to do, you see, was walk over to the Holmes Opera House, which doubled as her cottage here hard by Lake Michigan in Harbert, Michigan, and view videos of virtually every opera by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, and Mozart. And, of course, Wagner and Donizetti.
Julie Holmes had amassed an amazing opera collection by virtue of her love of opera and her service as secretary to United States Ambassadors the world over. Wherever Secretary Holmes went, be it Lima or Lisbon or Laos, so went her opera collection. She would host gala Opera Nights for the diplomatic community wherever she happened to be posted, and she brought that charming custom home to Harbert when she retired after more than 30 years of service to the U.S. Department of State. We fell in love with opera at our first Opera Night at the Holmes Opera House, and we became so devoted to the ultimate art form that we would join Julie on non-opera nights to devour more operas.
And so, because we came to share her intense love of opera, Julie began inviting us to join her at the Lyric for the real deal.
And it was just such an invitation that got me going on that perfect date I referred to in the first paragraph.
Julie had secured an extra ticket and invited me to accompany her to a matinée performance of Alban Berg’s Lulu at the Lyric starring one of America’s leading sopranos, Catherine Malfitano.
Malfitano was amazing, of course, but so was my date: the incomparable Alice J. “Julie” Holmes. Julie allowed as how I could drive the two of us to Michigan City in her five-speed Saab and then join her for a delightful train ride into the city on the South Shore all the while discussing opera and life and Julie’s adventures overseas.
I wore a coat and tie for the grand occasion, and Madame Holmes, as always, was dressed to the nines, and we dined in style at a stylish Loop restaurant before walking to the Lyric Opera House.
Did I say walk?
Well, I did suggest that to Julie, and she stopped in her tracks on the sidewalk outside the restaurant and said: “One does not walk to the opera!”
So that one and this one properly took a taxicab to the opera and spent the better part of an afternoon watching Catherine Malfitano chew up the Southern scenery.
It was all too beautiful, and now, as I look at the photograph of a young Julie Holmes that her niece Linda Heller just sent me, I know without question: And so was Julie.
Brava, Madame Holmes.