David and Christopher Alden were high school seniors before they saw their first opera—it was The Barber of Seville—but that experience may prove as memorable for the world of great music as it was for them. “We realized in a flash,” recalls Christopher, “that opera was our career destiny.” Now 27, the twins are both seasoned stage directors, determined to strip opera of its 19th-century cobwebs and make it exciting for audiences today. Born to New York playwright Jerome (Bully) Alden and former ballerina Barbara Gaye, David and Christopher plunged into professional theater after graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971. David worked off-Broadway and two summers with the Santa Fe Opera before directing his first—The Barber again, with singer Frederica von Stade—in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Christopher worked for Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Theater before touring as stage director with the San Francisco Opera. Since then the brothers have directed operas in, among other places, St. Louis, Omaha, Detroit and Houston. “Opera has experienced an incredible renaissance in the past five years,” notes David. “A few heavyweight companies used to completely set the style. Now there are dynamic new companies all over the country.” And many of them, it seems, have the brothers Alden on call.
Carol Swanteson may have been born a city girl but she’d rather live where the deer and the antelope play. So, as the 24-year-old owner, occupant and sole hand on the 150-acre Pulltight Farm in Tundra, Texas, Carol has built a reputation as a top quarter horse trainer in the Southwest. She shares the ranch with two cats, four Australian sheep dogs and as many as nine equine boarders at a time. For $175 a month Carol feeds, bathes, barbers and trains quarter horses from five states. She also “breaks” horses that have never been ridden—not with John Wayne bronco-busting tactics but with hand-feeding and sweet talk. “The biggest mistake most people make with horses is to show fear,” she says. “The horse knows and takes every advantage.” Raised in Houston, Carol graduated in animal science from Texas A&M where she also won a scholarship for horse training and management. When her father gave her a long-neglected ranch two years ago, she put her know-how to work. Each year she judges livestock shows and conducts horsemanship clinics throughout the Southwest. She hopes to turn Pulltight into an equestrian camp for youngsters. For now, Carol revels in the solitary, rugged existence. “I have my animals, my friends, my neighbors and my work,” she says simply. What more could a cowgirl ask?