An opera-singing banking executive?
Christina Carpenter really worked the left and right sides of her brain.
Carpenter, who died at 80 on March 15, spent 40 years managing the accounts of some of South Florida’s top movers and shakers as a vice president and personal banking representative at Coconut Grove Bank, which she joined in 1969. Her clients included local politicians, Miami Dolphins, a gubernatorial hopeful, business executives and Groveites. She managed about 400 personal accounts.
“She was my go-to account rep for many years,” said veteran South Florida press agent Charlie Cinnamon. “Loved her, respected her, wonderfully warm and absolutely, a class act.”
Concurrently, from 1965 forward, Carpenter also sang in the chorus on numerous productions for Florida Grand Opera.
For Carpenter, the dual careers — the mathematical and the artistic — came naturally.
“In Germany, when she was just a young girl around 5, she had been introduced by her mother to the operatic world,” said her husband James Carpenter, a member of the Florida Grand Opera chorus since 1961. “When operas were presented in her city of Chemnitz, many of the resident artists of that company were personal friends of her mother and she hobnobbed with the stars of the day. She attended her first opera and memorized various people’s parts and took to it like a duck to water.”
The opera, too, is where she met Carpenter, her second husband, during rehearsals in 1968 for Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus. One hot kiss — staged, of course, but oh, so real — led to a lifetime together in Coconut Grove.
“In Die Fledermaus there is a love scene and the director said, ‘In this scene we are pairing off in couples, and this calls for kissing at a particular part of the music. I want real kissing. I don’t want any of this stage stuff.’
“Christina and I were paired together by luck,” Carpenter, a tenor, said — and he was ready. Method actor all the way.
“I said, ‘Are you up for this?’ and she said, ‘Absolutely!’ We had a passionate kiss … and that was the beginning of our history. Our romance began then,” he said. They married in November 1969.
Nearly 20 years later in a 1987 Miami Herald profile on the couple, the only married pair in the chorus, then known as the Greater Miami Opera Company, soprano Christina Carpenter said: “The theater is flammable. It's easy to be led into temptation.”
Born in the East German city of Chemnitz three days before Christmas 1934, Carpenter and her mother escaped across the Swiss border in 1949 while chased by hounds. “They could hear them baying behind them in the snow,” her husband said.
The family arrived in New York, and Carpenter went to work for the Bank of New York. By 1959, she had moved to Miami and worked for the former Peoples National Bank of Commerce in North Miami before taking a position with Coconut Grove Bank.
By the mid-’60s, married, with two sons, David and Mark Anderson, Carpenter joined the Grand Opera after meeting impresaria Judy Drucker at choral productions at the University of Miami. Drucker encouraged her to audition.
As son David Anderson scrolled through his mother’s high school yearbook, class of 1952 in the Bronx, James Monroe High, he found a small poem that was written by one of her classmates. The words are striking:
When the walls of the earth have crumbled/And the roads no more we trod,
May your name in gold be written/In the autograph of God.
“This is such a fitting end to her remarkable life,” Anderson said. “Who knew it would fit so well!”
Carpenter is survived by her two sons, husband, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A celebration of life will be held at 3 p.m. April 11 at Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Dr., Miami.
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