George's interest in classical and operatic music began at the age of 18 months. One day, his mother came into the living room, and found the floor littered with cassette tapes. Next to George was a neat stack of additional tapes—all classical or opera. George had taught himself how to use the cassette deck, and had played each tape (for a few seconds). Those that were not classical or operatic music, he had thrown over his shoulder. The classical/operatic tapes, though, had been and neatly stacked next to the tape player.
George's parents hadn't prompted his interest in classical music; in fact, they hadn't much cared for it. That is, until they realized their 18-month-old could identify classical, and was fascinated with it. So George Sr. and Vicki started introducing him to videotapes of operas, including the Who's Afraid of Opera? series (operas acted out with puppets) and, later, recordings of actual stage performances.
By age two, George could identify practically any opera or piece of classical music, as well as the composer.
In 1983, George's father wanted him to see a live opera at the San Francisco Opera House. George Sr. wrote the General Director, Terence McEwen, to ask special permission to allow George to attend. The General Director granted the unique request. And so at age 2 1/2, George became the youngest operagoer the opera house ever had.
George's first opera was Verdi's La Traviata. George Sr. knew the production featured world-renown tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who had long been George's favorite singer.