In the 1970s, Simon Estes - the son of an Iowa coal miner and grandson of slaves - was triumphing in Europe's most legendary opera houses. He starred at La Scala, Covent Garden, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, and the Bayreuth Festival (where he was the first male of African descent to sing lead roles). But here in his home country, top opera companies ignored him, and the reason was obvious: race. That slight could have embittered almost anyone, but not Estes. What saw him through was guidance from his mother - advice she had first given him when he was a child in Centerville, Iowa.