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Twice, she insisted on elective sinus surgery just to obtain more painkillers. Once, she pretended that a flood had ruined her medication so she could get a prescription refilled. There were times when she was so stoned on Percocet, a narcotic analgesic, that she had no memory of actually singing, a self-described "junkie" whom the Metropolitan Opera banished from its stage.

Andrea Gruber's tales of addiction pour out like the rich tones of her soprano voice, which again are being heard in the title role of Turandot at the Met starting this week.

"Try being a functioning junkie at the Metropolitan Opera," Gruber, 39, said in an interview at the opera house. "I felt like such a fraud." Often, she would time a large dose for right before a major aria or duet toward the end of a performance, trying to achieve maximum numbness when the applause came.

"I felt unworthy," Gruber said.

With the precision of a recovering addict, she explained that she had been free of dependence on painkillers and tranquilizers for 8{ years. Finally settling into the major operatic career that was predicted for her nearly two decades ago, she said the time had come for her to talk about her descent into addiction and her climb back out.

Why now? Her past would arise anyway with the interviews that come with success, she said. Going public fulfills the need of the recovering addict to proclaim sobriety and make amends. Maybe it will help other people, whether addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Hence, Gruber said, she is discussing her drug problems for the first time in the United States, starting with an article in the current Opera News, which is published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. She rehearsed the part in interviews a year ago with several Italian publications.

"I believe it's important for people to know that there are people in all walks of life who come from hell and fight their way out," she said.

Gruber, who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said she knew that some people would consider her speaking out a publicity ploy, or a gimmick to draw a wider audience to what some consider an elite art form. "Fine, I'm a big girl," she said. And she said she recognized the risk of being known as opera's recovering addict.

"I don't want to be a cliche," she said. "But I will show you my tattoo," she added without missing a beat. She turned around, raised her shirt, and there it was on her lower back, the first five notes and words of In Questa Reggia, Turandot's aria from Act II. It is one of Gruber's signature roles.

The gesture was in keeping with her earthy and sometimes profane manner. Her eyes crease when she smiles, and the laugh is a big, soprano laugh. Beyond opera, her musical tastes run to a bad-girl mix of Janis Joplin, Eminem and 50 Cent. At 5-foot-7{, Gruber weighs a relatively svelte 180 pounds, down about 140 from her peak before gastric bypass surgery _ another potentially touchy subject in a world of heavyset performers that Gruber seems to relish discussing.

Her addict past appears to be fairly unusual in the opera world, Gruber and several opera house executives said, although there are singers who have struggled with alcoholism. They reason that drug addiction is rare in opera, unlike in the pop music world, because the physical and mental toll would render singers unable to perform. And maybe classical singers are just "squarer," Gruber said.

But her story does shed light on the pressures of building a significant opera career; on the hunger for big, new voices; on the conflicts between overweight singers and opera management.

Gruber's life was troubled from early on. She was born and grew up on West End Avenue near 103rd Street on the Upper West Side, the daughter of two history professors. She attended the private Bank Street School until she was asked to leave after seventh grade. She said she began smoking marijuana about the age of 11. At the Putney School in Vermont, she tripped on acid her first week as a freshman. But it was also at Putney, as a talented but unmotivated flutist, that she began studying voice at 16.

"The only constants in my life were trouble and drugs and music," she said.

She managed to win a place at the Manhattan School of Music, where her drug use continued. "I was the kid who was freebasing cocaine in the bathroom during the middle of vocal lit class," Gruber said. She said she also used heroin in her teenage years. Midway through her time in music school, she did her first of three stints in rehab, at Phoenix House in Manhattan, and left nonprescription drugs behind.

But after a root canal, she was given a prescription for Percocet and began a decade of abusing prescription medication, with her habit reaching dozens of pills a day.

Gruber said she used her skills as an actor to manipulate doctors into prescribing the drugs. "I'm talking about just junkie scams," she said, like the supposed flood and the sinus surgeries.

Still, she won a coveted place in the Young Artists program at the Met in 1989, and that year, precociously, she was asked to perform as the Third Norn from Goetterdaemmerung for a Met recording.

"That was how good and promising she was at the very beginning," said Jonathan Friend, then and now the Met's artistic administrator. "The voice was big, rich, and the top was not a problem for her."

Her stage debut at the Met came in that role the next year. Critics and opera aficionados began calling her a bright new light on the vocal scene. Her first starring role at the house was in Ballo in Maschera in late 1990, with Luciano Pavarotti. The performance won critical praise.

"I was stoned out of my gourd on Percocet," Gruber said. Her deficiencies were obvious enough to prompt James Levine, the Met's music director, to ask her not to sing the next performance.

"I was a mess," she said. "I had no business singing Ballo in Maschera onstage at the Met."

Her career sputtered along, with a few successes mixed with cancellations. She had trouble memorizing dialogue and missed rehearsals. Her vocal cords would swell when, numbed by the drugs, she would push her vocal mechanism. Cortisone shots would bring down the swelling, and the cycle would continue.

She said she felt lucky not to have damaged her voice, although Friend said he would be "exceptionally surprised" if she had not done at least some harm.

"Somehow I managed to function well enough not to get fired while I was singing," Gruber said. "I was just not rehired."

Then came a disastrous Met performance of Aida in 1995. She recalled that at one point when she was unable to hit a note, the Met orchestra's concertmaster at the time, Raymond Gniewek, looked up at her and just shook his head. The Met _ her hometown opera house, where her career began and was nurtured _ cut its ties and bought out her contract.

"Joe wants you out," she said her representative told her, meaning Joseph Volpe, the house's general manager.

Volpe said he did not now remember what her problem was. "She wasn't singing well," he said. "I decided we shouldn't continue having her perform." Friend, too, said that the nature of her problems were unclear and that the Met did not have the responsibility to intervene.

"The fact is, the Met is not her voice teacher, her parents, her boyfriend, her whatever," he said. "We have a relationship with her, but our obligation is to the institution." Friend added that he was heartbroken by her decline and what seemed at the time as her failure to fulfill her early promise.

In the mid '90s, Gruber receded into relative obscurity on the opera scene. "Put it this way: I was not the shining star for the future," she said. Only Speight Jenkins, the general director of the Seattle Opera, maintained faith, casting her in three operas during the decade.

"I believe that Andrea had the capacity to come through it because she was so strong-willed," Jenkins said.

In 1996, she was hospitalized in Vienna with a blood clot in her leg. There, while doctors were trying to control her withdrawal symptoms, she was so desperate for drugs that she reached into the toilet to retrieve pills she had just vomited up. Her next stop was the Hazelden clinic in Minnesota, where she began a year and a half of withdrawal and recovery.

As she recuperated, her weight ballooned. Because of her girth, Gruber said, she was told she would not be asked back to the Vienna State Opera and was dismissed from the Salzburg Festival. She bears grudges to this day. "I was sober, I got my life together, and all of a sudden I was too fat," she said with disgust.

Her career rehabilitation took a major step forward in 1999, when Friend heard her sing well in San Francisco and took a chance, engaging her for several performances in Nabucco at the Met in 2001. She was hired to sing Turandot at the house in the fall of 2002, a triumphant return that brought cheers from the chorus. A well-reviewed Nabucco came the next year.

Gruber lives next door to a firehouse, Ladder 25, and felt the loss of firefighters at close quarters on Sept. 11, 2001. Like many others, she experienced a "life is short" moment, and she decided to have gastric bypass surgery.

"I said, "I don't want to spend a second thinking what it's like to live in this body,' " she said. "It changed my life. I can feel my mechanism. I can run around the stage like a monster. I can sing things in one long breath rather than three or four."

Now, with a boyfriend in West Virginia (a relationship that blossomed during a six-week e-mail courtship), her beloved golden retriever, Max, at home and engagements through 2008 at the Met, Gruber professes to be happy.

Striding through the opera house's basement after a laughter-filled Turandot rehearsal one day recently, she heard repeated variations of "It's great to have you back!" Security guards greeted her by first name.

She walked out to 65th Street and yelled out to the traffic: "Mamma need a taxi! Take me home!"