Press Room

Dallas Opera names Laura Claycomb “Callas Debut Artist of the Year”

The Dallas Opera is thrilled to announce the result of this year’s balloting for the prestigious “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” award: Texas-born, internationally-renowned lyric coloratura soprano Laura Claycomb.  The award is given to a single performer each season for a particularly remarkable and memorable company debut.  The selection of Claycomb, a flame-haired diva who dazzled audiences with her breathtaking vocal qualities and exceptional stage artistry, made her long-sought company debut as Gilda in The Dallas Opera’s 2011 revival of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Critics and audiences were as impressed by Claycomb’s interactions with other principals in the cast (including the unforgettable Paolo Gavanelli in the title role) as by her solo moments onstage.  Theater Jones wrote: “Her big aria, ‘Caro nome,’ was impeccably sung and dramatically spot-on.  Her portrayal is that of an innocent and sheltered girl grappling with the newly awakened…passions of a worldlier woman.  Her choice to give her life to save her feckless lover’s is agonizing rather than girlishly romantic.”  Dallas Morning News praised Claycomb’s “limpid tone, dazzling technique, and eloquent expression.  Even atmospheric pitches were negotiated with delicacy and pliancy.”  Opera Warhorses added, “Hers is a lustrous voice, affecting in her duets with Gavanelli’s Rigoletto, passionate in those with tenor James Valenti’s Duke of Mantua.”
Artistic Director Jonathan Pell announced the winner of the prestigious award at the annual Dallas Opera Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner, which was held on May 19 at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in uptown Dallas.  “There were so many artists making their Dallas Opera debuts this season, and so many truly extraordinary performances that it must have been difficult for our subscribers to choose just one,” Pell explained, continuing:
“I must confess, though, that I was very pleased that Laura Claycomb was selected as this year’s Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year.  There is something so heartwarming about the ‘local girl makes good’ scenario, considering that so often ‘a prophet is without honor in his [or in this case, her] own land.’
“It is astonishing that Laura was making not only her Dallas Opera debut, but what amounted to her local debut as a professional singer, since she hasn’t yet sung with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
“She has had great acclaim in opera houses and symphony halls around the world, but I know that coming back to Dallas and singing for this audience meant a great deal to her.  An artist of her caliber is like a beautiful gemstone, and we were now fortunate enough to be able to show her off in the perfect setting of the Winspear Opera House.”
“If ever there were a dream cast for one of the great masterpieces in the 19th-century Italian repertory, this was it,” says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny:
“I was tremendously moved the first time I saw the wonderful Paolo Gavanelli onstage in the title role and – knowing that he would be joined by Laura in her company debut – I was eager to see the chemistry generated by these two extraordinary artists in roles that required such a wide range of emotions.
“Their poignant duets exceeded my highest expectations.  When Miss Claycomb delivered her shimmering, sublime rendition of ‘Caro nome,’ I knew her Gilda embodied everything the composer himself had ever meant this young woman to be.
“The Winspear stage has rarely witnessed a finer blend of musical artistry and dramatic characterization; no one who was there will ever forget it.  Together with a host of impressive performances reflected in this year’s stellar list of nominees, Miss Claycomb’s Gilda sets a very, very high bar for Dallas Opera seasons to come.”
“Last year I promised you that the task of choosing an honoree for this award should become more difficult with each subsequent season,” added Mr. Cerny.  “I believe we have delivered on that promise.”
As has been the case for the past several years, balloting among season subscribers for the Callas Award was conducted entirely online.  However, the results were verified by the independent accounting firm of Travis, Wolff & Company, LLPEach winner receives an etched-crystal plaque, created for The Dallas Opera by award-winning designers from Tiffany & Co., and bearing the likeness of legendary soprano Maria Callas, who launched The Dallas Opera with a 1957 recital at the Music Hall in Fair Park.  Laura Claycomb, the 2011 recipient, responded to the news by email from Prague, with a statement that Pell read out:
“To the Board and Trustees of The Dallas Opera, Jonathan Pell, and the patrons of The Dallas Opera:
“I am thrilled to accept The Dallas Opera’s ‘Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year’ award.  Singing in my hometown has been a dream of mine since I first decided to follow opera as a vocation.  This award means so much to me, and is the culmination of years of hard work.  It is extremely gratifying to have that work so appreciated, and for this I heartily thank the Dallas patrons who voted for me and Jonathan Pell at The Dallas Opera for inviting me to sing this beautiful role.
“I would also like to thank my parents and sister, who pushed me from the very beginning to develop my passions and talent, and who have always been spectacularly supportive of my career.
“My first experience of live opera was at age ten at The Dallas Opera at Fair Park Music Hall.  I spent my teens attending shows there with student discount tickets, sometimes coming to see the same show numerous times.  This opera company has a profound effect on this city, and made an indelible mark on me as a young music student.  As a Dallas native, having sung in choirs at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and Highland Park High School, and having studied voice at Southern Methodist University, I think I am singularly qualified to know firsthand what this award means.  I am mindful of the roster of names that I join here.  I still remember the late Joan Sutherland’s last ‘Vilja-Lied’ on the Dallas Opera stage while I was at SMU; I count myself fortunate to have been a misty-eyed witness to her farewell.
“I hope you, as the Board and Trustees, understand the importance The Dallas Opera has for the many lives the Opera touches.  The caliber of singing at The Dallas Opera has always been sensational; I realize the competition I had for the ‘Debut Artist of the Year’ award this year alone.  Consequently, I am deeply touched and honored that you are bestowing on me this award bearing the name of my biggest operatic idol, Maria Callas.
“My only regret is that I cannot be there in person to accept this award: I am singing concerts with the San Francisco Symphony on tour in Europe this week and next.  I would love it if you could entrust this award into the safekeeping of my parents, Linda and Larry Claycomb until they can bring it to me in Italy this summer; they deserve it as much as I do, with all the nurturing they have given me and my singing over the years.
“It certainly takes a village to produce a great artist, and that village has been my beloved Dallas.  A Texas-sized ‘thank you’ to you all for awarding me this prestigious distinction!
“Sincerely, Laura Claycomb”
There were 17 additional nominees – all artists making outstanding company debuts in a principal role – for the 2010-11 season; the contenders are listed in alphabetical order below:
Nominees for 2011 “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” award
Meredith Arwady – “Hostess of the Inn” in Boris Godunov
Evgeny Akimov – “Dmitri” in Boris Godunov
Elena Belfiore – “Smeton” in Anna Bolena
Elena Bocharova –”Marina” in Boris Godunov
Charles Castronovo – “Romeo” in Romeo & Juliet
Kirstin Chávez – “Maddalena” in Rigoletto
Laura Claycomb – “Gilda” in Rigoletto (winner)
Roxana Constantinescu – “Stephano” in Romeo & Juliet
Vitaly Efanov – “Pimen” in Boris Godunov
Paolo Gavanelli – “Rigoletto” in Rigoletto
Georgia Jarman – “Elvira” in Don Giovanni
Mikhail Kazakov – “Boris Godunov” in Boris Godunov
Mikhail Kolelishvili – “Varlaam” in Boris Godunov
Mirco Palazzi – “Leporello” in Don Giovanni
Ailyn Pérez – “Zerlina” in Don Giovanni
Oxana Shilova – “Xenia” in Boris Godunov
Andrei Spekhov – “Shchelkalov” in Boris Godunov
Paulo Szot – “Giovanni” in Don Giovanni
The “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” award was launched during the 1991-92 Dallas Opera Season and became an instantaneous institution.  Sharon Sweet became the first recipient for her impressive performance in the title role of Aida.  Subsequent winners have included Cecilia Bartoli, Mary Dunleavy, Elizabeth Futral, Hei-Kyung Hong, Denyce Graves, Indira Mahajan, Mary Mills, Patricia Racette, Latonia Moore, Christopher Ventris, Catherine Naglestad, James Valenti, and the 2010 winner, Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, for his indelible portrayal of mad Captain Ahab in The Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick.
Information about “May at The Dallas Opera” may be found online by visiting and checking the calendar listings.
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The Dallas Opera wishes to express its gratitude to the following exclusive partners:
AMERICAN AIRLINES – official airline of The Dallas Opera
LEXUS – official vehicle of The Dallas Opera
CARTIER – official jeweler and watchmaker of The Dallas Opera
ROSEWOOD CRESCENT HOTEL – official hotel of The Dallas Opera
Ticket information for the 2011-12 Dallas Opera Season
All performances are in the acoustically acclaimed Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.  Subscriptions start at just $85 and are on sale now.  Single tickets go on sale in September.  For more information, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at (214) 443-1000 or visit
The Dallas Opera celebrates its 55th international season in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas.  Evening performances will begin at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees will begin at 2pm.  English translations will be projected above the stage at every performance.  Assistance is available for the hearing impaired.
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR by Gaetano Donizetti
Dead Men DO Wear Plaid!
October 21, 23(m), 26 & 29, and November 6(m), 2011
An opera in three acts first performed at Teatro di San Carlo, Naples on September 26, 1835
Text by Salvatore Cammarano, based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Bride of Lammermoor
Time: Around 1700
Place: Scotland
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Stage director: Garnett Bruce
Costume design: Peter J. Hall
Lighting design: Marie Barrett
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Fight choreographer: Bill Lengfelder
Starring: Elena Mosuc* (Lucia Ashton), Bryan Hymel* (Sir Edgardo di Ravenwood), Luca Grassi** (Lord Enrico Ashton), Jordan Bisch* (Raimondo Bidebent), Scott Quinn (Normanno), Aaron Blake (Lord Arturo Bucklaw), and Cynthia Hanna* (Alisa)
KATYA KABANOVA by Leos Janácek
October 28, 30(m), November 2, 5 & 13(m), 2011
Romance Reigns in Rural Russia!
An opera in three acts first performed in Brno, October 23, 1921
Text by Cervinka, based on Ostrovsky’s The Storm
Time: Around 1860
Place: The little town of Kalinov on the banks of the Volga River
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage director: David Alden
Scenic design: Charles Edwards
Costume design: Jon Morrell
Lighting designer: Adam Silverman*
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Patricia Racette (Katerina Kabanova), Susan Bickley* (Marfa Kabanova), Roger Honeywell* (Boris Grigoryevich), Anthony Dean Griffey* (Tikhon), John Tessier* (Vanya Kudrjas), Sasha Cooke* (Varvara), Andrew Shore (Dikoy), Ann McMahon Quintero* (Glasha), and Aaron Blake (A Passerby)
TRISTAN & ISOLDE by Richard Wagner
February 16, 19(m), 22 & 25, 2012
A Special Opera-in-Concert, with projections by Moby-Dick’s Elaine McCarthy!
Ancient Myths, Modern Cine-Magic!
An opera in two acts first performed in Munich, June 10, 1865
Text by Richard Wagner, based on an ancient Celtic and Icelandic legend
Time: Legendary
Place: A ship at sea; outside King Marke’s palace, Cornwall; Tristan’s castle at Kareol
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage director: Christian Räth
Video design: Elaine McCarthy
Lighting design: Alan Burrett
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet (Isolde), Clifton Forbis (Tristan), Elizabeth Bishop (Brangäne), Jukka Rasilainen** (Kurvenal), Kristinn Sigmundsson* (King Marke), Scott Quinn (Melot), and Aaron Blake (A Young Sailor/A Shepherd)
THE LIGHTHOUSE by Peter Maxwell Davies
Inaugural production of the Dallas Opera Chamber Series
Presented in collaboration with the Dallas Theater Center
In the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center
March 16, 17 & 18(m), 2012
A Chilling Supernatural and Psychological Thriller!
Time: December 1900
Place: Edinburgh Court of Enquiry, Fladda Isle Lighthouse off the Scottish coast
Conductor: Nicole Paiement*
Stage director: Kevin Moriarty* (opera directorial debut)
Scenic design: Beowulf Boritt*
Costume design: Claudia Stephens*
Cast to be announced
LA TRAVIATA by Giuseppe Verdi
April 13, 15(m), 18, 21, 27 & 29(m), 2012
Let’s Party Like It’s 1849!
An opera in three acts first performed in Venice at Teatro La Fenice, March 6, 1853
Text by Francesco Maria Piave, based on Alexandre Dumas’ play, La dame aux camélias
Time: 19th century
Place: Paris
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Stage director: Bliss Hebert
Production design: Allen Charles Klein
Lighting design: Thomas Hase
Choreographer: Rosa Mercedes*
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Myrtò Papatanasiu** (Violetta Valéry), James Valenti (Alfredo Germont), Laurent Naouri* (Giorgio Germont), Amanda Crider* (Flora Bervoix), Timothy Mix* (Baron Douphol), Tom Corbeil* (Marchese D’Obigny), Ethan Herschenfeld* (Doctor Grenvil), and Susan Nicely (Annina)
April 20, 22(m), 25, 28, May 4 & 6(m), 2012
Hearts Tested, Tried and True!
An opera in two acts first performed in Vienna, September 30, 1791
Text by Emanuel Schikaneder
Time: Legendary
Place: Mythological Egypt
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Production: August Everding
Stage director: Matthew Lata
Scenic design: Jörg Zimmermann*
Costume design: Renate Kalanke*
Lighting design: Duane Schuler
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus master: Alexander Rom
Children’s chorus master: Melinda Cotten
Starring: Ava Pine (Pamina), Shawn Mathey* (Tamina), Patrick Carfizzi (Papageno), L’ubica Vargicová* (The Queen of the Night), Raymond Aceto (Sarastro), Kevin Langan (The Speaker), David Cangelosi (Monostatos), Angela Mannino* (Papagena), Caitlin Lynch* (First Lady), Lauren McNeese* (Second Lady), Maya Lahyani* (Third Lady), Aaron Blake (First Man in Armor) and Darren K. Stokes* (Second Man in Armor)
* Dallas Opera Debut
** American Debut
The Dallas Opera is supported, in part, by funds from: City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs; TACA; the Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)American Airlines is the official airline of The Dallas Opera.  Lexus is the official vehicle of The Dallas Opera.  Cartier is the official jeweler of The Dallas Opera.  Rosewood Crescent Hotel is the official hotel of The Dallas Opera.  The Dallas Morning News provides advertising support.  The T. Boone Pickens YMCA, SmartWater, and the Stephen Pyles Restaurant are new supporting partners.  A special thanks is due to Mrs. William W. Winspear and the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for their continuing support.

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