2011 Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year

by Suzanne Calvin

Your voice has been heard…and we had a nod of approval from D magazine’s Front Row blog, too.

Media Release


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contact: Suzanne Calvin









             DALLAS, MAY 19, 2011 – The Dallas Opera is extremely pleased 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 Miss 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 heart-rending Rigoletto.

            Both her interactions with other principals in the cast (including the unforgettable Paolo Gavanelli in the title role) and her solo moments onstage left area critics and audiences at a near-loss for words. 

            Wrote Gregory Sullivan Isaacs of Theater Jones: “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 Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell praised Miss Claycomb for her “limpid tone, dazzling technique and eloquent expression.  Even atmospheric pitches were negotiated with delicacy and pliancy.”

            William Burnett of 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.”

            The winner of the prestigious award was announced by Artistic Director Jonathan Pell at the annual Dallas Opera Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner, which began earlier this evening in the Crescent Ballroom of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel, 400 Crescent Court 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,” says Mr. Pell.  “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 fortunate enough to now 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 & 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,” Mr. Cerny explained, “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 for the Callas Award was conducted entirely online.  However, the results were verified by the independent accounting firm of Travis, Wolff & Company, L.L.P.

Each winner receives an etched-crystal plaque, created for The Dallas Opera by award-winning designers from Tiffany & Co., which bears the likeness of legendary soprano Maria Callas, who launched The Dallas Opera with a 1957 recital at the Music Hall in Fair Park.

            The 2011 recipient responded to the news, by email from Prague in the Czech Republic, with a statement read this evening by Mr. Jonathan Pell:

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 Operas 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 10 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 SMU, 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 Sutherlands 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 on 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!


Laura Claycomb



            There were seventeen additional 2010-2011 Season nominees (artists making outstanding company debuts in a principal role)—all the contenders are listed below in alphabetical order):


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 1991-1992 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.





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Please contact Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

214.443.1014 or suzanne.calvin@dallasopera.org







Ticket Information for the 2011-2012 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 friendly staff at The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online at www.dallasopera.org.




The Dallas Opera celebrates its Fifty-Fifth 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 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees will begin at 2:00 p.m.   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 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 & 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 Leoš Janá?ek

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: John Morrell

Lighting Designer: Adam Silverman*

Wig & 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 & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Jeanne-Michele 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 & 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 & 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 Armour) and Darren K. Stokes* (Second Man in Armour).

* 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 and watchmaker of The Dallas Opera.  Rosewood Crescent Hotel is the official hotel of The Dallas Opera.  Advertising support from The Dallas Morning News.  Supporting Partners: The T. Boone Pickens YMCA, Smartwater and Stephen Pyles Restaurant.  A special thanks to Mrs. William W. Winspear and the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for their continuing support.


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