Isabel Leonard Chosen for Maria Callas Award!

by christian.anderson


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Contact: Suzanne Calvin 214.443.1014                            Or Celeste Hart at 214.443.1071                          



            DALLAS, MAY 22, 2013 – The Dallas Opera is quite proud to announce the result of this year’s balloting for the 2014 “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” Award: American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, who made a dazzling Dallas Opera stage debut as the headstrong-yet-lovable Rosina in our season finale, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

This prestigious award is given to a single performer each season to honor a particularly memorable and outstanding company debut.  The selection of Miss Leonard, who amazed audiences with her seemingly effortless vocal perfection, her comic timing and her indelible portrayal of an independent-minded heroine, “Rosina,” was announced earlier this evening at the annual Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner held in the Crescent Ballroom of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel.

Miss Leonard’s star-turn prompted D Magazine Classical Music Critic Wayne Lee Gay to write, “Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, a rapidly rising star in the operatic world, brought a wonderfully rich tone and perfect bel canto flexibility to the character of Rosina, playing up the willful post-adolescent aspect.”

Katie Womack of The Dallas Observer agreed: “Soprano Isabel Leonard is one of the most animated characters on stage as the beautiful, charming Rosina. She’s a captivating starlet, flitting effortlessly between childlike petulance and endearing, hapless lover. Her voice is flexible and buoyant and perfectly suited for Rossini’s bel canto style, with acrobatic, sparkling lines of high notes and a warm, satiny sound in lower ranges.  Leonard’s chemistry both with the object of her affection (Count Almaviva) and her nasty, bumbling guardian (Dr. Bartolo) is mesmerizing….The interactions between DiStefano and Leonard are perfectly played, drawing one loud burst of laughter from the audience after another.”

Dallas Morning News Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell remarked in his review “…what a cast! Isabel Leonard is a dazzling Rosina, pert and pretty as can be, with a bright, soprano-ish mezzo that can flicker, blaze or smolder with no perceptible effort.”

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs of Theater Jones commented, “Isabel Leonard creates a crackerjack Rosina. Originally written for a contralto, every conceivable female voice has sung the role (with or without transpositions). Here Leonard’s mezzo voice has just enough soprano overtones to give her characterization a light touch, but enough mezzo to achieve Rossini’s concept. Her excellently sung coloratura runs are dramatically organic, growing out of the motivation of the text, rather than flights of notes. Some even incorporate laughter. This same kind of detail is noticeable throughout. She obviously decides how every note should be performed and puts it all together for a marvelous performance.

“So often, this role is played with a petulant edge that makes you wonder why the Count would put up with her. Not here. Her characterization looks forward and you can see glints of the Countess that Rosina will become in Mozart’s sequel. While keeping the charm of youth, Leonard is always a lady, albeit a young and girlish one. In all her planning and conniving, she is more mischievous than merely mean.”


            “The Dallas Opera was absolutely delighted to introduce Dallas to one of the most beautiful and exciting mezzo-sopranos of the 21st century,” explained Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny.  “Isabel Leonard held her own – and made it look effortless – in a tremendously gifted ensemble cast that included Nathan Gunn in the title role, tenor Alek Shrader in his company debut, stage veteran Donato DiStefano, Burak Bilgili and Jennifer Aylmer – creating a particularly charming portrayal of a Rossini heroine that made a huge, and very positive, impression on Dallas Opera audiences.

“The Callas Award provides this company with a marvelous opportunity to recognize the extraordinary caliber of singing artists who grace this stage, year after year,” Cerny added.  “In the midst of an unusually crowded field of worthy contenders, Miss Leonard captivated the hearts of our subscribers to take home this sought-after prize.”



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 2014 recipient responded to the news, by email, with a statement read this evening by Keith Cerny:


To the Board and Trustees of The Dallas Opera, the Company staff and all the wonderful subscribers:

“What a surprise to hear about this award!  I am really touched and thankful for your more than generous acknowledgment of my work.  It is an honor to me to accept this award and I hope this is the beginning of a long lasting relationship between all of us! 

A Million Thanks,

Isabel Leonard




There were nine additional 2013-2014 Season nominees for the Callas Award (artists making outstanding company debuts in a principal role)—all the contenders are listed below in alphabetical order):


Jennifer Aylmer, soprano – “Berta” – The Barber of Seville


Burak Bilgili, bass – “Don Basilio” – The Barber of Seville


Mardi Byers, soprano – “Marietta” – Die tote Stadt


Hal Cazalet, tenor – “Nicholas” – Death and the Powers


Jan Lund, tenor – “Victorin” – Die tote Stadt


Clémentine Margaine, mezzo-soprano – “Carmen” – Carmen


Bruno Ribeiro, tenor – “Don Jose” – Carmen


Alek Shrader, tenor – “Count Almaviva” – The Barber of Seville


Katherine Tier, mezzo-soprano – “Brigitta” – Die tote Stadt


The “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award” was launched during the 1991-1992 Dallas Opera Season.

Sharon Sweet was the first recipient for her impressive performance in the title role of Aida.  The list of subsequent winners reads like an opera’s “Who’s Who” from 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 Ben Heppner, to Greek-born Soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu (Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata) and last year’s winner, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who sang the role of “Tina” in our 25th Anniversary revival of The Aspern Papers.







Ticket Information for the 2014-2015 Dallas Opera Season


All performances are in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center unless otherwise described.  Single Tickets range from $19 to $275 and Flex Subscriptions are on sale starting at $75.  Family performance tickets are just $5.  For more information or to make your purchase, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online, 24/7, at




The Dallas Opera celebrates its Fifty-EighthInternational Season in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District. Evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2:00 p.m. unless otherwise stated.  English translations will be projected above the stage at every performance and assistance is available for the hearing impaired.  The Joy and Ronald Mankoff Pre-Opera Talk begins one hour prior to curtain, at most performances excluding FIRST NIGHT of the season.


THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

October 24, 26(m), 29, November 1, 7 and 9(m), 2014

In a single crazy, romantic day, doors will be locked and unlocked, disguised donned, kisses exchanged and innermost hearts revealed—to some of the most memorable music Mozart ever composed.

An opera in four acts first performed in Vienna on May 1, 1786

Text by Lorenzo Da Ponte after the 1784 play La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Time: The late 18th century

Place: Aguas frescas near Seville, Spain, the Almaviva’s country house

Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume

Stage Director: Kevin Moriarty

Production Design: John Bury*

Lighting Design: Mark McCullough

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Choreography: Joel Ferrell*

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Mirco Palazzi (Figaro) , Beate Ritter** (Susanna), Joshua Hopkins (Count Almaviva), Nicole Car** (Countess Almaviva), Emily Fons (Cherubino), Diana Montague* (Marcellina), Kevin Langan (Doctor Bartolo), Doug Jones (Don Basilio), Angela Mannino (Barbarina), Adam Lau* (Antonio) and Jon Kolbet (Don Curzio).

Production Owned by Lyric Opera of Chicago


SALOME by Richard Strauss

October 30, November 2(m), 5, 8, 2014

Once in a great while, the term “over the top” doesn’t seem nearly high enough.

An opera in one act first performed in Dresden, Germany on December 9, 1905

Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of Oscar Wilde’s French language play

Time: During the time of Jesus Christ

Place: King Herod’s palace on the Sea of Galilee

Conductor: Evan Rogister*

Stage Director: Francesca Zambello

Original Production: Francesca Zambello

Scenic Design: Peter J. Davison*

Costume Design: Anita Yavich

Lighting Design: Mark McCullough

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Choreography: Yael Levitin*

Starring: Deborah Voigt* (Salome), Robert Brubaker (Herod), Greer Grimsley* (Jokanaan), Susan Bickley* (Herodias), Scott Quinn (Narraboth), Heather Johnson* (Herodias’Page), Bradley Garvin (First Nazarene), Grigory Soloviov* (First Soldier), Jason Grant (Second Soldier), Joseph Hu (First Jew), Jay Gardner (Second Jew), John Robert Lindsey (Third Jew), Steven Haal (Fourth Jew), Patrick Guetti* (Fifth Jew), Tyler Simpson* (Second Nazarene), NaGuanda Nobles (A Slave) and Matthew Stump* (A Cappadocian).

Production Owned by Washington National Opera




LA WALLY by Alfredo Catalani

January 30, February 1(m), 4 and 7, 2015

The Climactic Final Act!

First performed in Milan, Italy on January 20, 1892

Text by Luigi Illica after Wilhelmine von Hillern’s story, Die Geyer-Wally

Time: Around the year 1800

Place: The Austrian Alps

Conductor: Anthony Barrese

Stage Director: Candace Evans

Scenic Design: TBD

Costume Design: TBD

Lighting Design: TBD

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Latonia Moore (Wally), Carl Tanner* (Giuseppe Hagenbach) and Jennifer Chung (Walter)

A Brand-New Dallas Opera Production!


With EVEREST by Joby Talbot

January 30, February 1(m), 4 and 7, 2015

A Dallas Opera World Premiere!

Text by Gene Scheer

Time: Modern Day

Place: In the Death Zone on Mount Everest

Conductor: Nicole Paiement

Stage Director: Leonard Foglia

Scenic Design: Robert Brill

Costume Design: TBD

Video Design: Elaine J. McCarthy

Lighting Design: TBD

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Andrew Bidlack (Rob Hall), Sasha Cooke (Jan Arnold), Kevin Burdette* (Beck Weathers) and Craig Verm* (Doug Hansen).


LA BOHÈME by Giacomo Puccini

March 13, 15(m), 18, 21, 27 and 29(m), 2015

A passionate and timeless masterpiece in a beloved period production

An opera in four acts first performed in Turin, Italy on February 1, 1896

Text by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after Henry Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de bohème

Time: mid-19th century

Place: The Latin Quarter of Paris, France

Conductor: Riccardo Frizza*

Stage Director: Peter Kazaras

Scenic Design: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Costume Design: Peter J. Hall

Lighting Design: Thomas C. Hase

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Children’s Chorus Master: Melinda Cotton

Starring: Ana Maria Martinez (Mimi), Bryan Hymel (Rodolfo), Davinia Rodriguez* (Musetta), Jonathan Beyer (Marcello), Alexander Vinogradov* (Colline), Stephen LaBrie (Schaunard) and Stefan Szkafarowsky (Benoit).

One of the Dallas Opera’s Most Popular!


IOLANTA by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

April 10, 12(m), 15 and 18, 2015

A rarely performed Tchaikovsky gem, set in Medieval Provence!

First performed in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 18, 1892

Text by Modest Tchaikovsky based on the Danish play King Rene’s Daughter by Henrik Hertz

Time: The 15th century

Place: Provence, a mountainous region in Southern France

Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume

Stage Director: Christian Räth

Scenic Design: TBD

Costume Design: TBD

Video Design: Elaine J. McCarthy

Lighting Design: Thomas C. Hase

Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Ekaterina Scherbachenko* (Iolanta), Sergey Skorokhodov* (Count Vaudémont), Joanna Mongiardo* (Brigitta), Lauren McNeese (Laura), Tamara Mumford* (Marta), Andrei Bondarenko** (Robert, Duke of Burgandy), Mikhail Kolelishvili (Renè, King of Provence), Andrew Bidlack (Alméric), Vladislav Sulimsky** (Ibn-Hakia) and Jordan Bisch (Bertrand).

Another New Dallas Opera Production


* Dallas Opera Debut

** American Debut


The Dallas Opera is supported, in part, by funds from:  Texas Instruments Foundation, TACA, City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs; 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.  Advertising support from The Dallas Morning News.  A special thanks to the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for its continuing support.


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