Susan Graham Wins 'Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year' Award

The Dallas Opera is tremendously proud to announce the result of this year's balloting for the 2013 "Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year" Award: American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who made an unforgettable Dallas Opera stage debut in the Winspear just a few short weeks ago.

This prestigious award is given to a single performer each season to honor a particularly memorable and outstanding company debut. The selection of Miss Graham, who amazed audiences with her exceptional vocal qualities and powerfully moving portrayal of the inexperienced "Tina" in Dominick Argento's The Aspern Papers, was announced earlier this evening at the annual Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner, sponsored by Sentient Jet and held in the Crescent Ballroom of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel.

Miss Graham's star-turn was singled out from a host of stellar performances by Classical Music Critic Anne Midgette of The Washington Post: "Susan Graham sang ravishingly, with a kind of matter-of-fact excellence, from gentle high pianissimos to an extended a capella duet with (Nathan) Gunn that was at once conversational and lyrical - and, remarkably, on pitch."

Dallas Morning News Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell remarked in his review that Miss Graham sang the role "stirringly and poignantly...vividly portraying an increasingly conflicted figure."

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs of Theater Jones commented, "Susan Graham is amazing as Tina, that spinster niece. Of course, vocally she is at the top of her form and the reigning Queen of Mezzoland. She paints a pathetic picture of Tina: conflicted and anguished, torn between loyalty to Juliana, the responsibility of possessing what might be a masterpiece, and her desire for even a chance at love and a life beyond the crumbling villa. The usually glamorous Graham is transformed into a dowdy and drab cipher of a woman with mousey hair severely pulled back from her face. Such a tempestuous situation, suddenly blowing into her monotonously empty life, leaves her completely drained of what little gumption she ever had."

"The Dallas Opera was thrilled to seize the opportunity to bring the phenomenal Susan Graham to Dallas to make her long-awaited debut," explained Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. "And what better way to make a splash on the stage of the Winspear than with an all-star cast in a new, twenty-fifth anniversary production of The Aspern Papers, the company's first commissioned opera."

"The Callas Award gives the Dallas Opera a marvelous opportunity to recognize the extraordinary caliber of singing artists who grace this stage, year after year," Cerny added. "Miss Graham must have made an indelible impression on our subscribers, who awarded her this sought-after accolade after considering a host of worthy contenders for this season's 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 2013 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, Keith Cerny, and the patrons of The Dallas Opera:

"I am thrilled to receive the Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award! In our profession, there aren't many avenues for singling out a specific artist for a specific project, and "The Aspern Papers" is an opera that is very dear to me. When the role of Tina was offered to me a couple of years ago, I was very excited to do another role in this opera (I performed the ingénue role of Sonia 20 years ago in Washington DC!), and Dallas was the perfect place to do it.

Our stellar cast and conductor Graeme Jenkins, spearheaded by the wonderfully imaginative stage director Timothy Albery, made this show unforgettable, not to mention the amazing experience of singing in your world-class Winspear Opera House. To be recognized in my debut with the company is a very great honor indeed, and to receive it in my home state of Texas is the icing on the cake. Plus, Maria Callas is a longtime idol for me, and virtually everyone in my profession who appreciates organic passionate artistry. I try to imbue my performances with the kind of honesty of emotion and storytelling, so I'm doubly thrilled to receive an award bearing her great name.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this great award.

Sincerely and with love,

Susan Graham

There were six additional 2012-2013 Season nominees for the Callas Award (artists making outstanding company debuts in a principal role)-all the contenders are listed below in alphabetical order):


Orlin Anastassov, bass - "Ramfis" in Aïda

Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano - "Sonia" in The Aspern Papers

Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano - "Tina" in The Aspern Papers

Joseph Kaiser, tenor - "Aspern" in The Aspern Papers

Nadia Krasteva, mezzo-soprano - "Amneris" in Aïda

Lise Lindstrom, soprano - "Princess Turandot" in Turandot

Christian Van Horn, bass - "Timur" in Turandot

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 last year's winner, Greek-born Soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu (Violetta in Verdi's La traviata).

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