Dallas Opera Announces 2017 Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year

By: Jun. 16, 2017
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

The Dallas Opera is delighted to announce the winner of the 2017 "Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year" Award: luminous Italian-American soprano Marina Costa-Jackson.

This prestigious award, named after one of the most renowned opera artists of the 20th century, is given to a single performer each season in recognition of a particularly memorable and outstanding company debut. The winner was announced earlier this evening at the annual Dallas Opera Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner held in the Crescent Ballroom of the Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, TX.

Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, but raised in Palermo, Italy, the vocally gifted and strikingly beautiful artist initially resisted the idea of following in the footsteps of two successful sisters who sing opera. That changed when Marina Costa-Jackson was admitted into the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and advanced through various competitions to become the Metropolitan Opera National Council winner (2015), winner of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition (2015) and the second place winner of the 2016 Operalia.

In recent years, she has also performed in concert overseas with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and with Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden.

Responding to her recent portrayal of Mimi in Welsh National Opera's production of La Bohème, critic Nigel Jarrett for Wales Art Review proclaimed that Ms. Costa-Jackson "was the real find here. She's clearly a powerhouse, her voice beautifully modulated to reflect Mimi's tubercular character." Bachtrack's Rohan Shotton expressed awe at her "wonderfully full, rich tone...By the end of Act IV, she was almost translucent in her consumption but demanded one's attention at the centre of the drama."

Here in Dallas, critics responded to her TDO debut as the conflicted young priestess, Adalgisa, in our April/May production of Bellini's Norma, with unbridled enthusiasm:

"Marina Costa-Jackson proved to be a gloriously-voiced Adalgisa," wrote William Burnett of Opera Warhorses. "She was hauntingly beautiful in the passages that begin Mira, o Norma, the most famous of Adalgisa's great duets with Norma...Costa-Jackson perfectly matched Elza van den Heever's vocal fireworks."

Reviewing for The Dallas Morning News, Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell noted, "as the junior priestess Adalgisa, (Costa-Jackson) is, if anything, even more powerful vocally, with a brilliant, but never cutting, edge on her soprano: she can also buff off the gleam for a warm satin finish."

Monica Smart, reviewing for the Dallas Observer, found her the perfect complement to Elza van den Heever's Norma: "The lightness and delicacy of Costa-Jackson's singing, with its floating and spinning high note, was a perfect balance to van den Heever. Each made the other's performance shine and their stunning duet was a high point of the evening."

"Patrons flocked to our first Norma keenly anticipating Elza van den Heever's acclaimed mastery of the title role," explained Keith Cerny, The Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO, "but Marina Costa-Jackson added an extra element of surprise to these performances with her extraordinarily nuanced acting and thrilling vocalism.

"Dramatically, she proved to be a breathtaking 'mirror image' of the anguished and more world-weary high priestess, and Adalgisa's emotional struggle to balance love and loyalty had wrenching impact in Miss Costa-Jackson's expressive and sympathetic portrayal.

"I'm not at all surprised," Cerny added, "that our subscribers were moved to select her for this prestigious award."

The voting for the Callas Award was conducted entirely online by electronic ballot and was open to season subscribers only. The results were verified by the independent accounting firm of Armanino, L.L.P.

The winner will receive a beautiful etched-crystal plaque created by award-winning designers from Tiffany & Co. for The Dallas Opera. The plaque bears the likeness of The Dallas Opera's unofficial Godmother, Greek soprano Maria Callas. "La Divina" launched The Dallas Opera with a 1957 recital at the Music Hall in Fair Park and continued to grace TDO's stage in those early years with a series of now-legendary performances.

The 2017 award recipient responded to the news, by email, with a statement read to the dinner guests this evening by General Director and CEO Keith Cerny:

"Debuting with The Dallas Opera as Adalgisa was a dream come true!

Now, the unexpected honor of being selected as the 2017 recipient of the Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award has left me breathless! "La Divina" has long been my inspiration-a figure who fuels my passion and aspirations as a singer.

I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the outstanding Dallas Opera season subscribers for this expression of support and encouragement. Throughout the run of Norma, I felt the Dallas audiences exhibited such incredible warmth and receptiveness. Thank you to the Dallas Opera for allowing me to participate in that joy!

Again, with abundant gratitude and love to all, I remain humbly yours,

Marina Costa-Jackson

Ms. Costa-Jackson's upcoming engagements include performances this summer at Paris National Opera in the role of Micaëla in Carmen, followed by star turns as Violetta in Cologne Opera's La Traviata, Fiordiligi in Seattle Opera's production of Così Fan Tutte (with sister Ginger Costa-Jackson singing the role of Dorabella), and Maria in the Bel Canto rarity, Maria di Rohan, for Washington Concert Opera.

There were twenty-one additional 2016-2017 Season nominees for the Callas Award (artists making outstanding company debuts in a principal role)-listed below in alphabetical order:


Svetlana Aksenova - "Tatyana" - Eugene Onegin

Lindsay Ammann - "Quartet" - Arjuna's Dilemma

Emma Bell - "The Governess" - The Turn of the Screw

Tony Boutté - "Arjuna" - Arjuna's Dilemma

Jacqueline Echols - "Pip" - Moby-Dick

Ashley Emerson - "Flora" - The Turn of the Screw

Katrina Galka - "Quartet" - The Turn of the Screw

Hui He - "Cio-Cio-San" - Madame Butterfly

Humayun Khan - "Krishna" - Arjuna's Dilemma

YongHoon Lee - "Pollione" - Norma

Alexandra LoBianco - "Miss Jessel" - The Turn of the Screw

Alyssa Martin - "Quartet" - Arjuna's Dilemma

Mithra Mastropierro - "Clotilde" - Norma

Peter McGillvray - "Stubb" - Moby-Dick

Lucas Meachem - "Sharpless" - Madame Butterfly

Oliver Nathanielsz - "Miles" - The Turn of the Screw

Musa Ngqungwana - "Queequeg" - Moby-Dick

Kai Rüütel - "Olga" - Eugene Onegin

Reginald Smith, Jr. - "The Bonze" - Madame Butterfly

Gianluca Terranova - "B. F. Pinkerton" - Madame Butterfly

Dolora Zajick - "Mrs. Grose" - The Turn of the Screw


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

The first recipient was Sharon Sweet for her impressive performance in the title role of Aida. The list of subsequent winners reads like an opera's "Who's Who" from Susan Graham, 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), mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (Rosina in The Barber of Seville), Ekaterina Scherbachenko (the title role in Tchaikovsky's Iolanta) and last year's winner, superstar mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato for the title role in Great Scott, a 2015 Dallas Opera world premiere by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally.


Founded in 1957, The Dallas Opera is an internationally-recognized innovator dedicated to the overall advancement of the operatic art form and the support of established and emerging artists, as well as the education and development of new opera audiences in North Texas-and beyond. These goals are achieved by commissioning and producing world-class opera; through groundbreaking institutes, national competitions and topical programs; and by presenting opera in both traditional and non-traditional formats and venues in order to attract patrons of every background, educational level, and ethnicity-while engaging with more than 87,000 people in our community each year. TDO is equally committed to the task of responsible stewardship and is managed with efficiency and accountability, to the highest possible standards.


All performances are in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center unless otherwise indicated. Single Tickets range from $19 to $289. Family performance tickets are just $5. For more information or to make your purchase, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online, 24/7, at www.dallasopera.org.


The Dallas Opera celebrates its Sixty-First International 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. With the exception of FIRST NIGHT, The Joy and Ronald Mankoff Pre-Opera Talk will begin one hour prior to curtain, at most performances.

SAMSON & DALILA by Camille Saint-Saëns

October 20, 22 (m), 25, 28, and November 5 (m), 2017

A passionate drama of biblical proportions!

Libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire

Time: 1150 B.C.E.

Place: Ancient Palestine

Conductor: EmManuel Villaume

Director: Bruno Berger-Gorski*

Set Designer: Peter Dean Beck*

Costume Designer: Carrie Robbins*

Lighting Designer: Alan Burrett

Wig & Make-up Designer: Dawn Rivard

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Choreographer: Nycole Ray

Starring: Olga Borodina* (Dalila), Clifton Forbis (Samson), Richard Paul Fink (High Priest of Dagon), Michael Chioldi* (Abimélech) and Ryan Kuster (Old Hebrew)

A traditional period production from Pittsburgh Opera!

LA TRAVIATA ("The Fallen Woman") by Giuseppe Verdi

October 27, 29 (m), November 1, 4, 10 and 12 (m), 2017

Come toast the greatest love story in all of opera!

Time: Mid-19th century

Place: Paris, France and the French countryside

Conductor: Carlo Montanaro*

Original Director: Frank Galati*

Revival Director: Stefania Panighini**

Production Designer: Desmond Heeley

Lighting Designer: Alan Burrett

Wig & Make-up Designer: Dawn Rivard

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Choreographer: John de los Santos

Starring: Georgia Jarman (Violetta Valery), Zach Borichevsky* (Alfredo Germont), Vladislav Sulimsky (Giorgio Germont), Abigail Levis* (Flora Bervoix), Brenton Ryan* (Gastone), Dale Travis (Baron Douphol), Daniel Armstrong* (Marchese D'Obigny), Ryan Kuster (Doctor Grenvil) and Rachel Sterrenberg* (Annina)

A gorgeous, classic production from Lyric Opera of Chicago!


A sweeping Viennese concerto paired with a charming domestic comedy!

By Erich Wolfgang Korngold

February 9, 11 (m), 14 and 17, 2018

Violin Soloist (KORNGOLD CONCERTO): Augustin Dumay*

The Dallas Opera Orchestra conducted by EmManuel Villaume


Sumptuous Viennese music laced with orchestral color and wit!

Libretto by Leo Feld

Time: Early 20th century

Place: Vienna, Austria

Conductor: EmManuel Villaume

Director: Peter Kazaras

Set Designer: Donald Eastman*

Costume Designer: Tommy Bourgeois

Lighting Designer: Krista Billings

Wig & Make-up Designer: Dawn Rivard

Starring: Paul Groves* (Wilhelm Arndt), Laura Wilde* (Laura), Brenton Ryan (Florian Döbllinger), Susannah Biller* (Lieschen), and Craig Colclough* (Peter Vogel).

One of the most rarely performed opera gems! In its third professional U.S. production!

SUNKEN GARDEN by Michel van der Aa

March 9, 11 (m), 14 and 17, 2018

A phenomenal visual, musical and emotional adventure - live and in 3-D!

Libretto by David Mitchell

Time: Present Day

Place: Unknown

Conductor: Nicole Paiement

Director: Michel van der Aa*

Set Designer: Theun Mosk**

Costume Designer: Astrid Schulz**

Lighting Designer: Theun Mosk**

Sound Designer: Tom Gelissen*

Wig & Make-up Designer: Dawn Rivard

Starring: RodeRick Williams* (Toby Kramer), Katherine Manley* (Zenna Briggs), and Miah Persson* (Iris Marinus).

Combining live actors and 2-D and 3-D film, to take you where opera has never gone before!


April 13, 15 (m), 18, 21, 27 and 29 (m), 2018

Mozart's operatic masterpiece brought vividly to life under the baton of Music Director EmManuel Villaume!

Time: 20th century

Place: Seville, Spain and the surrounding countryside

Conductor: EmManuel Villaume

Director: Robert Falls*

Set Designer: Walt Spangler*

Costume Designer: Ana Kuzmanic*

Original Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler

Lighting Designer: Chris Maravich*

Wig & Make-up Designer: Dawn Rivard

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Mariusz Kwiecie? (Don Giovanni), Laura Claycomb (Donna Anna), David Portillo* (Don Ottavio), Ellie Dehn* (Donna Elvira), Kyle Ketelsen* (Leporello), Virginie Verrez (Zerlina), Craig Verm (Masetto), and Morris Robinson (The Commendatore).

An evocative and thrilling production from Lyric Opera of Chicago!

* 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.


To post a comment, you must register and login.


Join Team BroadwayWorld

Are you an avid theatergoer? We're looking for people like you to share your thoughts and insights with our readers. Team BroadwayWorld members get access to shows to review, conduct interviews with artists, and the opportunity to meet and network with fellow theatre lovers and arts workers.

Interested? Learn more here.