Rising star

Denyce Graves is the current Carmen of choice, and TDO has her

When Graves returns to New York, she will be reunited with her mentor, "Three Tenors" Placido Domingo. It was Domingo who discovered Graves in a Houston Grand Opera young artists' production of Verdi's Otello after she had bombed out of the finals of the Metropolitan Opera regional auditions in New York and became ill. They later sang Carmen together in London, and he has been tremendously helpful and supportive, she says, in bridging the gap between being a student and a pro. "We did many concerts [and] a few operas together and two recordings, and he was always suggesting me for projects. He's been a wonderful contact, and a wonderful friend, also. There was a period in my life that I was going through something very difficult, and he was very, very kind. He was always calling to check and see how I was doing. He's a lovely human being."

Domingo has expanded his musical career to include conducting and is now director of the Washington Opera. Graves and Domingo plan to record Carmen, but so far there's no firm deal. Graves does, however, have a solid deal to follow on the path that many other opera stars have recently embarked upon: to record a crossover album of show tunes by Cole Porter, Sondheim, and Gershwin. It will be the seventh album in her discography, which includes one solo album.

Other future plans include concerts, recitals, more Dalilas, the role of Marguerite in Berlioz's Damnation of Faust (which she has already done four times this year), another Dorabella, and Charlotte in Massenet's Werther. A secret dream, she says, is to sing Tosca, a role usually reserved for sopranos. Graves is not fond of modern operas, although she just finished doing Stravinsky's 1950s opera, Rake's Progress, in Paris before she came here, and American Carlisle Floyd wrote a role in his 1962 opera, The Passion of Jonathan Wade, with Graves in mind. "It depends on the composer; how it's written. A lot of it, I'm sorry to say, is against the voice. Some things like Mozart make you better; it's therapy for the voice. Others are against the voice; they tear it down."

The roller-coaster ride of Graves' career, she says, has been "wonderful and terrible." She is learning to preserve her private life and spend more quality time with husband Dave Perry, a classical guitarist and importer of Spanish guitars. "When you live your life out of a suitcase on the road, you have to remember there's a tremendous amount of beauty in what we do. At the same time, sometimes you want to just leave the stage and be normal for a little while; sometimes you can just crave solitude. I've learned a thing or two in my little career so far, and in my travels along the way. It's as important to me to schedule quiet time as it is to go to engagements."

In the meantime, Dallas audiences have a chance to catch this rising star now, in performance, before she--like so many others who have hit it big--price themselves out of our market.

The Dallas Opera's production of Carmen happens one last time, on Saturday, November 16, at the Fair Park Music Hall. Call (214) 443-1000 for tickets.

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