The Dallas Opera is thrilled 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 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 Rigoletto.
Critics and audiences were as impressed by Claycomb’s interactions with other principals in the cast (including the unforgettable Paolo Gavanelli in the title role) as by her solo moments onstage. Theater Jones wrote: “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 praised Claycomb’s “limpid tone, dazzling technique, and eloquent expression. Even atmospheric pitches were negotiated with delicacy and pliancy.” 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.”