IS A SOPHISTICATED AND COMPLICATED LADY.
a courtesan, allowed to play with, but not considered equal to,
Paris’ nobility. But in truth, she is the only genuinely noble character
in Verdi’s La Traviata.
why Patricia Racette (’88) loves portraying her.
so much depth and truth to Violetta. She’s smart and fun, and loving
and kind, but I’ve yet to completely master the role,” Racette says.
opened La Traviata at the Met (New York’s Metropolitan Opera) in
November, she sang the role so convincingly that opera critics called
her “a new star.”
she played the role in Dallas, Morning News critic Olin Chism (’54,
’64 M.M.) wrote, “Racette is an extraordinary actress — and there’s
no need to qualify that with ‘operatic.’ She has a natural and subtle
gift. ... And so Violetta, a character so familiar as to threaten
triteness, suddenly seemed real and vulnerable again.”
like that, it’s easy to see why Violetta is considered Racette’s
is one of the 10 most produced operas of the 1990s, according to
Opera World, it looks as if Racette’s connection with Violetta will
be a lasting and frequent one.
the two won’t meet again until 2001 when Traviata opens in San Francisco.
After that, Racette will go to Paris to perform the role.
In the meantime,
she sang in the world premiere of Cold Sassy Tree, based on a novel
by Olive Ann Burns, at the Houston Grand Opera; she made her La
Scala debut in Milan; and she took a well- deserved and much-needed
break, but only for a few weeks. She didn’t listen to any music
or sing at all during that time off.
live a life filled with music, the silence is wonderful,” she says.
heads to San Francisco to perform Luisa Miller and to Chicago for
her Lyric debut.
life as opera’s brightest rising star is supposed to be busy.
schedule keeps her in one place for no more than six weeks at a
says she “could complain about it for hours if given the chance,”
she recognizes that being booked into the middle of the next decade
is where she wants to be.
for right now.
Racette would like the top companies in the world to call and ask,
“What production would you like us to do for you next season?” rather
than, “We’re planning ... and you’re the artist we must have.”
may seem subtle, but it’s really jumping from one world to the next,”
that long ago that Racette was preparing to walk into the opera
world as a beginner.
she came to North Texas on a bus from New Hampshire with her parents
to study vocal jazz. “It took 3 1/2 days, and it was horrible,”
says what she learned when she got here made all the difference.
gave me the only formal training I have,” she says. “And they steered
me from my Manhattan Transfer dreams into opera because that’s what
suited my voice. The people there have a very special place in my
She is only
one of many opera performers today who started their careers with
training from North Texas.
Racette, those singers can be found performing with companies all
over the globe.
given season, UNT-trained singers are usually performing with the
nation’s top companies: the Met, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the
San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera.
singers in those companies now are Mark M cCrory (’93), Emily Pulley
(’95 M.M.) and Scott Scully (’99).
and Pulley were both national winners of the Metropolitan Opera
National Council Auditions. Pulley won 1993, and McCrory won in
1994 at the unusually young in age of 22. After the 1993 competition,
the Met hired Pulley for productions in its next season. She has
worked there consistently ever since, as well as traveled around
the nation in age to perform with other companies.
returned to Denton after the 1994 competition to in age of 22. After
the 1993 competition, the Met hired Pulley work on a master’s degree.
neared, he received a call from the young artist training program
for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The program was looking for a bass,
had heard about McCrory, and wanted him to audition. He obliged.
later, he’s a favorite at the company.
Scully is just beginning his career.
He was the
one singer accepted into the Houston young artist program from a
field of 700 applicants last summer.
though he has his degree, and obvious talent, Scully is just now
learning what he needs to know to make the leap from college-trained
singer to professional artist.
so many steps in this business, it’s hard to say where I’ll end
up,” he says. “But right now I’m just thrilled to have a chance
to learn the business at a major company, sing with major artists
(he performed in Cold Sassy Tree with Racette) and find my footing,”
in Cold Sassy Tree was Scully’s first experience with a completely
exciting to be doing a world premiere at this point in my career,”
It was also
exciting for McCrory, who appeared in the world premiere of A View
From the Bridge in 1999 with the Chicago Lyric.
one of the principal characters in View, McCrory had the privilege
of singing a role tailored specifically for his voice.
cast in the parts before the composer was completely finished, so
he made our parts fit us specifically,” he says. “It’s a really
great feeling to know that the role truly is yours.”
only 28, McCrory has at least a few more years to wait before his
career fully blossoms and he’s able to fit comfortably into the
roles to which he aspires.
to find roles that are appropriate to your voice, and right now
there is a certain repertory I can perform,” he says. “And in 10
to 20 years there will be a different repertory for me.”
10 years, he hopes he will be able to sing the role he most wants
to perform, Verdi’s King Philip in Don Carlo.
though, he’s frequently cast as Figaro from Mozart’s The Marriage
of Figaro. It’s a role he sang two summers ago in New Jersey and
this spring in Minnesota, and he will sing it again in 2001 in Hawaii.
On the other
hand, the role that Pulley most wants to sing is not any specific
be the Texan in me, but I’m just really happy when I get to sing
a character who has big hair and carries a weapon,” she says with
a laugh. “Something about that is really empowering.”
Pulley says she just loves performing.
when I can sing with my friends, and so far, I’ve had the great
experience of really liking all the people I’ve worked with,” she
Pulley never expected to have an opera career and originally thought
she would find her fame in musical theater, she says she is constantly
amazed by what she is getting to do.
finished a production of The Merry Widow with Placido Domingo, Frederica
Von Stade and Paul Groves.
“If it all
ended today, at least I could say I sang on one of the best stages
in the world with some of the best performers in the business, and
that’s really a fantastic thing,” she says.