The Dallas Opera has announced the winner of the 2018 “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” Award: the American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen for his portrayal of Leporello in the critically-acclaimed spring production of Mozart's Don Giovanni.
This prestigious award is given to a single performer each season in recognition of a, particularly memorable and outstanding company debut.
"It’s an incredible honor receiving this award, which I will truly cherish. Especially considering the list of former winners, as it’s a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ in our art form," Ketelsen said. "As performing artists, a considerable part of our being is to seek approval: from intendants, colleagues, critics, agents, and ourselves.
"Perhaps above all these is the desire to have our work understood and appreciated by the public. It’s the entire reason for our endeavors and serves as a substantial part of our inspiration to perform regularly at a high level. That instant, honest, visceral feedback from an audience is beyond description and is its own reward.
The winner was announced at the annual Dallas Opera Board and Trustee Appreciation Dinner held in the Crescent Ballroom of the Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, TX.
The National Winner of the 1998 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions is an alumnus of the University of Iowa and Indiana University, who served for six years in the Army National Guard. Today, Ketelsen is renowned throughout the opera world for his powerful, sensitive bass-baritone; his extraordinary stage presence and his show-stopping skills as an actor.
Wayman Chin, reviewing Boston’s production of Le nozze di Figaro for Opera News magazine, had this analysis of Mr. Ketelsen’s portrayal of Figaro: “So powerfully realized was his playing that one felt that this big-hearted, warm and lovable guy was someone one knew well. Intelligent, sharp, totally present, with just the right mix of bravado and charm, Ketelsen performed like an athlete in peak form.
"He is the kind of artist for whom singing and acting meet seamlessly, in spontaneous and inspired conception. Even when he was just watching and listening, Ketelsen told us everything he was feeling: when he began to sing, it was pure magic.”
Here in Dallas, critics responded to Mr. Ketelsen’s 2018 TDO debut as Leporello, the reluctant “wingman” and servant to Craig Verm’s Don Giovanni, with equally high praise:
“Ketelsen played the role exceedingly well; his use of gestures and facial expressions and his knack for physical comedy brought a great deal of humor to the dark duties he performed for his increasingly evil employer. His singing matched his comic acting and kept the audience laughing to the end when he sings that he is “off to the bar to find a better boss” (Monica Smart, Dallas Observer)
There were seventeen additional 2017-2018 Season nominees for the Callas Award.