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OPERA: Opera singer coming home for performance

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published May 2, 2008 at 3:49 a.m.

Mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton sings Brahms, Offenbach and Rodgers and Hammerstein on Sunday and Monday with the River City Men's Chorus.

— Mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton grew up in Arkansas, although as the daughter of a Methodist minister she moved around a lot.

"I went to high school in Malvern, but I really just say I grew up in Arkansas because I did live in a number of places growing up," she says.

She now makes her home in Santa Fe, N.M., but her professional travels take her all over the world, including gigs with the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, Opera Marseille, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Houston Grand Opera.

"The nomadic life is following me," she says a little ruefully.

But she maintains an Arkansas connection through David Glaze, the music minister at Trinity United Methodist Church of Little Rock and the conductor of the River City Men's Chorus, who was her first voice instructor and "continuing" piano teacher.

Clayton will join Glaze andthe Men's Chorus for a pair of concerts with the theme "Of Poetry" at 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday at Glaze'schurch, 1101 N. Mississippi St., Little Rock.

Admission is free. Call 377-1080.

Clayton will be the soloist in the Alto Rhapsody, op.53, by Johannes Brahms; the "Barcarolle" from The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach; and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Baritone Bernard Turgeon will sing three of the Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams: "Easter," "I got me flowers" and "Antiphon."

Also on the program: Brahms' Mainacht (May Night); "Diraiton" ("So They Say") from Les Chansons des Roses by Morten Lauridsen; settings of three Robert Frost poems, "Choose Something Like a Star," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Pasture," from Frostiana by Randall Thompson; Musica! by Brant Adams; a setting of Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" from American Song by John Leavitt; "Stars I Shall Find" by David Dickau (text by Sara Teasdale); "The Quest Unending" by Joseph Martin (text by Alfred Lord Tennyson) and "The Stars Are With the Voyager" by Eleanor Dailey (text by Thomas Hood).

"Part of this was my idea," she says. "Because I'm proud of his work with [the chorus].I told him I would be happy to come back at some point and make a contribution to a concert. I've heard their recordings and I think it's a nice organization for a city like Little Rock to have.

"It's certainly not all about me; I'm only doing a few things."

Clayton was on the phone from Santa Fe between a performance of her signature role, the title character in Bizet's Carmen, to open a new venue in Austin, Texas, and her trip to Little Rock. She gets to play Carmen at least once a year, she says, including a recent performance with the New York City Opera.

"It sort of depends on the season," she says. "But I love doing it, so I have no complaints."

Later this month she's headed to Paris for the world premiere of film composer Howard Shore's first opera, The Fly, with a libretto by David Hwang (M. Butterfly). David Cronenberg, who directed the 1986 film version with Jeff Goldblum, will be the stage director; Placido Domingo will conduct. A second performance is scheduled for Los Angeles in the fall.

Weekend, Pages 59 on 05/02/2008

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