Miss Kansas recently sang at the Miss America Talent Competition. While I don’t impugn her efforts of singing a much hackneyed version of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” (does anyone NOT sing this??), I want to bring to the fore some of my favorite Kansas singers:
I make no secret of the fact that I am a HUGE Joyce DiDonato fan. I was lucky enough to work with her in Laurent Pelly’s production of “Cendrillon” at Santa Fe. For someone who grew up in the Midwest, Joyce was like a myth – disarmingly charming, funny, hard-working, and everything that I aspired to as a singer. She sets a pretty high bar for me to the present day, and I enjoy following her career with much joy. Joyce was a student at Wichita State University, and is now a celebrated international star! She often closes her concerts with that Kansas gem “Over the Rainbow”.
Another “Joyce” that had a huge effect on me was the mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle from Baldwin, Kansas. Joyce was everything I loved about opera: fierce, dramatic, committed, and totally endearing. I rushed from my Italian class at KU to hear her sing for the committee hiring her. It was a thrill to meet her outside Swarthout Hall, and tell her how much I admired her work. Once she joined the faculty of KU, she became one of my personal idols, and I always found it a special thing to share a brief conversation with her in the hall. I was star-struck by this wonderful lady.
Born in Colby, Kansas, Sam Ramey dominated the bass repertoire during the last half of the Twentieth Century. Also a graduate of Wichita State University, Sam Ramey has sung diverse repertoire, being one of the great basses to also sing with aplomb the repertoire of Handel (making his début in Rinaldo with Marilyn Horne at the Met).