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SFO stars set the bar high for others

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SANTA FE – Two of the leads in the Santa Fe Opera’s production of “Faust” – both with résumés that include the world’s major opera companies – try to be role models for young people.

One is soprano Ailyn Pérez, who is of Mexican descent. Pérez wants to set a good example for singers in general, but Latinas in particular. She portrays the character of Marguerite in the production.

The other is bass-baritone Mark S. Doss, who has the role of the devil, Mephistopheles. He said he would hope he’s a role model for African-Americans.

If you go
WHEN: Monday, Aug. 1. Repeats Aug. 8, 15, 20, 24 and 27
WHERE: Santa Fe Opera, five miles north of U.S. 84-285
HOW MUCH: Tickets are available in some price categories for the remaining performances. Go to the SFO box office or call 505-986-5900 or toll-free 800-280-4654 or visit www.santafeopera.org

Pérez’s own role models have been opera stars Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballe, Cristina Gallardo-Domas and Ana Maria Martinez.

“Ana Maria and I had met last summer at the Ravinia Festival (in Illinois). We were in different operas. I was awestruck. When I greeted her I told her how much of a role model she is for me and a wonderful singer,” Pérez said.

Martinez is singing the part of Mimi in the current SFO production of “La Boheme.”

Doss recalled attending a forum in Cincinnati while he was there singing in the opera “Samson and Delilah.” At the forum, he said, budding opera singer Eric Owens mentioned that Doss became an inspiration for him after seeing him perform in “Rigoletto” as part of the public television program “Live From Lincoln Center.”

This summer Owens happens to be portraying The Doctor in the SFO’s “Wozzeck.”

Doss, born and raised in Cleveland, came to opera after a series of steps. He cited a trio of events that guided him to a singing career. At East Technical High School, he sang in a production of “Godspell.”

“It was my first connection to musicals,” Doss said.

During one summer he had the lead – a male version of Dorothy – in a city-sponsored, original adaptation of “The Wiz.” The third event occurred when he was in seminary school at St. Joseph’s College in Indiana. He played the Padre in a school production of “Man of La Mancha.”

Doss left seminary school to study voice for the ministry. At the encouragement of a teacher, he competed in the Metropolitan Opera’s local and regional auditions. Counting his performances this summer in “Faust,” Doss figured he will have sung the role 40 times, about the same number of times he’s sung “Amonasro in “Aida.”

“Escamillo (in ‘Carmen’) is the role I’ve done the most, about 125-plus performances,” he said.

Pérez, who grew up in Chicago, took voice lessons in high school and received a scholarship at Indiana University, where she was a vocal performance major in classical music. She later graduated from the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.

Pérez said she especially enjoys singing in the SFO’s “Faust” because it is a new production.

“You get new direction, with new costumes. And I’ve never sung without anybody in the cast before, except Matthew Worth,” she said.

Stephen Lawless’ direction, for example, has Marguerite coming on stage on roller skates.

“(This and other updates) change the look of what you might expect to see. It’s exciting to be a part of it,” Pérez said.

Her first Marguerite was in a 2010 San Diego Opera production of “Faust.” In the title role there was tenor Stephen Costello, her husband.

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