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Released February 3, 2003


HATTIESBURG -For more than 50 years, Roberta Peters' beautiful coloratura soprano voice has remained constant and true. At 71, she has conquered every stage she as walked upon and every role she has played. From her rave 1950 debut, on the Metropolitan Opera stage no less, to her 50th anniversary recital in 2000 at the Alice Tully Hall, she has enthralled her audiences and has been an inspiration to aspiring singers worldwide.

The University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra's 82nd season of "Traditions and Treasures" brings the opera legend to Hattiesburg Feb. 13 with an exceptional but familiar program planned for the evening.

Jay Dean, conductor of the symphony, sings high praises of his own for the special guest artist, but his ultimate goal this season was to introduce—or reintroduce, as the case may be—audiences to the world of classical music.

"We are calling our season ‘Traditions and Treasures' as we are doing more traditional literature on our programs," Dean said. "We wanted to perform great classical music that will be more appealing and enjoyable to audiences from all walks of life, and give our patrons the opportunity to hear some of the greatest masterpieces ever written.

"Roberta Peters is recognized all over the United States and the world as one of the greatest voices that American opera has ever produced. As the leading figure in opera and vocal performance, every opera aficionado knows of her career."

The first half of the evening's program will treat patrons to opera selections by classical masters Mozart and Donizetti—operas that are Peters' favorites. The orchestra will open with Mozart's Overture to "Don Giovanni," followed by "Batti, batti." Peters will then make her first appearance of the evening by joining the orchestra for Mozart's "Alleluja" from the Motet "Exsultate Jubilate."

The orchestra will then perform Donizetti's Overture to "Don Pasquale," followed by Peters' performance of the Cavatina "Quel guardo il cavalieri."

After intermission, Peters takes the stage for the remainder of the concert, singing a tribute to composers Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin. She will perform "Show Boat Medley," "All the Things You Are," Play a Simple Melody," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "The Song is You," and "Always."

As a credit to Peters' staying power as a performer, she graced the cover of Classical Singer in December 2002, with an article written by Christopher Purdy, the executive producer of the WOSU Classics Network. Purdy dedicated his article to "all singers who want a long career." Peters is the perfect example.

Peters credits her daily routine of morning tennis and her diligent pursuit of physical training for keeping her on stage for more than 50 years. These days she gives master classes and sings occasionally—"not because she has to, but because she can," Purdy said.

While at Southern Miss, Peters will give a master class on Feb. 14 as part of the Southern Vocal Arts Conference, a venture designed for singers, directors, voice teachers, vocal coaches or anyone interested in a career in musical theater or opera.

Maryann Kyle, assistant professor of opera and musical theater in the School of Music, and Robin Aronson, assistant professor of voice/acting in the Department of Theatre and Dance, collaborated to develop a workshop for students of the genre to learn trade secrets from the masters.

Peters' career began as a Cinderella-like story when she was called upon at the last moment to replace Nadine Conner as Zerlina in "Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1950.

"Few artists survive being thrown onto the stage of the Met with no warning," wrote Sir Rudolph Bing, Peters' boss for over 20 years. "But Miss Peters became a star."

Soprano Eleanor Steber later said of that debut, "this little girl walked onto the stage like she owned the place. And three hours later, she did."

Peters many career credits include 600 performances with the Metropolitan Opera and more than 2,000 recitals, performing in every state in the United States as well as most countries in Europe and Asia. She turned down Broadway roles as a teenager, but, later in her career, took on roles in revivals of "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music."

No other opera star has appeared more on television than Peters. Notably, Peters made nearly 70 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and holds title to being his most popular TV guest.

Her international triumphs include the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, tours of the Soviet Union, and recitals and master classes in the People's Republic of China.

Most recently, President George W. Bush nominated Peters to serve on the board of the National Endowment for the Arts and was confirmed by the United States Senate.

Remaining tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert in Bennett Auditorium are $45, $35, and $25 and are available through the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425. Tickets may be ordered on-line at www.tickets.usm.edu.

For more information about the Southern Vocal Arts Conference, call the symphony office at (601) 266-4001 or Dr. Maryann Kyle at 266-6059.


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June 30, 2003 11:06 AM