Opera-singing couple found love in Utah

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

Earl had a plethora of musical groups come in for their wedding. He said Alexis had requested, for example, a CD recording of Wagner’s wedding march for her to walk down the aisle. Earl got a string quartet and all their opera friends to perform it live in the original German instead.

Now, the happy couple regularly performs and works together, including in a recital series called “American Songs” from their production company Jazzoperetry. The name of the company reflects its goal — to combine jazz, opera and spoken-word poetry into one cohesive art form, according to the website. Earl originally came up with the concept for the company before he ever met Alexis, but he said that it is only through her abilities that this idea has been able to come to life.

“I was lucky enough to fall in love with a woman who sings well, has computer skills, has a high education, is detail-oriented and who loved me back,” he said.

They both agree that the combination of Earl’s vision and drive and Alexis’ detail-oriented abilities is a formula for success in all their artistic endeavors.

Chris Holmes, an opera performer who sang with both Earl and Alexis at Utah Festival Opera and Phoenix Opera, applauded their artistic abilities.

“Earl and Alexis are talented performers with colorful voices of beauty,” he said in an email. “Aside from their stage craft, Earl and Alexis are wonderful people with whom I’ve enjoyed associating.”

Jon Meyer, executive director at the Prescott Center for the Arts in Arizona, has worked with Earl and Alexis several times over the past few years and said he enjoys not only their talents, but their personalities.

“When they’re on stage their energy and their relationship is palpable,” he said. “It's not only that they are obviously two gifted performers who know how to blend their talents, but you can see how much they love each other.”

Alexis grew up in Philadelphia, Pa. as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her parents converted in New Jersey when she was 3 years old, she said. The missionaries knocked on their door and once Alexis's mother confirmed they weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, she let them in.

Alexis played the violin as a youth and discovered she could sing in high school, she said. When she found out she could major in music, she did so, and said she had a teacher who always encouraged her towards opera. At first, Alexis wasn’t sure that was the direction she wanted to go.

“In high school my teacher took us to see operas,” Alexis said, “and I’d sleep through them.”

But, as Alexis started to realize that opera fit her voice best, she began to get more involved in it and soon fell in love.

Joel Revzen, artistic director and principal conductor of Arizona Opera, called Alexis a “fabulous singer.”

“She has a gorgeous voice and is very committed artist,” he said. “She is always prepared and always takes her work very, very seriously. … She has real potential for a career as an opera singer.”

Earl did his first professional opera gig in New York City at age 15. He said the high school in the movie “Fame” was based off of his performing arts high school in New York City. He said he always knew in the back of his mind he would be a musician, but he also knew his parents were afraid of him going into the often uncertain career of music. For a while, Earl said he flirted with the idea of going into law, but music was his true love.

Earl said he always loved jazz, but wanted to join the ranks of some of the best musicians who accomplish high-level technique in both jazz and classical music, so he learned both simultaneously as he studied. His career path became clearer when he got a part in a production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” in Germany.

“I fell in love with the music, the production and the people,” Earl said. “I became a part of that world.”

In fact, he ended up being a part of a “Porgy and Bess” production on and off for the next 16 years.

Earl and Alexis recently passed through Utah again to attend The Institute for Young and Dramatic Voices, run by opera singer Dolora Zajick in Orem. They said programs like the institute, Utah Festival Opera in Logan and Utah Opera in Salt Lake City are putting Utah on the map internationally for all things opera.

For them, Utah is simply the state of love.

Email: mgarrett@desnews.com

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