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Opera-singing couple found love in Utah

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

Earl and Alexis Hazell are both professional opera singers who met while working at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell) Earl and Alexis Hazell are both professional opera singers who met while working at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell)

PHOENIX, Ariz. — In the summer of 2007, two up-and-coming opera singers, one a bass, the other a mezzo-soprano, decided at the last minute to participate in the Utah Festival Opera in Logan, Utah.

The bass, Earl Hazell, was in the middle of an easy gig and felt the desire to challenge his career. Alexis Davis, the mezzo-soprano, was in school and decided to take the advice of a friend who pulled some strings to get her involved in the Logan opera extravaganza.

Neither had any idea they would be meeting their future spouse.

Earl noticed Alexis the first day, he said. The group of about 300 performers all met in the main auditorium and everyone gave a brief introduction. Alexis happened to be sitting in the row behind Earl. When she stood up to introduce herself she was giggling and laughing with the women next to her. As she began to explain her background, Earl said he noticed three things right away: She was fun. She was smart. And she was kind of cute.

Earl and Alexis Hazell perform at the SASO Concert Production of Earl and Alexis Hazell perform at the SASO Concert Production of "Don Giovanni." The couple are both professional opera singers who met at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell)

Alexis said she first noticed Earl when he was practicing for his understudy role in one of the performances. She said he “put it on” and she was very impressed.

Then, one night, Alexis came home from rehearsal exhausted and fell asleep on the couch. She woke up to hear some of her friends outside talking, and she recognized one of the voices was Earl’s. She said she all of a sudden had a strong urge to get up and “get a drink of water.” She ended up staying to watch a movie — not because she wanted to watch the movie, she said, but because she wanted to spend some time with this intriguing new man.

“After that I followed her around like a puppy,” Earl said. “And since I wouldn’t leave her side, she had to date me.”

Earl and Alexis then began dating, but as the summer was winding to a close, Alexis started wondering if this was just a temporary fling or the real deal. She asked Earl if he could give her some kind of token, a physical reminder of their commitment to each other.

Earl and Alexis Hazell perform at the 2012 Heritage Dinner for the Arizona Democratic Party. The couple are both professional opera singers who met at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell) Earl and Alexis Hazell perform at the 2012 Heritage Dinner for the Arizona Democratic Party. The couple are both professional opera singers who met at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell)

“He kept being wishy-washy,” Alexis said, “somehow making me not feel bad, but putting me off.”

Then during the intermission of one of her shows, Earl called Alexis out of the dressing room. When he pulled out a box for her she said she immediately started crying. He gave her a sapphire promise ring that she gratefully accepted before she ran back to the dressing room to redo her makeup and get back out to her performance.

The couple continued long distance for the next two years.

“We ran up the phone bills,” Alexis said. “It was terrible.”

Earl toured a lot, but moved his home base to Phoenix, Ariz., where Alexis is currently working on her Ph.D. in music at Arizona State University. Later, Earl got Alexis on his same touring company and they were able to travel together.

Alexis Hazell (middle) performs in Alexis Hazell (middle) performs in "Suor Angelica" in the SASO concert production in 2011. Alexis and her husband Earl are both professional opera singers who met at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell)

Then, Earl proposed at the Olive Garden.

“It’s my fault,” Alexis admitted, in reference to Earl’s choice of a proposal spot. “I had a coupon.”

Alexis said she could tell Earl was “cooking up something” but didn’t know what it was, so when he suggested they go out to eat she insisted on the economical choice.

“I called all her friends and told them what was happening,” Earl said. “The only person who didn’t know was her.”

But she said yes, and on July 3, 2009 their wedding was something, Earl said, their friends still talk about to this day.

“It was more like a musical production with a wedding in the middle,” said Alexis, whose full name is now Alexis Davis Hazell.

Earl Hazell (middle) performs in Phoenix Opera's production of Earl Hazell (middle) performs in Phoenix Opera's production of "Flute." Earl and his wife Alexis are both professional opera singers who met at the Utah Festival Opera in Logan. (Courtesy of Earl Hazell)

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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