Demetra George: Born to Be a Diva

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Nevada Opera Theater And Acclaimed Diva Present ‘With Love From Italy’ at Italian American Club

opera singer at pianoA broad spectrum of the American public seems unaware that there is more than meets the ear when it comes to opera. Unsupported by the visual drama of Hollywood produced MTV-style music videos, and sadly underfunded of late, opera encompasses a broad range of talent. Simply having a powerful, well-modulated voice isn’t enough anymore, according to *Grammy List Nominee and former Miss Oklahoma, Demetra George.

Along with other internationally acclaimed opera stars, George will be performing September 19, 2014, at the Las Vegas Italian American Club’s gala event, With Love from Italy. “I’ve learned you need to be a ‘triple threat’ in opera,” says George, who has been the resident soprano for Nevada Opera Theater Association (NOTA) for over ten years.  “You’re asked to do everything.  Sing, dance, act.  It’s something you do out of love and the satisfaction of sharing the beauty of opera with the audience.”

Demetra George (Deborah Giannopoulos Mustafoglu) knows all about opera.opera tenor and soprano  The strawberry blonde, green-eyed soprano has sung with over 150 symphony orchestras on several continents and performed for four American presidents and a host of international dignitaries.  Her repertoire includes, but is not by any means limited to, lead soprano roles in well-known operas such as La Boheme, Carmen, The Merry Widow, The Mikado and La Traviata.

While George has never broken crystal with her high notes that range past high C into E and F, she was once shaken by a teacher—and recently had a lighting fixture fall from the ceiling during a rehearsal in her Malibu home with renown maestro Frank Fetta.

The teacher incident happened at Oklahoma City University (which later bestowed an Honorary PhD in Voice on George) at a pivotal point in the present-day diva’s life. “I was tall and thin,” she recalled of her early college days. “Teachers assumed I was a mezzo. They had me sing Carmen (mezzo/soprano) my first role. My other roles in college were all mezzo. My last semester I went to an audition at the Wichita Music Theater where they were casting for The King and I.

“There were tons of brilliant singers there from my university. I thought, ‘there’s no way, unless I do a double dare.’ So I sang the (soprano) death aria from Madame Butterfly. When I got home my teacher was so angry she shook me in front of the class. She said, ‘How DARE you do that without my permission!’ I responded that I got the part. She dragged me to the piano in front of all the other students in the opera program and had me sing to high C. Then she said, ‘Okay, you can sing soprano.’

“I just stayed with it. I had some really big guns in my class. Leona Mitchel, Steve Dickson, Chris Merritt. They all ended up at the Met and in Europe. I was the meek opera beginner. It wasn’t until I burst out with the death aria for Madame that they knew I had the right notes. That is what built my career.”

A powerhouse of energy, George gives voice lessons, conducts charity events,  and has sung the national anthem in Turkey and Greece at diplomatic embassy events for the past ten years. She recently hosted a daughter’s wedding at the newly purchased Malibu family home. The proud mother-of-the-bride personally baked 600 baklavas for the occasion. George is also planning an engagement party for her second daughter.

When asked where she possibly found the time to rehearse for the From Italy with Love concert, George replied with glee, “I bribed everyone with the spectacular view from my house, a bottle of wine and dinner. I was singing with Maestro one night. He said that my voice has gotten so big now it was so loud. He asked me to scoot over by the fireplace. I was singing ‘La Traviata’ and suddenly one of the lights fell out of the ceiling. We were howling for about ten minutes. We couldn’t work. Maestro said, ‘Most people think singers break glass but you knocked the light out of the ceiling by vibration!’”

Eileen Hayes, founder and president of NOTA, maestro conductor Frank Fetta, Metropolitan opera star and tenor, Eduardo Villa, along with Demetra George have complied what she says is a list of the best loved and most famous Italian and Neapolitan arias for the upcoming From Italy with Love event at the Italian American club.

“We have a fantastic show coming up. Everyone is going to be treated to all these wonderful Italian and songs. I love this group. I love coming to Vegas. We have this wonderful team of people. I think it’s absolutely magical,” said George. “Our baritone Eric Castro cuts a dashing figure. Eduardo Villa is magnificent. His specialty is Mario Lanza. Maestro (Fetta) conducts five symphonies in LA alone. There is no one like him.

“NOTA is dong a magnificent job with productions and their outreach programs in schools. At UNLV the houses are packed during performances. I see people crying in the audience. That’s when you know that you’ve touched their hearts. That you’ve reached them and shared the beauty of opera.”

opera singer on stairsAs for Demetra George, whose great-great-great grandmother was Italian (Siracusa) and whose great-great-great grandfather was Greek (Giannopoulos), she claims to have the most wonderful genes in the world. “I have music coming out of every gene in my body,” she said, with a laugh.

Add to that innate charm, beauty, grace and a good sense of humor–and a true diva was born for the ages.–Christine McKellar

*”Demetra George Sings Love Arias” (2002)
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To purchase tickets for With Love from Italy, please visit http://www.iacvegas.com/iac_events.htm, or contact Eileen Hayes at 702.762.4110

Date: Friday, September 19, 2014

Time: 6:30 p.m. Silent Auction and Dinner Buffet

…………8.p.m. With Love From Italy Concert

Location: The Italian American Club

2333 E Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89104