Everyone deserves opera

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David Malis has supported our small-town opera company since Keri Rusthoi first mentioned her dream out loud.

As a baritone, Malis has been on stages everywhere from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City to the Fargo-Moorhead Civic Opera in North Dakota.

"I think every town deserves an opera company," he said. "I'm always amazed how much interest there is in opera even in the smallest towns. Just because you aren't in San Francisco doesn't mean you shouldn't have an opera company."

Malis performed at the first benefit to start Emerald City Opera at Catamount Ranch. He performed as Papageno in "The Magic Flute" two summers ago, a role he had sung at The Met and he directed and performed in "La BohÃme" last summer.

Malis discovered music as a young man in Georgia singing in the church choir where his dad was minister.

"People started noticing that I had a particular kind of voice when I was 15," he said. Malis studied voice in college, but he didn't decide to pursue opera professionally until he saw his first performance. He was a recent college graduate, working the third shift at a textile plant and unsure where his life was going.

At that first opera, he saw bass Italo Tajo.

"He was an amazing performer," Malis said. "I couldn't take my eyes off him." The performance inspired Malis to audition for a full-tuition scholarship at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He was given a four-year, full-ride scholarship.

"I guess I had what it takes to have a career," he said.

As a musician, Malis tries to emulate his parents in his career.

"They were very giving people," he said. "I've tried very hard to be that same kind of person. I love music. I love acting. I love to watch people's faces when they see a performance. Keri had this dream that she was going to create an opera company, and if I can help her make it better, I will."

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