Opera star David Malis sings

By David Jasper The Bulletin

If you go

What: An Evening with David Malis

When: 7 tonight

Where: Pinckney Center for the Arts, Central Oregon Community College, 2600 N.W. College Way, Bend

Cost: $19 general admission, $39 reserved, $69 reserved seating and reception, $9 students

Contact: www.operabend.org, operabend@bendbroadband.com or 541-383-7510

Opera singer David Malis doesn’t have a lot of what you might call career regrets.

“Well, you ain’t going to get rich in this business, but you know, sometimes you look back and go, ‘I wish I had …,’ he said Monday by phone from Fayetteville, Ark.

“That’s about as far as I get” with the wishing, he added. “Then I go, ‘Nah. Would I really have given up all of the cool things I did, and all of the cool people that I met, just to have a lot of the money in the bank? It’s not going anywhere when we check out of here.’”

We’ll get to those cool things and people in a couple of paragraphs, should you need further incentive to go see Malis tonight at Central Oregon Community College’s Pinckney Center for the Arts (see “If you go”). There, Malis will perform his favorite tunes from opera and musical theater, including songs from “South Pacific” and “Man of La Mancha.”

He’ll be joined by the OperaBend Chorus, the recently formed company that has accomplished two things despite its youth: bringing opera back to Bend and getting the lights back on at the Pinckney Center.

Before Malis became director of opera and a voice teacher at University of Arkansas, “For 25 years I lived out of a suitcase, and I sang all over the place,” said Malis. “I’m a Razorback now.”

Thanks to a long career on stages around the U.S. and the world, Malis is also rich in experience. The son of a pair of church musicians, he was raised in a musically gifted household. In college and graduate school, he had a few great mentors who taught him about performance and research. He apprenticed with the San Francisco Opera, and was the first American to win the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, in Cardiff, Wales, which led to engagements with companies national and international.

Further, “the Metropolitan Opera in New York City heard me, and they liked me and hired me, and I sang there for 12 years,” said Malis, who made his Met debut in 1987, starring as Belcore in Gaetano Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” (“The Elixir of Love”).

Luciano Pavarotti — perhaps you’ve heard of him — appeared in that opera as well. Malis has also shared a stage or apprenticed with Italo Tajo, the great Italian singer and actor who appeared in more than 150 roles around the world before he died in 1993, as well as Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland and Eva Marton.

“Eva Marton was a famous Hungarian dramatic soprano … I actually had to wear an earplug in one of my ears when she was singing right upstage from me because my ear was distorting so bad that I thought she was going to break my eardrum,” he said. “If you go back and look at anybody who sang in San Francisco between about 1982 and 2000, it was just a who’s who of international opera.”

Malis continued: “I’m not trying to blow my own horn. I was good and lucky and really fortunate in varying degrees through my career. I had a musical family, I had some great mentors and I was given the opportunity to work in some really spectacular places with some of the greatest artists who ever walked on the stage.

“I guess I was not boneheaded enough not to pay attention,” he added, laughing.

In recent years, Malis has spent part of his summer singing with Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he sang with and befriended OperaBend’s music director, Jason Stein. Audiences will hear Stein, a tenor, sing tonight, as well as Stein’s wife and OperaBend cofounder, Nancy Engebretson, a soprano. The chorus also includes Scott Carroll, Trish Sewell, Dan Glover and others, and will be accompanied by Scott Michaelsen on piano.

Malis will also teach a master class while in town, and hopes to do a little fishing. Opera buffs, be thankful a world-class river runs right through Bend.

“(Stein) lured me with the fact that — I’m a fly fisherman — so (he) was like, ‘Well, we’re right on the Deschutes River,’” Malis said. “I’ve fished the Deschutes, but it’s almost a previous life now. I haven’t been to Oregon for a while, but it sure is beautiful out there.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com

Photo courtesy The University of Arkansas Metropolitan Opera baritone David Malis performs his favorites from opera and musical theater tonight at Pinckney Center for the Performing Arts in Bend