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Opera Star Clifton Forbis Appointed Chair of Voice Department

World-renowned tenor replaces the retiring Joan Heller

Clifton Forbis, a world-renowned operatic tenor, has been appointed chair of the voice department in the Division of Music at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, as of August 15, 2011. Forbis succeeds Joan Heller, who is retiring after 12 years at SMU.

“Clifton Forbis has an international reputation in the opera field, and we are thrilled to have someone of his caliber and accomplishments as our new head of voice,” said José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School. “The fact that he is an alumnus of our program, having earned a master’s degree in vocal performance at Meadows in 1990, will make him even more of an inspiration to our students.”

“The search that resulted in Clif Forbis attracted a large number of outstanding and highly qualified candidates from all over the U.S.,” said Sam Holland, director of the Meadows Division of Music. “But the stars seemed to align at his audition. He will maintain an active performance career under New York management and will carry the reputation of SMU with him throughout the world. This winter Dallas will hear Mr. Forbis as Tristan in the Dallas Opera’s February production of Wagner’s masterpiece Tristan und Isolde. We’re delighted to welcome him to the Division of Music at SMU and back to Dallas."

A dramatic tenor, Forbis is internationally known as a performer of some of the most demanding tenor repertoire in opera and is a leading artist with the world’s major companies. He has performed the role of Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre with the Metropolitan Opera, Canadian Opera Company, National Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Dallas Opera, among others; the role of Tristan in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Opera Geneva, L’Opera Bastille in Paris, the Tokyo Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Samson in Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila at the Metropolitan Opera, Bilbao Opera and San Francisco Opera; and the lead role in Verdi’s Otello with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna Staatsoper, Chicago Symphony and Dallas Opera, to name just a few. 

In addition, Forbis has given numerous recitals and concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe. Highlights include a concert with Denyce Graves and the Fort Worth Symphony for the opening of the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, and performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Chicago Symphony and Boston Symphony, Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the San Francisco Symphony, and Britten’s War Requiem with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, among others. He has worked with dozens of the world’s best known conductors, including James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, Seiji Ozawa, James Conlon, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle.

Forbis attended William Jewell College in Missouri and earned his B.A. in vocal performance from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., where he studied with Ted Wylie. He later attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, studying with Jack Coldiron, and then transferred to SMU to complete his Master of Music degree in vocal performance in 1990 as a student of Thomas Hayward. Two years later he completed the post-graduate program at the Juilliard School of Music Opera Center in New York, where his principal teacher was Marlena Malas. Since then his primary teachers have been Bill and Dixie Neill in New York; other coaches and teachers have included Nico Castel at the Metropolitan Opera, Ricardo Muti at Teatro alla Scala and Janine Rice at L’Opera Bastille.

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