Sometimes, it’s surprising who chooses to make their home in the Truckee Meadows. One of the world’s greatest divas (not in the pejorative sense), Dolora Zajick, does. Although she’s on the road for nine months of the year, she returns home to northern Nevada because she loves the four seasons and her garden, and her family lives here. She performed in Reno with the Nevada Opera earlier this month.
How do you come to get the billing “The world’s reigning dramatic mezzo-soprano"?
That’s what they call me. That’s kind of an odd question. I guess by that they mean I’ve cornered the market on the kinds of roles that I sing. They have their ‘A’ lists and their ‘B’ lists. I’m the first person they think of for certain roles all around the world with major opera companies.
So you’re number one spot on the ‘A’ list.
For certain roles, yes.
Did you grow up in Reno?
No, I didn’t. I went to college here. I grew up in Oregon, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. But I’ve lived in Reno off and on for 30 years.
Do you live in Reno for just part of the year?
I live in Reno two or three months out of the year, and the rest of the time I’m traveling all over, singing opera with various opera companies.
Do you think other towns would be more difficult to live in than Reno? Because of the atmosphere or your fame?
My family is here. I like it because it has four seasons. And I like it because it’s a somewhat isolated place. It’s becoming less isolated as Californians are moving in; it’s becoming a suburb of California.
Do you have a harder time going out in public in Europe?
In bigger cities, people tend to recognize me more, and there’s less privacy than if I go to a small place. The more metropolitan it is, the more likely I am to run into a fan.
More in San Francisco and New York than Verdi?
What are your favorite cities to perform in?
I don’t really have one. It changes from time to time.
Do you have a favorite person to sing with?
No. The thing about opera is it’s so unpredictable. You can have what looks like the best thing on paper, the best cast, the best conductor, the best stage director, the best scenic director, and something goes wrong. The show just never gets off the ground. Sometimes you can have a whole cast of nobodies, and something happens, and it’s an incredible show.
Are there misperceptions of opera in American pop culture?
Only in the sense that they think it’s only for affluent people or that it’s stratified into high society. That simply isn’t true. You can go to operas, especially today, and see all kinds of people. Usually opening night is the one where everybody dresses up and shows off their jewels, and the rest of the nights, sometimes people come in in their blue jeans. People are often surprised when they actually get involved with opera. You have your donors who give a lot of money to the opera, and you have your cab drivers and your box boys who go to the opera, too. It’s actually kind of an equalizer. The same is true for people who go into opera. People who go into opera are from all different walks of life. You name it, that’s where they come from.