He won the award for his performance in the title role of Wagner's Lohengrin in February. The production was the opera's Dallas premiere and was subsequently chosen by audience vote as the best production of this past season.
Ventris was one of eight nominees selected by a panel of critics and company officials for the award; the winner is selected by a vote of Dallas Opera patrons. The other candidates were baritone Giorgio Caoduro (making his U.S. debut as Figaro The Barber of Seville), tenor Stephen Costello (Leicester in Maria Stuarda), Majella Cullagh (making her U.S. debut in the title role of Maria Stuarda, replacing Ruth Ann Swenson), tenor Massimo Giordano (Ruggero in La rondine), Nancy Gustafson (Elsa in Lohengrin), baritone Zeljko Lucic (the title role in Nabucco) and bass Peter Rose (Zaccaria in Nabucco).
Dallas Opera music director Graeme Jenkins announced the award last night at the company's annual appreciation dinner for its board and trustees. Ventris wasn't able to accept in person: he is currently singing the role of Sergei in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at La Scala.
Praised by critics for having an unusually beautiful and clear voice for a dramatic tenor, Ventris is making a career in such roles as Florestan in Fidelio, Siegmund in Die Walk‹re, Parsifal and Peter Grimes.
The Dallas Opera established Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award — named in honor of the soprano, whose legendary 1957 recital in Dallas launched the company — during the 1991-1992 season; the first winner was Sharon Sweet, for her performance as Aida. Among subsequent winners have been Cecilia Bartoli, Elizabeth Futral, Jerry Hadley, Hei-Kyung Hong, Denyce Graves, Indira Mahajan, Mary Mills, Patricia Racette and Latonia Moore; last year's recipient was Mary Dunleavy, for her performance as all four heroines in The Tales of Hoffmann.