Arts and Culture | Local

Attracted by desert beauty, operatic songbird finds new home in Tucson

Clara Salomon

Clara Salomon sings Tucson’s praises, and she does it with panache. Salomon, who now resides in Tucson, is an opera singer who’s performed professionally around the globe for nearly 10 years. “I spent a lot of time in Europe singing, which was exciting but really difficult to sustain,” she says. “Because of some health issues, I didn’t have the stamina to commit to the work demands of an established opera company.” So without a fixed home base, the soprano faced constant visa and language challenges.

When Germany offered Salomon a work visa in 2011, she considered remaining in Europe but ultimately declined the opportunity. Instead, she came to Tucson to consider her options, which included working on a doctoral degree in music performance at McGill University in Montreal.

Originally from Chicago, she says that she has always been attracted to Tucson. “I started coming to visit when I was an undergraduate at Rice University,” she says, “and I fell in love with the desert. Nature is just so exquisite here and I found that each time I visited Tucson I didn’t want to leave.” With the added pull of having her sister, Dr. Ashley Salomon, at the UA Center for Integrative Medicine, Salomon says she finally realized the cold and damp climates of Germany and Quebec weren’t for her. She decided to continue her career in a place where she hopes to better integrate herself into the community and develop as an artist.

Though not from a musical family, Salomon says that she was always musical. She is a self-taught pianist, having learned on friends’ and cousins’ pianos as there wasn’t one at home. At age 16 she auditioned for a music professor at DePaul University who took her on as a student despite the fact that she couldn’t read music. “He wanted to broaden my ability to interpret melody so he arranged for me to see a performance of La Bohème. I went right out after the performance, bought the musical score, and learned the Musetta aria.

“I always knew that I could sing loud and high,” she jokes.

Salomon says another exposure to operatic singing was pivotal: “I was at our synagogue, Anshe Emet in Chicago, when I heard the new cantor, Abraham Mizrahi sing with the [now] famous Elizabeth Futral, who was making a debut appearance at the shul. I was 15 and completely captivated. It was only the second classical concert I’d ever attended and I knew right then that I would become an opera singer.”

Salomon got a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Rice University and then earned her master’s degree at the University of Utah. Two years ago on a visit to Tucson, Salomon read on the University of Arizona website that Futral had just joined the faculty at the UA’s Fred Fox School of Music as a voice professor. The opportunity to study with the soprano who had inspired her to sing opera sealed her decision to move to Tucson.

Currently a student of Futral, Salomon is hoping to become a doctoral student next year so she can continue to study with her. Salomon is teaching voice privately, performing with local classical groups and hoping to make more connections that could help sponsor her doctoral studies. Her musical journeys and upcoming concerts can be viewed at her website, www.ClaraSalomon.com.

Renee Claire is a freelance writer and editor in Tucson.