Bold. Brave. Brilliant.

2016 Gala Luncheon

On Thursday, February 18th , the Arizona Opera celebrated two women who have been instrumental in the creation and cultivation of the vibrant artistic environment of Arizona. Honorary Chairs Billie Jo and Judd Herberger, together with Committee Chairs Nancy Spetzler and Christina Chambers led the Arizona Opera in honoring Marion Roose Pullin and Tammy McLeod by inducting them into the Arizona Opera Crystal Key Society

The Crystal Key Society was created in 2015 to recognize individuals and institutions who have contributed in extraordinary ways to the Arizona Opera mission, elevating the transformative power of storytelling through music across our diverse and adventurous state. Past inductees include David A. Christensen, former Board of Directors Chair, and Donald A. Smith, president and CEO of CopperPoint Insurance Companies. 



Marion Roose Pullin grew up in Iowa and received her B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa. Her career included social work for the American Red Cross, a position as a retail executive at Macys NYC, co-ownership of an import/export company, and fashion modeling.  She received the Masterson Award from Houston Grand Opera, the Apple Award for outstanding work in the Arts, and was President of the Texas Institute for Arts in Education. During her 17 years on the Executive Board of Houston Grand Opera, Mrs. Pullin was extensively involved in the creation of the Houston Studio and Training Program. After retiring to Phoenix, Mrs. Pullin continued her tireless work as philanthropist and volunteer, eventually founding the Arizona Opera Studio, a program which provides talented young artists opportunities and vital training as they take their first steps into the opera profession, during the 2006/07 Season. Now approaching its 10th anniversary, the Studio has a roster of alumni performing professionally across North America and Europe.


Tammy McLeod


Tammy McLeod is vice president of energy resource management for Arizona Public Service Company (APS). Based in Phoenix, APS is Arizona’s largest electric company and serves nearly 1.2 million customers across the state. McLeod is responsible for APS’s marketing and trading operations, as well as the company’s energy resource planning and procurement, and the construction, operations and maintenance of utility-scale solar. Tammy is active in the Arizona community and sits on the boards of the Desert Botanical Garden, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Local First Arizona Foundation and Expect More Arizona. She is passionate about the arts and believes that a strong arts and culture environment is a basic foundation for a thriving community. In 2014, she received the Athena award acknowledging her community stewardship and mentoring of other women. She and her husband John have three sons. 



Internationally acclaimed tenor James Valenti has built a global reputation for his elegant musicianship, commanding stage presence, ardent vocal style, and voice of warm Italianate lustre. The sought after 6’5” tenor trained at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and, at age 25, made his professional debut at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma where he played Rodolfo in the Franco Zeffirelli production of “La Bohême.” Since his debut, he has scored one triumphal role after another, and has had the opportunity to perform in many of the most celebrated citadels of Opera in the world, including Teatro alla Scala Milan, Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House London, Opera National de Paris, Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, Sydney Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Opera House Munich. He has showcased his vocal ability and acting versatility in a variety of roles, such as Don José in “Carmen,” Don Carlo in “Don Carlo,” and Cavaradossi in “Tosca.” Valenti has also performed with some of the greatest opera voices and maestros in the industry, and has recorded with fellow opera star Angela Gheorghiu at Abbey Road Studios in London for her “Tribute to Maria Callas” CD on Virgin/EMI.

Laura Wilde


Opera News praised American soprano Laura Wilde as having, “a ravishingly beautiful sound [and] a fine sense of style and character.” Ms. Wilde is in her final year with The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she studies with Julia Faulkner. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the 2015/16 season, Ms. Wilde sings Marianne Leitmetzer in Der Rosenkavalier and covers Marschallin. She also covers the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Hanna in The Merry Widow, and sings the role of Anna in Nabucco. In the summer of 2016 she will make her European debut in the title role in Janáček’s Jenůfa with English National Opera. Before her transition from mezzo to soprano, Ms. Wilde spent two seasons as a Marion Roose Pullin Artist in Residence withArizona Opera. While working in the Studio, she created the role of Jane in the workshop of Craig Bohmler’s new opera, The Riders of the Purple Sage. She also performed with the Phoenix Symphony in their 2011 Holiday Concert.

Morgan Smith


American baritone Morgan Smith will make his Arizona Opera debut as the title role in the upcoming Don Giovanni. Mr. Smith as previously sung Escamillo inCarmen at Vancouver Opera and Pittsburgh Opera, Marcello in La bohème with San Diego Opera, and Starbuck in Moby Dick at San Francisco Opera, a role that he inaugurated at its premiere at Dallas Opera. International performances include the roles of Figaro in The Barber of Seville, Billy in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, and Papageno in The Magic Flute. Mr. Smith will return to Arizona Opera in 2017 for the world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage.



Established in 2007, the Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio helps bridge the gap between academic studies and a professional career. Studio Artists are in residence all season, performing both on our mainstage and throughout Arizona, while receiving well-rounded, personalized instruction designed to propel  each artist to the next level. Over 650 applications were received for these six coveted positions, ranking it amongst the most competitive training progams in the United States. 2015/16 Studio Artists: Sarah Tucker - soprano, Alyssa Martin - mezzo soprano, Andrew Penning - tenor, Joseph Lattanzi - baritone, Calvin Griffin - bass baritone, and Cody Martin – pianist.