Duke University Alumni Magazine

Globetrotting With Tenors

Singing praises: Meyers with Placido Domingo, one of her three tenors
elting out Frank Sinatra's "My Way" with opera legend Jose Carreras two hours past last call at a karaoke bar in Seattle: Is this what a Duke education prepares us for? Well, to hear Dina Meyers '94 tell it, yes and no.

     As a tour manager for the Three Tenors, Meyers, a New York associate of the German company Hoffmann Concerts, has traveled around the world with Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo, a position for which she's tried on more hats than an operatic costume designer. "I do everything from A to Z," she says, "from negotiating sponsorships to PR work, working with media. I charter private jets, I do travel arrangements, I do a lot of accounting, talking to a printer, talking to a graphic designer, getting a flier created and mailed out to 150,000 people, getting TicketMaster set up." Once on the location of a Tenors concert, Meyers finds that the glamour quotient of her job skyrockets. "On site, I'm doing everything, from escorting the artists to the VIP gala and standing with them, or sitting with them at their tables, or entertaining family members."

     For Meyers, an English major whose parents, Carol and Eric, have been teaching religion at Duke for almost thirty years, studying humanities with remarkable instructors--Broadway producer Manny Azenberg and drama professor John Clum among them--furthered a love for the arts, she says, that began at a young age. "I grew up with an opera broadcast every week." Her great- grandfather was the director of an opera house in Kšnigsberg, East Prussia, before the war. Her grandfather came to the United States as a refugee and wanted to be an opera singer. He worked as a singing waiter in New York City, and then went into the textile industry. Her father manages to maintain his singing skills as a cantor and an occasional soloist.

     It's not difficult for her to articulate her interest in opera: "I think it's the most passionate art form there is. It's all-encompassing. There are elements of staging and movement that are part of theater. In my opinion, there's some of the most spectacular, dramatic, beautiful music that's ever been written. And there's dance in a lot of cases." She also understands why the art form is an acquired taste. "When people really take the time to try to appreciate opera, they either love it or hate it," she says. "That's one of the things about the Tenors that's been so fascinating to me. It has really exposed masses of people to an art form that was really for the cultural elite for decades and decades."

     By the end of March, the Tenors will have completed twelve concerts for more than 750,000 fans. "No one else can do a stadium concert with 60,000 people, besides Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones," says Meyers. And most opera experts agree that the Tenors have sparked an overall comeback of the genre, as demonstrated by the La Boheme-inspired Broadway smash Rent and a slew of upcoming opera-influenced films, including Master Class, The Magic Flute, Tristan and Isolde, and a remake, with Diana Ross, of the 1982 French thriller Diva. As National Opera Association president Robert Hansen puts it, "When we watch the Three Tenors and we see the camera panning over these huge audiences, we think something must be good here."

     Meyers began her association with the Tenors in February 1995 soon after her boss, Mathias Hoffmann, a former rock promoter for such acts as the Rolling Stones and Deep Purple, had the idea of mounting a Three Tenors world tour after seeing them perform together in Los Angeles in 1994. (That performance commemorated the World Cup soccer finals.) "He took the personal risk and financed all the concerts," says Meyers. "Everyone thought he was crazy. The concept of selling out stadiums around the world at those ticket prices without having anything to do with World Cup soccer--people thought he would lose his shirt. And he made a fortune." After more than a year of preparation, Hoffmann Concerts started the Three Tenors world tour in Tokyo in June 1996.

     For Meyers, constant travel is nothing new. While a student at Duke, she spent time studying in Italy and London, and she also accompanied her parents on the annual Duke-sponsored archaeological excavation trips to Israel. "I did so much traveling my whole life, it's in my blood," she says.

     Though working closely with the Three Tenors, she's not necessarily on a first-name basis with all of them. "I call Placido and Jose by their first names, unless I'm speaking about them. Then I always refer to them as Mister," she says. "And Pavarotti, I call Mr. Pavarotti, because everyone does." Indeed, Meyers says, "I know Mr. Pavarotti the least on a personal level because he's very insulated. He has his entourage. He's always very smiley and giddy and childlike. Sometimes, he can be difficult, but every artist can." She characterizes Domingo as "the most charming, entertaining man to be around. He has a contagiously charming personality. He's hilarious."

     But she says she holds a special place in her heart for Carreras, who lived through a bout with leukemia years ago. "He is just really a wonderful human being and a good friend. After the last concert of the world tour this summer, I wanted to take a vacation and spend time in Spain. Jose's from Barcelona and he convinced me that's the place to have a vacation. So I flew with him back to Barcelona on his private jet and he took me out that night with all his friends and his family to this incredible restaurant on the coast. He's the kind of guy who says, 'Do you have enough money? Have you changed money yet? No? Here's a couple hundred pesetas.' Like a mensch," she says.

     "Anyone who comes that close to death, it changes their approach to daily life. That's one of the reasons he's so consistently sensitive to others and so completely thankful for anything you might do for them. He really is conscientious of showing appreciation and responding to fans. It makes him a joy to be around and a joy to work for."

     But for how long? Meyers, who concedes that "the Tenors will not go on forever," would like to apply the skills she's learned with the Tenors to the theater world. "I would love to be in theatrical productions, doing everything, from working with a writer and a director to getting money, to finding a theater--seeing a project through from start to finish," she says. "In many ways, it's what I've done in this job that's made it so rewarding."

     For now, though, she continues to draw on her boundless energy and globetrot with the Tenors. "This job is something I don't think I could have conceived of. But I feel that it was tailor-made for me."

--Dave Karger

Karger '95 covers the film business for Entertainment Weekly magazine .

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