Denver Bar Association
December 2005
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Betty Wytias works in the attorney general’s office in the Business and Licensing Section, representing the medical board. She has been practicing law since ’94, but spent 12 years prior to that as a struggling artist. This mezzo soprano’s latest performance was in November in Carmen at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

How long have you been singing?

I’ve been singing ever since I was a little girl in school and church. I didn’t have my first real teacher until I was 15. Music has always been a part of my life, though. My parents met during World War II, singing in the Post Opera in Cheesman Park. I sang in Boston, San Diego, Aspen and New York.

When did you decide to start singing again?

Last year I went through chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. After that I felt reborn. I sang in a friend’s wedding in August and decided I wanted to sing again.

What’s your role in Carmen?

I’m in the chorus and I have a minor role as Manuelita. Carmen is very much the antithesis of who I am and what I do. The opera is about domestic violence, manipulation, sexism and murder! It is also fun because the actor who plays Don José (who murders Carmen) — Donald Kaasch — is a local who has an international career, and his brother was my sixth-grade flame.

What do you enjoy about

With singing, it is a visceral
experience to make these sounds come out of my body. You have to really think about how others think, act, and feel. I love the communion with the other performers as the production jells — the sum is truly greater than the parts.

Are there any parallels between being a lawyer and singer?

A lawyer has to be an actor. During opening and closing arguments you have to be persuasive and an actor has to be persuasive. You have to believe what you’re saying. The best trial lawyers would be fabulous actors.

What persuaded you to go into law?

I was working at the Aspen Institute, where Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun moderated, and it was a bread-and-butter job, but we became good friends and he helped bridge my music career to my law career. He loved music.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an actress like Sarah Bernhardt (who died in 1923), or singers Leontyne Price or Dame Janet Baker.

What book are you reading?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was my last-finished favorite; Carmen has interrupted my reading of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I’d love to go to Peru and take my Peruvian niece and nephew who haven’t been there since they were adopted as infants by my sister and her husband.

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