Plato Steven Karayanis passed away April 29, 2022 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The cause of death was complications due to cancer. He is survived by his loving wife of 65 years Dorothy, sister-in-law Viola Krebill, and many beloved nieces and nephews and their families. Countless friends and colleagues worldwide will miss his kind and generous spirit, engaging and thoughtful conversation, and intellectual curiosity.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Clarence and wife Genevieve, brother-in-law Maurice and wife Naomi, and brother-in-law Richard.
Plato Karayanis was born on December 26, 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA. His mother, Thalia Penzickes Karayanis and father, Theodore Karayanis immigrated to the United States from the islands of Cyprus and Mytelene, Greece respectively and were married in Pittsburgh. Plato attended Forest Hills elementary through junior high school and graduated from Edgewood High School in 1947. He majored in music and voice at Carnegie Mellon University graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1952. He was a member of Theta Xi fraternity.
The summer of 1952 he received a scholarship to The Berkshire Music Festival (Tanglewood) in opera under the late Boris Goldovsky. He then attended the Curtis Institute of Music where he majored in voice and opera and graduated with an Artist's Diploma in 1956. It was at Curtis he met his future wife, mezzo soprano Dorothy Krebill. They were married September 30, 1956 in the chapel of Riverside Church in NYC. Plato always told the story that the wedding took place on Dorothy’s one-day excused absence from the cast of Candide, which was in the Boston run-up to the original Broadway opening.
Karayanis started his professional singing career as a lyric baritone appearing in summer stock productions of musicals at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, the Cape Cod Melody Tent, Skaneateles and Westchester tent theaters in New York. While at Curtis, the late Dr. Herbert Graf of the Metropolitan Opera, encouraged him to expand his interests to include stage directing and management.
Karayanis and his wife Dorothy Krebill went to Europe in 1958 where they spent the next seven and one-half years performing in opera houses in Germany and Switzerland. Karayanis started his management career in 1964 as head of the rehearsal department of the San Francisco Opera. He and his wife joined the Metropolitan Opera National Company in the summer of 1965 where she was a leading mezzo soprano and he was an assistant stage director and administrative assistant. They toured the U.S., Canada and Mexico until the summer of 1967 when the Company was disbanded.
Karayanis joined Affiliate Artists, Inc. as Vice President and Treasurer in 1967 and was instrumental in developing the Exxon, Arts Endowment Conductor's Program and the Affiliate Artists, San Francisco Opera Program.
When Karayanis became General Director of The Dallas Opera in 1977, he made clear his determination to accomplish purposeful, planned growth within all the company's major constituencies: its board, staff, artists, audience and donor communities. Under his leadership the Opera grew from a season of twelve performances of four operas with a budget of $1.29 million to a season of 21 performances of five operas with a budget of more than $9.5 million, achieving record ticket sales with one of the highest subscription audiences in the country.
Karayanis became known for his vision which led The Dallas Opera to direct an old and revered art form into exciting new channels. This effort included the performances of new American works, along with earlier 20th century masterpieces. He was responsible for having the Opera's performances broadcast on National Public Radio for several years and the PBS telecast on Great Performances of Dominic Argento's, The Aspern Papers, commissioned by The Dallas Opera.
Nicola Rescigno, the founding artistic director of The Dallas Opera, resigned in 1990. His resignation afforded the Opera the opportunity to assess the company's priorities artistically and its relevance to new audiences. This led to the adoption of a new strategic plan and vision for the Opera, New initiatives and new audiences for a new world. The goal was to once again position The Dallas Opera as a world recognized innovative producer of opera in America and lead to the design and construction of a new world class opera house in the Arts District. Over the next ten seasons, the Opera produced critically acclaimed new productions of works by Janáček, Strauss, Falla, Barber, Argento, Britten and Handel. Artists included Cecilia Bartoli, Renee Fleming, Sharon Sweet, Frederica von Stade, Alfredo Krauss, Denyce Graves, Maria Guleghina and Waltraud Meir to name a few. Robert Miller of The Dallas Morning News wrote that Karayanis "combines the innovative with the traditional while constantly challenging his audience to broaden their musical tastes."
An integral part of the plan was to make the Opera more relevant to the community. This resulted in the development of award winning arts-in-education programs and the formation of minority task forces attracting Hispanic, African-American, and Asian audiences in support of The Dallas Opera.
Karayanis retired in May of 2000 after serving twenty-three years as General Director. After his retirement he spent almost six years consulting with the Palm Beach Opera, first as artistic consultant following the sudden death of Mo. Anton Guadagno and finally as interim General Director. Under his guidance the Palm Beach Opera made significant improvements artistically and achieved record ticket sales. He also successfully led the search for a new General Director. Karayanis also served as Interim General Director and CEO of Opera San Antonio for fifteen months in 2013 and 2014 to help them organize and plan their first season.
During his tenure as General Director of The Dallas Opera, Karayanis received many awards in recognition of his artistic achievements and community service. He served on the board of directors of Opera America and was Chairman from 1993-1996. He was Chairman of the Alumni Council and served on the Board of Overseers of The Curtis Institute of Music. He is listed in Who's Who in America.
Plato and Dorothy Karayanis relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico upon his retirement. Karayanis served on the Board of the Santa Fe Opera from 2002 to 2013, where he served as Co-Chair of the Arts Advocacy Committee, and on the Development, Buildings & Properties, and Marketing Committees. He was a dedicated Honorary Director at the time of his death. He also served as a member of the Development Committee of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale.
A respected leader in the Presbyterian Church, he was long associated with First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX where he served as an Elder. At the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, Karayanis served as Stewardship Circle Chair. He led the capital campaign and the National Fund matching grant program from The National Fund for Sacred Places. His efforts resulted in a game-changing National Fund grant with matched funds raised by the congregation, allowing First Presbyterian Church to complete critical repairs to the exterior and interior of the historic sanctuary building.
Plato and Dorothy were known for their gracious hospitality. Fine food prepared by Dorothy and fine wine selected by Plato were the hallmarks of a delightful evening at the Karayanis home. In addition to entertaining their many friends, Plato was an engaged citizen, a voracious reader, and a lover of tennis. Men decades younger than he would marvel at his participation in high intensity tennis drills at the Shellaberger Tennis Center. He expressed disappointment that a back condition ended his weekly tennis workouts at the age of 89 – one year shy of his goal to play tennis until his 90th birthday.
The family expresses its deep gratitude to the physicians and nurses at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, the team at Home Instead, and the staff at Berardinelli Family Funeral Service for their compassion. Additionally, they are grateful to the many friends who reached out with hospitality during Plato’s final days.
A memorial service is being planned at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe this summer. Details will be forthcoming.
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