December 25, 1978 12:00 PM

Hildegard Behrens was warned early on that her soprano had a beautiful timbre, but she “had no talent.” The tall German stuck out law school yet headed for Düsseldorf’s Opera Studio “not to make a career but to learn to sing.” In just six years Behrens has blossomed into one of Europe’s most versatile dramatic sopranos, already tapped for recordings with conductors von Karajan and Solti. Last fall she was spectacular in Fidelio at the Met, evoking comparisons to superdivas Callas and Nilsson. The mother of a son born out of wedlock (“I wanted the career and the child”), Behrens, now in her mid-30s, hopes that “because I started late I may last longer.”

Calvin Simmons’ conducting potential was spotted at 11 when he was a member of the San Francisco Opera boys chorus. He became a protégé of maestros Max Rudolf and Rudolf Serkin and then apprentice to Zubin Mehta at the L.A. Philharmonic. Now, at 28, Simmons will take over the Oakland Symphony. He will also be in the pit for the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Juana la Loca, starring Beverly Sills, in San Diego. His sensational rise, says Simmons, “has left no time for a personal life. Conducting is all I want and know how to do.”

When Cesar Chavez began to organize California’s migrant grape workers in the 1960s, Luis Valdez became part of the propaganda arm of the movement with his radical drama troupe called El Teatro Campesino. One of 10 children of migrants himself, Valdez began entertaining in Chicano camps with a puppet show at 6. The first artistic payoff was an off-Broadway Obie Award, and now this March he will make his Broadway debut. The production is Zoot Suit, a drama he wrote based largely on the controversial 1942 arrest of 24 Chicanos for an L.A. murder. Although his farm-worker actors are not in the cast this time, Valdez, now 38, proclaims: “It’s time the Chicano culture crossed over.”

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