Whether ‘Don Pasquale’ or ‘Phantom,’ some grand nights for singing
DON PASQUALE at the Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Through March 7. DallasOpera.org.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Fair Park Music Hall,
901 First Ave. Through March 14.
I must confess, I never "got" The Phantom of the Opera as a romance, especially by the end, when the Phantom has become a sad, deformed man-child, like Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but without the family dynamic. And it’s easy to attack Andrew Lloyd Webber for his theatrical bombast: The musical is both a parody and recreation of a stuffy, self-important opera, and Webber shoots his melodic load in Act 1 — there’s no place for it to go.
That said, the current tour, which is reportedly the last, is elevated by fine singing by the entire cast (though the actress who played Christine at press night has since left the show). The show is, its flaws aside, still entertaining and filled with hummable songs (despite synthesizer effects that seemed dated almost as soon as they were introduced 20 years ago). If you haven’t seen it, it would be a shame not to catch it now, if for the kitsch value alone.
A more serious stab at opera — but also much funnier — is now at the Winspear. The Dallas Opera’s new production of Don Pasquale has such a contemporary feel (thanks the Candace Evans’ lively direction) that it could convince skeptics that opera can be energetic and fun.
The plot is classic opera buffa: A curmudgeonly bachelor (Donato DiStefano) decides to marry and disinherit his nephew (Norman Shankle), but his physician (Nathan Gunn, as dashing as Rhett Butler) connives to create family unity and see true lovers united.
Donizetti’s gorgeous score is performed, across the board, by gifted bel canto interpreters (though Adriana Kucerova, in her American debut, is the most dazzling) who are as good at acting as singing, but everything clicks. From the sets to the costumes to the comic precision, this is Dallas Opera’s best show of the last season. Maybe two.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.