Marina Costa-Jackson and Elza van der Heever in ‘Norma.’ Photo by Karen Almond

During intermission at the Dallas Opera‘s opening night of Norma, one of my seat-neighbors turned to me and said, “My only complain about this production is the title — ‘Norma’ just seems like a name out-of-place in the ancient world.” “Yeah,” I said. “How about The Real Housewives of Gaul.” She chuckled, not because she was being nice, but because it’s true. Norma (sung by soprano Elza van den Heever) is a Druid high priestess in Roman-occupied France who has been carrying on an affair with the Roman overlord Pollione (tenor Yonghoon Lee), though he pledges himself to the virginal Adalgisa (Marina Costa-Jackson). When the women compare notes, and both realize that Pollione is both father to Norma’s children and Adalgisa’s betrothed. You can hear the collective grumble in the audience as they expect one of the women to up-end a table and sing the newly-discovered aria “Oh no she betta don’t!” as Maury Povich reveals who, in fact, is the real baby daddy.

But, like Debbie and Liz, Norma and Adalgisa don’t take out the betrayal on each other, but on the man who done them wrong. Suddenly, it’s less Teresa Giudice and more Witches of Eastwick.

Norma isn’t a comedy, but it does has some stirring melodrama that feels as real and current as realiTV. It’s humanity is what anchors it. But its music is what makes it soar. Bellini’s gift for bel canto is that even the heels and low-register male voices, as well as the women, simply delight your ears with their powerful and lovely singing. They could be referring to the fishmonger’s wife cleaning out the toilet, and you’d roll your eyes in ecstasy.

The production is as gorgeous to look at as it is to listen to. John Conklin’s protean set, beautifully lit by Thomas C. Hace so that it literally transforms the locale and the mood without moving a stick of furniture, evokes all the passion of the story, as well as its danger, with enviable ease. There’s also a whiff of lesbian attraction between Norma and Adalgisa, which complicates and illuminates the plot and character development. It;s too bad the show wasn’t a sell-out on opening night — an opera this good deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

At the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. April 26, 29 and May 7.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera, DSM and PAFW reveal upcoming seasons

‘The Lion King’ returns as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018 season.

Several companies have announced their upcoming seasons this week, in whole or part.

The Dallas Opera’s 61st season will feature five productions, including a U.S. premiere and three popular operas in the mainstream canon.

It starts with Samson and Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens (Oct. 20, 22, 25, 28 and Nov. 5). That’s performed in repertory with Verdi’s enduring tragedy La Traviata (Oct. 27, 29, Nov. 1, 4 and 10). 2018 kicks off with a rarely-seen one-act opera composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold when he was just 16: The Ring of Polykrates (Feb. 9, 11, 14 and 17, 2018). That will be accompanied by a recital of his acclaimed Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35), written to commemorate the fall of Nazism.

That’s followed by the U.S. premiere of modern composer Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden (March. 9, 11, 14 and 17), a technological wonder that employs 3D projections (yes, opera audiences will wear 3D glasses). The season concludes with Mozart’s Don Giovanni (April 13, 15, 18, 21, 27 and 29), one of the darkest and most musically complex operas every created.

In addition, the season will feature the opening gala, a fashion show, simulcasts, family performances and other community outreach. Performances will be at the Winspear Opera House. Tickets are available at DallasOpera.org.

You may have heard already that Hamilton will be part of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ 2018-19 season, but before we get there, the 2017-18 season stands in the way… or facilitates it. If you subscribe to the upcoming season, you get first crack at Hamilton the following year (as well as Disney’s Aladdin, which has also been announced).

Dec. 5–10: White Christmas. This add-on show returns.

Jan. 23–Feb. 4, 2018: The Color Purple. The recent Broadway revival took best actress in a musical away from Hamilton. The original production also won for best actress. Based on Alice Walker’s novel, it features a lesbian relationship in the early 20th century South.

Feb. 27–March 11: On Your Feet. The popular jukebox musical featuring the songs of Gloria Estefan.

March 28–April 8: Waitress. Sara Bareilles’ acclaimed Broadway debut as a composer, based upon the charming indie film.

April 24–May 6: Les Miserables. The sensation is back again.

June 13–July 8: The Lion King. Disney’s long-running hit, featuring the puppetry and brilliant staging of Julie Taymor.

July 24–Aug. 5: Love Never Dies. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, set in Coney Island.

Aug. 15–26: School of Rock. Webber’s latest musical, about a teacher who instructs kids on how to be headbangers.

All shows at Fair Park Music Hall; tickets available at DallasSummerMusicals.org.

As has been the case in recent years, many of the DSM shows are part of Performing Arts Fort Worth’s season at Bass Hall as well:

Jan. 17-21, 2018: Something Rotten. The comic telling of merriment in Olde Europe.

Feb. 16–18: Chicago. A season add-on of the long-running smash.

March 20–25: Finding Neverland. The behind-the-scenes telling of the inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

June 19–24: Waitress (see above).

Aug. 7–12: Love Never Dies (see above).

Aug. 28–Sept. 2: School of Rock (see above).

All performances at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Tickets available at BassHall.com.

In addition, the Dallas Theater Center will not release its full 2017-18 season until next month, but it has revealed the titles of four shows that will be included in it, among them The Trials of Sam Houston, Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, The Great Society — Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his award-winning LBJ drama All the Way, which DTC staged last year — and the counter-culture musical Hair. We’ll have the scoop on the full season later this month. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Want to be in an opera? The DO could use you for something fishy

moby_12The Dallas Opera’s season kicks off in a few weeks, with the return of the Jake Heggie-Gene Scheer adaptation of Moby-Dick, and while all the singing roles have been cast, there are still a few openings. The DO is looking for me who are “athletic, agile, adventurous, and unafraid of heights” to be supernumeries (extras) in the ocean-set opera. You don’t need to sing, just be willing to be eaten by a great white whale.

The open call is that the Karayanis Rehearsal Center on the Fair Park grounds on Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m., but you need to respond with your interest no later than noon, Oct. 1 by emailing mobydicksupers@dallasopera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Time and tide

‘Show Boat,’ ‘Big Meal,’ ‘Empress’ movingly portray the full landscape of life


Lara Tetter, above right, steals scenes in Dallas Opera’s ‘Show Boat. (Photo by Karen Almond)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor

Theater is a matter of life and death in North Texas this month — literally.

Screen shot 2016-04-21 at 3.00.58 PMAt WaterTower Theatre, the entire life-cycle is at issue in The Big Meal, a tender, funny, painfully real portrait of a family from courtship to death. It starts with two 20somethings Nicki and Sam (Kia Boyer and Garret Storms), meeting for an awkward first date or two, usually over dinner and drinks. With the chime of a bell, it’s now at least a decade later, with Nicki and Sam now played by Sherry Hopkins and Jakie Cabe. They reignite their relationship, and to the surprise of both, agree to marry … just so long as they don’t have children. A chime later, and two rug-rats (Kennedy Waterman and Alex Duva) come running in — apparently the call of biology was too much to resist.

The play continues on that way, with abrupt changes of setting and time … as well as cast. At first, John S. Davies and Lois Sonnier Hart play Sam’s parents; by they end, they are portraying Sam and Nicki themselves, now great-grandparents of pairs of kids (Cabe and Hopkins), grandkids (Storms and Boyer), etc.

Sound confusing? It’s really not, though it does demand your attention, something you willing give over as you become inextricably rapt by the authenticity of the lives of this family, which include dating, divorce, infidelity, cancer and of course death — the “big meal” in playwright Dan LeFranc’s construct. Each time the stage manager steps onstage with a full plate of food and a napkin-wrap of silverware, it’s someone’s turn to eat … and walk off-stage forever. Dinner becomes a form of Russian roulette.

Initially, the speed of the transitions, and the unmiked voices, force you to strain a bit to catch everything. And then you realize that director Emily Scott Banks is doing that intentionally, making you lean forward and engage. It’s a crafty way to rope you in, and for 100 uninterrupted minutes, she makes you laugh and breaks your heart. By the end, with Sam quaking from Parkinson’s, his mind fading as Nicki feeds him one last time, you’re wrecked. (Damn her montage of couples — gay and straight — and exquisite use of music to pluck at our emotions!)

The cast ably serves Banks’ vision. Storms is a protean actor who, better than anyone on North Texas stages right now, fluidly transforms from one type to another (a scene where he portrays every boyfriend Boyer’s character ever brought home is a subtle tour-de-force). Waterman — barely a teen — wowed audiences in Harbor and Daffodil Girls, and cements her rep as a “kid” actor with mature talent. Of all local theater companies, WaterTower seems the one most consistently occupied with telling the human experience with kitchen-sink verisimilitude. The Big Meal adds to that catalogue, a kind of modern-day Our Town. Come prepared to cry.


Kia Boyer and Garret Storms, above, begin a romance that becomes an entire lifetime in WTT’s ‘Big Meal.’ (Photo by Karen Almond)

You might well cry throughout Show Boat, too — the final production of the Dallas Opera’s current season and the first time the company has produced an American-style musical, not a traditional opera (though it’s actually more of an operetta). The songs — “Ol’ Man River,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “Bill” — are firmly ensconced as charter entrants in the Great American Songbook, and as delivered here, wrenching arias as well-honed as Mozart’s “Porgi amor” or Offenbach’s “Barcarolle.” Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II may not have reputations as “opera composers,” but their work stands with some of the greats.

It helps that the Dallas Opera has assembled a cast that not only sings with the strength of opera, but can act up a storm.
The story revolves around Magnolia Hawks (soprano Andriana Chuchman), a young girl touring with her parents about the Cotton Blossom, a moving river boat that wanders the Mississippi at the turn of the last century, performing overwrought melodramas for residents of the port towns. She meets the gambler Gaylord Ravenal (baritone Michael Todd Simpson), a tall and impressive dandy who sweeps her off her feet, giving her and their daughter a good life until his losses pile up, and Magnolia is forced to work for a living, becoming a celebrated singer.

Chuchman and Simpson have real chemistry, which you feel during their duet “Make Believe.” But it’s soprano Alyson Cambridge as the tragic Miss Julie LaVerne, a half-black actress “passing” for white in the segregated south, who delivers the show’s major knockout punch. “Bill” sounds like a novelty song — a sweet, goofy ballad about a woman infatuated by her seemingly average boyfriend — but Cambridge turns it in a breathtaking torch song of an alcoholic has-been, giving her all at the end of her career. And basso-profundo Morris Robinson brings it for his (and the show’s) signature song, “Ol’ Man River.”

As is often the case, the comic role of Cap’n Andy is a scene-stealer, and the limber dancer Lara Teeter commits grand theft. It’s a joyously upbeat performance in a show filled with as many dour moments as colorful bustles — the prototype for the modern musical, conducted with brio by Emmanuel Villaume.

Music is essential to another downbeat story about life and death. It’s Oct. 4, 1970, and Janis Joplin (Marisa Diotalevi) is drowning her sorrows in an L.A. hotel room when her idol — the late blues great Bessie Smith (M. Denise Lee) — seems to step out of the album she’s listening to and enters Janis’ world. Janis has died of a drug overdose and is just beginning to realize it; Bessie apparently is there to ease her transition into the afterlife.

The meeting of these musical greats, both cut down at the peak of their skills (Joplin at age 27, Smith at 43), forms the crux of Dianne Tucker’s reverie on American Music The Empress and the Pearl, now at Theatre 3’s downstairs space. Through songs (mostly Smith’s), conversation and some theatrical exposition, Tucker delineates the similarities between the performers, but also their differences as people and artists.

It’s not a balanced portrait. Joplin comes off as the more ungrateful and self-destructive of the two, a self-indulgent narcissist who ruined her raspy voice by burning out her soulfulness too recklessly, as well as ill-conceived romances with men and women. That’s something she shared with Smith, a sexually voracious singer who truly lived the blues.

Neither Lee nor Diotalevi look or sound much like their avatars, but it hardly matters; Lee in particular has the rich vocal chops to turn the small underground space into a Depression-era speakeasy. You can practically smell the gin in this cabaret.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 22, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Review: A bawdy, beautiful ‘Manon’ at the Dallas Opera


Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez in ‘Manon.’ (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

It was a disappointment on opening night of Manon, the Dallas Opera’s penultimate production of the season, to see more-than-expected unused seats in the orchestra — a missed opportunity for opera fans. The story is well known — about a randy 16-year-old acolyte, lured by sweet talk and kisses away from religious service and into progressively less suitable relationships — and the opera Jules Massenet’s most enduring contribution to the art. This is also only the Dallas Opera’s third presentation of Manon, and while I didn’t see the others, surely it must be the best.

Sir David McVicar’s stylized, bawdy production (re-staged here by E. Loren Meeker) maintains the original time setting (early in the court of Louis XV, just before the French aristocracy went to hell), but he gives it an exaggerated, carnival-like tone that seems very modern. He’s presenting the tale not as the corrupting of one girl, but of the inevitable corrupting influence of the whole society. It’s staged like a Restoration sex farce, with half-clothed bodies writhing in a public house, lascivious dandies lusting visibly for buxom lasses (there’s more groping than at a circuit party), exaggerated fops preening around like tweakers on a street corner. The deluge is coming, and they don’t even know it.

That makes Manon’s transformation from prim noviate to self-important socialite and obnoxious prima donna seem oh-so-familiar — meet The Real Courtesans of Versailles. There’s lots of talk of honor and respectability from a slew of degenerates who hit on their cousins and their son’s mistresses; the irony is not lost on McVicar, who adds broad moments of comedy the undercut the treacle (including an over-the-top kissing scene that could be out of a Judd Apatow movie, and the traditional ballet has all the funny vulgarity of Aristophanes). All of that imbues this production with a realness that can sometime be lost in the costumes and conceits of opera.

But the other secret weapons in this enjoyable production are the performances. Stephen Costello, who has appeared in numerous Dallas Opera productions over the last dozen years or so, has progressed from callow ingénue to expressive lyric tenor, his voice richer than before while he remains a dashing and emotive presence as De Grieux, Manon’s sincere paramour.

But even Costello gets outshone by the maelstrom that is Ailyn Perez as Manon. Her Dallas debut last fall in Great Scott introduced her as a master of comic timing housed inside a fully-realized soprano. But her Manon shows her asset as a performer of uncompromising artistic efficacy. Her rendition of her late-second scene aria (“Adieu, notre petite table”) is so plump with emotion, on opening night the audience held its collective breath, transfixed by the rawness of her singing. Perez conveyed each sigh and gasps as if they were notes meant to be sung. Her Manon gives beauty and relevance to a classic of the repertoire.

There are two more performances: Wednesday and Saturday. For tickets, visit DallasOpera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Barihunk … or 1 in tenor?

You have your choice of vocal ranges at Dallas Opera’s ‘Manon,’ with out singers Troy Cook and William Ferguson


ARIA THERE YET? | Troy Cook, left, and Will Ferguson are old friends reunited as rivals on the Winspear stage for Dallas Opera’s production of ‘Manon.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor

In many ways, Will Ferguson and Troy Cook couldn’t be more different. Ferguson is an operatic tenor, with a peripatetic repertoire that has taken him to New York City Opera and The Met (in the city where he lives), in addition to recitals specializing in interpretations of new composers. Cook, a baritone (so typically cast in heavier roles) has been gifted with an international career of mostly classical roles, including recent appearances in Madrid and London’s Covent Garden, but lives in rural Bucks County, Penn.

But they share one commonality: In addition to having featured roles in the Dallas Opera’s latest production, Massenet’s Manon, they are both out gay singers in the rarified world of opera.

There was a time you didn’t see that much — directors, conductors and designers? Yes. But onstage? Not so much. That has been changing, though … for men and women.

Although both have been openly gay in their personal and professional lives for decades, they agree that the practice of greater openness has grown.

Screen shot 2016-03-03 at 12.24.23 PM“I have seen singers who are gay but don’t talk about it much — but they are mostly non-U.S. citizens,” Ferguson observes.
“Their [native countries] are less accepting [of gay people], and they are often huge national celebrities there. In the late 1990s, there were a bunch of people who started to come out — largely women, like Beth [Clayton] and Patricia [Racette]. Then countertenors like David Daniels — I’m not sure why that is. But I also think the audience is changing.”

Cook is quick to agree. “Opera companies have been cultivating that market. It’s a way to create a sense of community around the opera — a ‘rainbow series.’ We have been fighting for full acceptance [in mainstream society] — to be just like everyone else. And now we seem to have it.”

Still, acceptance hasn’t seriously altered how openly either singer  has lived — both enthusiastically talk about their husbands, to whom each have been partnered for 16 years or more and now legally married. Ferguson’s husband, Kim, is also a singer (though of the pop-cabaret variety); Cook’s husband, Rob, is a gardener (who, he says, couldn’t carry a tune with a handle). For Ferguson especially, marriage equality has made a significant difference in his home life: Kim is a native Australian, and federal recognition of their marriage has facilitated his immigration status.

Ferguson and Cook both extol their fondness for Dallas — from its cosmopolitan qualities to its architecture and people. This is Ferguson’s fourth production with the DO in three years, and Cook’s first … though he performed years ago with the Fort Worth Opera. And they can’t say enough about the Winspear.

“I have to say, this opera house is one of my favorites in this country,” Ferguson says. “Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous but just to sing in there is great — the sound in there is amazing.”

“It’s a more intimate experience, more purpose-built,” Cook adds. “It’s the right shape, the right style for our art form.”

Audiences will get a chance to see how good they can sound in it for four performances of Manon, in a production originally conceived by out opera director Sir David McVicar. The two share a lot of stage time together, though they are something of romantic rivals for the attentions of Manon (played by the breakout star of last year’s world premiere of Great Scott, Ailyn Perez).

“I’ve done Manon at The Met before, but in a different role,” Ferguson says. “I guess that’s the kind of singer I am — different companies hire me for different kinds of ways. It’s great.” For Manon, he’s playing a much older character than he is. “The character is so different from what I look like or who I am —  I get to play dress up and be the villain!”

Cook, by contrast, “plays the savior of Manon who truly falls for her, all the while knowing she admires him and all he’s done for her but doesn’t really love him.”

Yeah, we’ve all been there.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones



Raymond Aceto and Emily Magee in ‘Tosca.’ (Photo by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Although Tosca premiered in 1900, the plot elements would not be out of place in a show on HBO. It has it all: lust, jealousy, murder, torture, betrayal, suicide. Paired with Giacomo Puccini’s gorgeous music, it is no surprise that Tosca has remained one of the most popular operas.

The action starts when Angelotti, a former consul turned political prisoner (strongly sung by bass-baritone Ryan Kuster), escapes with the help of his sister and hides in a church. There he encounters an ally, painter Mario Cavaradossi (Chilean tenor Giancarlo Monsalve). Cavaradossi is painting a portrait of Mary Magdalene, and admits modeling his work on the features of a beautiful blonde stranger who prays at the church. Nevertheless, he thinks only of his true love, the temperamental diva Floria Tosca (soprano Emily Magee).

Tosca, however, notices the resemblance in the portrait and grows jealous. Initially, Cavaradossi placates her, but then the sinister chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia (impressive bass Raymond Aceto), arrives to hunt down Angelotti. Scarpia burns to seduce Tosca, so he purposefully incites her jealousy, and she falls for the ploy; Cavaradossi is implicated in a scheme and arrested and tortured.

Tosca is tricked into visiting Scarpia’s apartment and is manipulated as she hears her lover’s screams. Scarpia wants her, and she wants Cavaradossi’s life to be spared. She is visibly repulsed and filled with hatred for him, but Tosca’s discomfort fuels Scarpia’s attraction. She finally relents, and then sings a beautiful “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,” before seeking her own revenge. Scarpia is one of the most odious characters in all of opera, so his undoing has emotional satisfaction. Still, Act 2 sees its share of overacting from Magee and Aceto in their lead roles, and the set looks tired and overused. Marie Barrett’s lighting design does nothing to improve the situation.) Nevertheless, the strong female chorus (off scene, and led by chorus master Alexander Rom) shines.

In other places, the singing is a mixed bag. Monsalve’s delivery of the famed aria “Recondita armonia” sounded weak at moments, but he may have been overpowered by the loud orchestra. He is excellent, however, on “E lucevan le stele.” Campbell S. Collins III is clear-voiced but tentative on the shepherd boy’s song.

By Act 3, the pacing feels languorous, even as the brass section excels, but the strings solos were marred by intonation problems. Even skilled conductor Emmanuel Villaume seemed incapable of preventing them.

Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer was likely challenged with an aging set of old production, which no doubt suffered from all the attention being given to Great Scott, but she did well with what she had. If you love classic Italian opera, Tosca is worthwhile, despite its shortcomings.

— Alicia Chang

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through Nov. 22. DallasOpera.org.



—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Opera review: ‘Great Scott’ is an adrenaline shot to opera

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in 'Great Scott.' (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Joyce DiDonato and Anthony Roth Costanzo are the stand-out cast members in ‘Great Scott.’ (Photos by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Does anybody really care about opera anymore? That’s the existential conundrum posed by several characters in the meta-opera Great Scott, a world premiere — based on an original idea — by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally.  When the Super Bowl is watched by millions, what difference does a never-before-seen 18th century Italian bel canto opera mean to the American culture at large really? Why bother?

The brilliant irony, of course, is that the existence of Great Scott answers its own question. A magnificent and glorious creation from the overture until the sweetly understated ending, this is a modern opera that defies expectations. It’s truly a game-changer: An adrenaline injection of life-force into a classic form.


The opera-within-an-opera about the fall of Pompeii.

First in the plus column is its creativity: Even in the heyday from Wagner to Verdi to Puccini, operas were based on preexisting sources — plays, legends, classics. But with its cellphones and contemporary dress and easy vernacular, Great Scott is wholly relatable and repeatedly unexpected. Like an MGM musical from the Golden Age, we meet the main characters backstage before the debut of a long-lost opera about Pompeii from the 1830s. The acclaimed soprano Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato, who despite a small handful of shaky notes was in fine form and acted brilliantly) has returned to her hometown to present this piece at the struggling American Opera, run by the optimistic impresario Winnie Flato (mezzo Frederica von Stade). Like The Producers, everything seems to go wrong — from the vain Eve-Harrington-ish newcomer (Ailyn Perez, powerful and hilarious) to the tentative romance between the conductor (Kevin Burdette, in a far cry from his work as Beck Weathers in Everest earlier this year) and the fesity stage manager (countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo) to the bickering tenor and hunky baritone (Rodell Rosel, Michael Mayes) to the bare-assed deux ex machina entrance — until it all goes wonderfully right. Arden finds her purpose, not unlike Princeton in Avenue Q, but with more recitatives.


Ailyn Perez gets laughs and gasps in her comic performance as a vain opera singer.(Photo by Karen Almond)

Great Scott is a solidly-structured comedy, the kind McNally has been crafting for 40 years. There are well-timed jokes (“This shit is hard!” Arden exclaims after performing an especially impressive aria) and finely-drawn personalities (there’s an embarrassingly deep list of interesting supporting characters) and even insights into the artistic temperament that never devolve into navel-gazing. Truly, this is a libretto to be admired for its nimbleness.

At three-and-a-half hours, though, and only one intermish, there must be room to parse and tuck; the fictional opera-within-the-opera Arden performs feels as if it is staged almost in full, and while Heggie’s music astonishingly mirrors true bel canto style, and the staging by Jack O’Brien is amazing, it drags out the metaphors too much. The same is true of Arden’s mystical conversation with the ghost of the composer Bazzetti (Guido Contini’s confrontation with his younger self in Nine accomplishes much the same in one-third the time). But as much as these scene seem to stretch out, it’s almost impossible to imagine where, exactly, to cut any notes from Heggie’s endlessly ravishing score.

World premieres of theater works always have a bit of a “work in progress” feel to them, but despite some quibbles, there’s little to be said badly of Great Scott. It is, simply, one of the most engaging modern operas produced this century. See it, and you’ll talk about it for years.

Great Scott next performs tonight at 7:30 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Nov. 15. DallasOpera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Dallas Opera ‘first look’ fashion show, opening night gala

The Dallas Opera launched its 2015–16 season this weekend with the world premiere of the Jake Heggie-Terrence McNally opera Great Scott to widespread acclaim. But the parties were a draw as well. On Thursday, the First Look luncheon in the lobby of the Winspear Opera House previewed the upcoming season of five opera with a fashion show featuring original pieces from designers like Michael Faircloth and Edo Popken, as well as accessories from Mulberry. Then on Friday night, despite torrential rains, the movers and shakers of Dallas and celebs including Tyne Daly and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed up for the late-night after-party with DJ Lucy Wrubel. Here are shots from both events. (Look for a review of Great Scott here later this week.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera seeks athletic dancers for world premiere of ‘Great Scott’

ThinkstockPhotos-485293865In October, the Dallas Opera will unveil its latest world premiere, Great Scott, from out composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally. The opera, set in Texas, revolved around a football team, and the creatives at the DO are in need of some men who can dance and look athletic at the same time. “For the four male dancers, The Dallas Opera is seeking candidates with strength, athleticism and the ability to convey a well-defined stage character.” Performers selected will be compensated for rehearsal time, and receive a performance fee. And they even get to appear onstage along with acclaimed mezzo Joyce DiDonato.

To schedule an audition (which will take place at the opera’s facility at Fair Park on Sunday, Sept. 27, from 2–5:30 p.m.), email your resume to Ahne.Schield@dallasopera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones