Overtures: Our classical music calendar

Bell Joshua_ Perf shot 1 2010_PC Eric Kabik

Now that the holiday concerts are behind us, the classical season returns in full in February — and none too soon. Our classical music expert, Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, offers these notes on what to look for in February:

• Things start out with the truly amazing pianist, Nobuyuki Tsujii. Born blind, the 24-year-old Japanese man tied for the gold medal at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He learns all of his scores (some of the most complex in the repertoire) one note at a time. His performance has to be experienced live to be understood. You can hear him with the Fort Worth Symphony on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1 and 2, at 8 p.m., and Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee. He will play Tchaikovsky’s first concerto, which rocketed Van Cliburn himself to fame in 1958 in Moscow.

• Next weekend, the Dallas Opera takes you into both the oven and the frying pan with Lee Hoiby’s Opera Bon Appetit! Mezzo soprano Susan Nicely portrays food goddess and gay icon Julia Child in this tuneful and delicious amuse bouche. It’s a one-day-only event (Feb. 9), but there are two performances: one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. It will be presented not in the opera house, but in the Dallas Farmers Market Demonstration Kitchen. Where else? Admission is free, but reservations are needed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 02.17.12

Friday 02.17Vera-Pearl-3qtr

Time to get funked up
While the late Whitney Houston recharged one of Chaka Khan’s biggest hits, there’s no denying the funk queen’s own style. Khan comes to Dallas for a night of some legendary R&B with The O’Jays, Jeffrey Osborne, The Mary Jane Girls and Ohio Players as part of the Love Train show. What’s better — that’s not even the entire roster.

DEETS:
American Airlines Center
2500 Victory Ave.
6 p.m.

$24.50–$79.50.
Ticketmaster.com.

……………………..

Sunday 02.19

Knight in shining armor
The Dallas Opera gets all soap opera like in their production of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Sparks fly between a princess and a knight, but her husband isn’t too thrilled. He also happens to be the king. The tale is a classic and doomed love story, but the show gets a refreshed touch with this modern production.

DEETS:
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
2 p.m. Through Feb.
25. $25–$275
ATTPAC.org.

……………………..

Tuesday 02.21

No helper needed for this Tuna
Joe Sears and Jaston Williams reprise our favorite roles for Tuna’s Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Laughter. Vera, Bertha, Petey and the rest all get a bit older, but only get better as they remind us why we can’t get enough of some Tuna.

DEETS:
Eisemann Center
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
8 p.m. Through Mar. 4.
$44–$55.
EisemannCenter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Opera announces abbreviated 2012-13 season, another world premiere from Heggie

Last year, in a major cost-cutting initiative, the Dallas Opera trimmed its season from the planned five full-production operas (plus a chamber piece) down to four, one of which was scaled back to a concert version. The upcoming season looks even more spartan, with only three full-scale shows in 2012-13. But beyond that, there’s hope for some big things.

The so-called “Pursuit of Passion” season kicks off Oct. 26 with Verdi’s Aida, which will be directed by gay British composer John Copley. (I’ve been interviewing Copley for 10 years, and he always says he’s about to retire. So far, it hasn’t stuck… all the better for us. Aida will be followed in the spring with Puccini’s classic Turandot on April 6 and the return on April 12 of The Aspern Papers, which got its world premiere  25 years ago (in 1988) at the Dallas Opera.

But TDO isn’t just reminding us of its past premieres; it promises another in 2015 … once again from gay composer Jake Heggie.

Heggie, pictured — who composed Moby-Dick for its world premiere at the Winspear Opera House in the TDO’s inaugural season there — is teaming again with gay playwright and librettist Terrence McNally for the first time since Dead Man Walking. Great Scott will kick off its 2015-16 season. The rest of that season has not been announced.

The current season continues Feb. 16 with a concert version of Tristan und Isolde, followed by The Lighthouse, La Traviata and Die Dauberflote (The Magic Flute).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Racette an easy singer in a special TDO concert at the Winspear on Wednesday

Last night afforded opera fans the last chance to see a Dallas Opera presentation until 2012 — well, sort of. Soprano Pat Racette, who was supposed to portray Katya Kabonova this month before the production was canceled, still managed to play the Winspear in a special 70-minute cabaret set. (“In honor of Janacek, I have translated all the lyrics into Czech,” she joked.) Although she said she wouldn’t be singing opera, just classics, she couldn’t resist the chance to turn on the pipes big-time for “La Vie en Rose,” which was met with thunderous applause.

For those who sniff at the overblown style of opera, Racette could probably make a convert of ya. She was jokey and easy-going onstage with a torch singer’s facility. She also was refreshingly open. She someone from the audience yelled out, “Is Beth here?,” Racette didn’t hesitate to give shout-outs to her wife, mezzo Beth Clayton, and her in-laws, who were all in the hall. She even played around a bit with Gershwin, changing the lyric “I got my man” to “I got my gal” for one verse.

The set, consisted of several medleys and three encores, ran the gamut from Piaf to the novelty song “To Keep My Love Alive,” all met with warmth by the audience, populated with season subscribers. The worst thing about the evening? Being reminded that we would not get to see her do Katya. Here’s to hoping the TDO adds her back into the mix in a season real soon.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Last chance to see ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ at Dallas Opera

This week, we have an interview with soprano Pat Racette, who will be doing a special cabaret concert for Dallas Opera season ticketholders Wednesday, but not the planned full-scale opera she had been set for. That means you have to wait until the spring for the second production of the TDO season. But there’s still time to catch the last performance of its season premiere, Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be performed Sunday at 2 p.m. As I said in my review, it’s a marvelous show. Visit DallasOpera.org for tickets. Heck, maybe even sign up for a season and see Racette perform.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Aria there yet?

Patricia Racette, half of the lesbian power couple of opera, has certainly arrived. And that’s music to our ears

PR-Devon-Cass-5

QUEEN OF OPERA | Stunning soprano Patricia Racette was disappointed when the Dallas Opera canceled her production of ‘Katya Kabanova,’ but she still gets to perform at the Winspear this week with a cabaret performance featuring jazz and pop classics. (Photo courtesy Devon Cass)

 

GREGORY SULLIVAN ISAACS | Contributing Writer
gregoryisaacs@theaterjones.com

…………………..

AN EVENING OF CABARET
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Free to Dallas Opera season
subscribers. DallasOpera.org.
………………….

From the outside, the opera world seems like a gay haven — costumes, wigs, oversized egos, passionately dying divas full of drama. The fans are legendary in their devotion — the term “opera queen” is one that is used for self-identification more than it is tossed as a jab.

On the inside, however, it is mostly a gloriously appointed closet. While those who work in the opera, both onstage and off, are mostly straight, a large contingent are lesbians and gay men. They may be out to one another, and even show up at the gala with their partners, but few are out beyond the curtains.

Not so for the stunningly beautiful opera star Patricia Racette. “I am out and proud,” say the soprano in a phone interview. “Everyone has their own timing and their own issues to face, but I have never regretted coming out.”

Racette, who will sing leading roles in both Tosca and Madame Butterfly at the Met in 2012, is married to Beth Clayton, a mezzo-soprano justifiably famous for her smoldering portrayal of Carmen. They met while singing a production of La Traviata in Santa Fe in 1997, Racette playing the ill-fated Violetta and Clayton portraying her loyal friend Flora. (I always wondered about those two characters.) The couple married in 2005.

“It is inconceivable that we would be hiding our relationship,” Racette says. “If I were to be lying to everyone about such a huge aspect of my life, it would affect my performance. I am a total package and I certainly can’t leave part of me at home when I walk onstage.”

Any irony in a lesbian playing Tosca, the ultimate straight woman? Racette laughs at that thought. “We are past that nonsense in the theater and on television as more and more actors come out. In Tosca, I am portraying the circumstances of being passionately in love and I have my own love for Beth to dig into for motivation.”

In this, she is absolutely correct — you don’t need to be a whore to play Carmen. “There is a certain suspension of reality in opera,” Racette adds.

Racette admits to some apprehension at the start of her decision to come out, but it was short-lived. She looked at it in reverse: All her straight colleagues talked freely about their personal lives and the demands of spending so much time on the road, why not her?

“I thought, wait a minute. If I try to avoid these kinds of questions about my personal life, they will think that I am ashamed, like my love for Beth is some kind of dirty secret. For decades, the ‘It’s nobody’s business’ mantra kept opera singers in the closet. I can’t judge what other people do, but when

I hear that I think, ‘Too bad.’ They have no idea how liberating it is to just put all that baggage in the trash and live openly. If I want everyone else to think that my life is great, I have to show how great it is myself.”

Has this adversely affected her career? Hardly, as her Met engagements indicate. Clayton as well continues to get juicy roles. But she realizes that you can never know what you didn’t get.

“I am always asked this question and I always give the same answer. I just don’t know, and can never know unless someone tattles later. However, it really doesn’t matter. The opera world is full of as many disappointments as triumphs.”

One big disappointment was the cancellation of Janacek’s opera Katya Kabanova at the Dallas Opera this season. Racette was scheduled to sing the leading role in a glorious production in which she has triumphed in the past. “That one really hit me in the gut. I was so excited to return to Dallas. I went to school at North Texas State University and have many friends still in the area. I was especially looking forward to singing in the new house opera house.”

She will get to sing in the Winspear on Nov. 9, but it will be a far cry from Janacek. Racette performs her one-night cabaret as a bonus show to TDO patrons. Unlike other classical artists that seem stiff in crossover work, Racette started out singing jazz and cabaret; she switched to opera at the suggestion of an astute teacher. Accordingly, her program is a tribute to songs made famous by some of her favorite singers, and like any good gay person, Judy Garland and Edith Piaf top that list.

“Don’t expect any high notes,” she laughs. “I do in fact belt a few higher notes in the evening, but the reality is that my technique is speech-based. That translates into whatever style of music I sing. Sometimes, my opera fans are surprised that I can sing this way and not hurt my ‘other’ voice. But my technique allows for both styles and I sing in exactly same way — just in wildly different ranges.”

I ask Racette about Tosca’s great moment when she leaps off the castle wall to her death, cursing her tormentor on the way down. “Katya makes a leap as well, but into a river. Of course, Tosca is an opera diva, so her leap is much more spectacular. I always tell them to make it real and take some chances. However, I may feel like I am 17 when I am flying through the air, but I feel like I am every bit of 46 when I land.”

There is another unique “coming out” from Racette: She’s an opera singer who admits her age.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Dallas Opera opens season with ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’

She will cut you

The Dallas Opera opens its season with Lucia di Lammermoor, about Lucia, who isn’t too fond of her future husband. So much so, she takes matters into her own hands. For opera newbies, TDO offers a free public simulcast of the opening night in Sammons Park. One way or another, you’ll see how Lucia copes with a deceitful brother and the man he tricks her into marrying.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7:30 p.m. Through Nov. 6. $25–$275. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Applause: Stage pink

Queer highlights from the upcoming theater season

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Anticipation should be strong for the upcoming theater season in general. Ambitious shows like Giant, The Tempest, West Side Story and Hairspray all dot the stage horizon.
But we also like to see some of our own up there. As we look over the upcoming offerings from local theater companies, we always ask, “Where’s the gay?”  In addition to Uptown Players’ first  Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival, here are some of the others.

……………………….

Fall

Although the Dallas Opera canceled the opera she was set to star in, lesbian soprano Patricia Racette will still perform at a TDO gala. (Photo Devon Cass)

Singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik gave an indie music flair to the musical adaptation of the 1891 play Spring Awakening. Set in 19th century Germany, Awakening follows a group of youths as they discover more about themselves and their rapidly developing sexuality.

The original Frank Wedekind play was controversial in its day, depicting abortion, homosexuality, rape and suicide. Now the show just has an added rock ‘n’ roll score. Along with Sheik’s musical perspective, Steven Slater wrote the book and lyrics in this updated version which debuted in 2006 on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Musical. Terry Martin directs.

WaterTower Theater, 15650 Addison Road., Addison. Sept. 30–Oct. 23. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

It’s almost un-Texan if you’re gay and not familiar with Del Shores’ tales of Southern discomfort.  Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives are pretty much part of the queer vernacular in these parts, but Shores got his start way back in 1987.

How will those northern folks take to Shores work (And by north, we mean past Central Expressway past LBJ)? Jeni Helms directs Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will for McKinney Repertory Theatre this fall. As the family patriarch suffers a stroke, the Turnover family gathers as they wait for his death. This family may just put the fun in dysfunctional.

McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Sept. 30–Oct. 7. McKinneyRep.org.

WingSpan Theatre Co. will produce one of the greater comedies of theater-dom this fall: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Nancy Sherrard sparring over the gay wit’s price bon mots as Lady Bracknell.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Oct. 6–22. WingSpanTheatre.com.

Although A Catered Affair might sound a bit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it has the added flair of Harvey Fierstein’s wit. That’s because he wrote the book for the show alongside John Bucchino’s music and lyrics. The play is based on the Gore Vidal-penned 1956 film The Catered Affair starring Bette Davis.

When Jane and Ralph decide to get married, Jane’s mom Agnes wants to put on an elaborate spectacle of a wedding. The truth is, she can’t afford it and Jane isn’t all too thrilled about a huge affair. As in most cases, the wedding planning is more about the mom than the daughter and Agnes soon realizes the fact. Jane’s Uncle Winston — the proverbial gay uncle — is left off the guest list and is rightfully pissed. But as most gay characters, he rallies to be the voice of reason and support.

Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Ste.168. Oct. 13–Nov. 12. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Lesbian soprano Patricia Racette was going to be featured in the production of Katya Kabanová but unfortunately the show was canceled by the Dallas Opera. But fear not. Dallas will still get to bask in the greatness that is her voice as Racette will perform An Evening with Patricia Racette, a cabaret show with classics from the Great American Songbook for a patron recital.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Nov. 9. DallasOpera.org

………………………….

Spring

Nancy Sherrard will star as Lady Bracknell in WIngSpan Theater Co.’s fall production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ perhaps the greatest comedy ever written by theaterdom’s gayest wit.

Kevin Moriarty directs Next Fall for the Dallas Theater Center next spring. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play centers on Luke and Adam, a couple with some unusual issues. What’s new about that in gay couplehood? Not much, but when Adam’s an absolute atheist and Luke’s a devout Christian, the two have been doing their best to make it work.
The comedy played on Broadway in 2010, garnering Tony and Drama Desk nominations. And now Dallas gets to see how, as DTC puts it, “relationships can be a beautiful mess.”
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. April 13–May 6. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

Perhaps the most surprising queer offering this next season is Theatre Arlington’s production of The Laramie Project. The show usually creates quite a stir — at least it did in Tyler, thanks to Trinity Wheeler — so how will this suburban audience handle it? Doesn’t matter. Props to T.A. for taking Moises Kaufman’s play about the tragic bashing and death of Matthew Shepard to its community.

Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main St., Arlington. May 18–June 3. TheatreArlington.org.

Usually the question with MBS Productions is “what’s not gay?” Founder Mark-Brian Sonna has consistently delivered tales of gay woe and love that are sometimes silly and sometimes sweet, but always a laugh.

This season is no different. Playwright Alejandro de la Costa brings back drag queen Lovely Uranus in The Importance of Being Lovely. The last time we saw Uranus, Sonna wore the stilettos and pink wig in last season’s Outrageous, Sexy, (nekkid) Romp.  This time around, Uranus graduates to leading lady status as the show is all about her as audiences follow her through the changes she makes in her make-up, wigs and men.

Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. July 16–Aug. 11, 2012. MBSProductions.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Opera cancels production with out soprano

To get a handle on its finances, the Dallas Opera announced that it will cancel one of the five scheduled full main-stage productions of next season, and the victim is Katya Kabanova, which was to star out soprano Patricia Racette. In a lengthy press release, the DO explained how the move to the Winspear proved more costly than anticipated, and to “stabilize company finances as rapidly and prudently as possible,” the Russian opera, which was to be the second production of the 2011-12 season, would be canceled. Subscribers will be given a full refund.

This doesn’t mean Dallas won’t get to see Racette perform, however — she is still set to headline a special patron recital in November.

Katya Kabanova was the obvious choice to trim; the other four major productions are among the most popular in the repertoire: Lucia di Lammermoor, Tristan & Isolde, La Traviata and Die Dauberflote (The Magic Flute). A fifth “chamber” opera, which will mark the opera directing debut of DTC’s Kevin Moriarty, will go on as planned.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 04.08

He’ll keep a ‘Light’ on for you
Last year, Jake Heggie brought people back to the opera with the world premiere of his adaptation of Moby Dick. The gay composer works his magic with another world premiere, but for one night only. He and Gene Scheer debut their song cycle A Question of Light, performed by Nathan Gunn, as part of
Unveil: The Dallas Opera 2011 Gala.
DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2301 Flora Way. 8 p.m. $75. DallasOpera.org/gala

 

Saturday 04.09

This comedy isn’t down the tubes
As the Dweeb Girls, rock band The Surly Bitches or pseudo country music sensations Euomi and Wynotta Spudd, comedy team Dos Fallopia works hard for the laughs. The “kamikaze comedy team” of Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch have been at this for 25 years and bring the funny to Fort Worth.
DEETS: Youth Orchestra Hall, 4401 Trail Lake Drive. 8 p.m. $20­–$40. OpenDoorProductionsTx.com.

 

Sunday 04.10

Get hallucinating with ‘Alice’
Nouveau 47 amps up last year’s production of the Lewis Carroll classic by adding more of his work in Alice in Wonderland & Other Hallucinations. We’re glad we get to partake in theater that acts as an hallucinogen rather than taking a pill. So much easier.
DEETS: The Magnolia Lounge, 1121 First Ave. Through April 23. Nouveau47.com

—  John Wright