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

Great Scott! Dallas Street Choir taps opera heavyweights for concert of show tunes

Jonathan Palant

Jonathan Palant

Among his musical projects, maestro Jonathan Palant (formerly artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale) proudly leads the Dallas Street Choir, a chorus made up of homeless and disadvantaged people. The singers are all volunteers, and most have little if any musical training. But Palant gets them to make some beautiful music.

So you can understand why some serious singers would be jealous Friday night, when the choir takes to the stage of Hamon Hall (inside the Winspear Opera House) to appear with some of the best-trained voices in the world. Cast members from the recently-acclaimed world premiere opera Great Scott — Frederica von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Perez, Rodell Rosel and Anthony Roth Constanzo — will join Palant and Great Scott composer (and pianist) Jake Heggie for a concert benefiting the Street Choir called The Opera Lovers’ Broadway: Great Voices Sing Broadway’s Favorite Hits.

If you haven’t seen Great Scott, this is a chance to see some of what you’re missing; if you have, it’s an opportunity to revisit these voices and do something great for Dallas’ homeless community.

General admission is $60, and limited VIP seats (which include a signed program) are available for $100. The concert is Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. 214-871-5000.

—  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

BREAKING: Dallas Opera announces 2015-16 season

Jake Heggie

Keith Cerny, general director of the Dallas Opera, announced the upcoming season for the company (its 59th) at Hamon Hall inside the Winspear Opera House this afternoon.

Among the guests present were out composer Jake Heggie, pictured, who wrote the world premiere Moby-Dick for the DO, which closed the company’s inaugural season in the Arts District in 2009-10. As had been previously announced, Heggie has reteamed with librettist Terrence McNally to compose a new opera, Great Scott, which will launch the 2015-16 season on Oct. 30.

For the first time in the DO’s history, a Broadway musical — not an actual “opera” — will be on the slate: Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s 1927s hit Show Boat. The show is best remember for the song “Old Man River,” which has often been a signature performance for powerful operatic baritones, including Paul Robeson and William Warfield, who performed it memorably in the MGM film adaptation in 1951. (See a video of Warfield’s rendition after the jump.) It will be performed April 15-May 1. It will close out the season.

Among the other productions slated for the new season: Puccini’s Tosca, Nov. 6-22; a second world premiere, Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus, Dec. 4-12; Manon by Jules Massenet, March 4-12.

The current season continues later this month with two one-act opera: La Wally and the new creation Everest, both set on mountaintops.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

GIVEAWAY: Tickets to tonight’s “Three Decembers” at the Fort Worth Opera Festival

The Fort Worth Opera has been very generous to offer Dallas Voice readers a chance to partake in their current FW Opera Festival.  The impressive lineup this year includes Tosca, The Marriage of Figaro, Lysistrata and Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers.

You might remember that name when he premiered the opera Moby Dick at the Winspear in 2010. The out composer makes his splash again with his newest chamber opera about an aging Broadway star and the ramifications of choosing career over children. Mixing Broadway and opera is quite a feat, but knowing Heggie, he no doubt pulls it off with finesse.

We have three pairs of tickets for tonight’s show. Just email me here by 2 p.m. with “A Night at the Opera” in your subject line along with contact info in the email and I’ll select three random winners for tonight’s performance.

Note that while the majority of the festival is at Bass Music Hall, this show will be performed at the Scott Theatre. For more information about the festival, click here. And stay tuned for more ticket giveaways to the final weekend of the Fort Worth Opera Festival.

—  Rich Lopez

What’s gay at the Fort Worth Opera Festival

It’s not just Michael Chioldi, whom we profiled this week playing Scarpia in Tosca, who brings queer sensibilities to the Fort Worth Opera Festival (which started last weekend). There are some other gay connections you might wanna know about:

• The only two living composers to have their work performed this season — Jake Heggie (Three Decembers) and Mark Adamo (Lysistrata) — are gay. Three Decembers runs tonight.

• The director of Lysistrata, FWO regular David Gately, is also gay.

• Charles Allen Klein, who designed the costumes for The Marriage of Figaro, is the partner of opera director Bliss Hebert. We profiled the two of them earlier this year for their Traviata production at the Dallas Opera.


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

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

Culture: Year in Review 2010

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? ‘Before Night Falls,’ above, was one of two acclaimed operas (both by gay composers) to get their world premieres in North Texas in 2010.

While 2009 got a lot of the arts ink with the opening of the new performance spaces Downtown — which have turned out to be problematic behemoths with too many issues to name here — 2010 had its own highlights culturally (both high and low culture at that), especially those of relevance to the gay community.

While the Winspear Opera House itself continues to underwhelm with its limited restrooms, awkward configuration and confusing ergonomics, the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s opera Moby Dick turned out to be an artistic highlight of the year. Combining a massive set with video graphics, it may usher in a new technological advance to the venerable art form.

Over in Tarrant County, Fort Worth Opera general director Darren Woods helped cultivate his own world premiere, Jorge Martin’s Before Night Falls, based on queer poet Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir. It was shocking, frank and a promising addition to the canon.

As the Dallas Theater Center continues to toil in the cramped Chinese box that is the Wyly Theatre, Uptown Players held its first full season at the mostly vacated Kalita Humphreys Theater — making it truly an Uptown troupe now. The experiment proved so successful that not only was the entire season staged there, but 2011’s full season (with a few special events) will be there, too.

College student John Otte tried to put on an excerpted version of Terrence McNally’s controversial play Corpus Christi as part of a school project, but threats by others in the community led Otte to cancel his production. Threats were not able to derail several screenings — local and national — of Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s grindhouse revenge fantasy Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives, which caused a hoopla at the Tribeca Film Festival.

X MARKS THE SPOT | Jorge Rivas’ Faces of Life photo exhibit seeks to raise money for AIDS Arms.

Jorge Rivas’ Faces of Life photographic venture took the concept of stylized photos that make a political and artistic statement — from PETA to NOH8 — and gave it a local angle, with dozens of Texans posing with oversized red ribbons to raise money and awareness for AIDS Arms.

Gay sports fans had a lot to cheer about this year, too. First, Uptown Vision’s TKO team took the top trophy at the gay softball World Series in Ohio this summer. Unrelatedly, but still impressively, the second annual NAGAAA Cup — a kind of prelim to the World Series — will be held in Dallas next spring. Major League World Series fans also got to see the Texas Rangers in their first bid ever, though they lost in the fifth game to San Francisco.

In the fall, the Dallas Diablos held the second HellFest rugby tourney and exceeded all expectations when teams from eight cities participated in an event everyone involved declared a success …. even the half-dozen escorted off the field in stretchers. Hey, it is rubgy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas