Last week, for the Fourth of July, the Dallas Opera released results of its unscientiffic poll on American opera. As in, what is the best opera composed by an American? The American-ness of the subject matter was not necessarily a criterion.
From an informal poll sent to critics and opera writers in Texas and around the country, including TheaterJones' critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, they got 28 ballots. The respondants listed their top operas, with some comments. You can read what they said on the Dallas Opera blog, here.
Other local writers included Scott Cantrell of Dallas Morning News and Wayne Lee Gay of D Magazine/FrontRow, plus David Shengold (a Philadelphia writer, contributer to Opera News and more), Katherine Baltrush of Opera America, freelancers Maria Nockin, blogger/critic Olivia Giovetti and William Burnett of Opera Warhorses.
By a wide margin, the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess came in at number one. The work is currently being revived on Broadway with Audra McDonald (she won her fifth Tony for playing Bess) and Norm Lewis, and the ensemble includes former Dallas actor Cedric Neal.
There was apparently a lot of discussion over how the rest of the list would turn out, and the most recent opera of the bunch, Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick, which debuted at Dallas Opera in 2010, made the top 5. Again, the poll was pretty unscientific, but c'mon, can you argue here?
Here's the Top 5:
- George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
- Carlisle Floyd's Susannah
- Samuel Barber's Vanessa
- Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe
- Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (which premiered at Dallas Opera in 2010)
Runners up and other works talked about include:
- John Adams' Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic
- Virgil Thompson's The Mother of Us All
- John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles
- Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach
- William Bolcom's A View From the Bridge (Arthur Miller contributed to the libretto and lyrics)
- Tobias Picker's Emmeline
- Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree
- Heggie's Dead Man Walking
- Aaron Copland's The Tender Land
- Lee Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke (based on the Tennessee Williams play; Lanford Wilson wrote the libretto)
What do you think? What is your choice for best American opera?