The Dallas Opera announced its new season at a press conference on Thursday. Entitled "Pursuits of Passion," it is a spectacular, but slightly odd, collection of three operas. TDO calls this "a trio of pulse-pounding masterpieces."
Notice the word "trio."
The season will only present three operas, which is a major pull back from the five that had been the staple for years. Of course, this season, one had to be cancelled (Janacek's Katya Kabanova), making it four—but they do have a chamber opera, The Lighthouse, a co-production with Dallas Theater Center. It is probably better to program safely than to cancel works two years in a row.
That said, two of the three operas that will be performed are blockbusters. The third is an interesting rarity with major significance to the Dallas Opera.
The season opens on Oct. 26, 2012 with Verdi's Aida, the granddaddy of all of the big productions with elephants, thousands of extras and multiple choruses. Coming a close second on the extravaganza scale, April 5 will see the opening of Puccini's Turandot. Once again, it's a monster opera with multiple choruses and a cornucopia of extras. Running concurrently (opening on April 12) will be a revival of Dominick Argento's The Aspern Papers, which the Dallas Opera premiered in 1988 (and which we knew they were doing because of a recently announced National Endowment for the Arts grant). Based on the Henry James novella, in this opera the chorus gets a break in that they are off stage. Dallas Opera Chorus Master Alexander Rom certainly has his work cut out for him.
Why cut one show for what are supposedly financial reasons and then program two very expensive operas? Well, part of this is that the opera already owns the productions so sets and costumes are on hand. This is always one of the biggest money holes that opera companies have to deal with—when built or rented. Secondly, it is a sure bet that at least Aida and Turandot will sell out. They are sure-fire box office bonanzas.
Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny described the reasoning behind the season decisions in a recent interview.
"As is typical for opera seasons, the repertoire and much of the casting had been set long in advance," he said. "Once we knew that we needed to reduce the volume of programming in our 2012-2013 season to cut costs, we looked carefully at a number of factors including: scheduling balance, artistic quality of each production, likely ticket demand, relative expense and impact on cash flow. Having completed that process, and discussed the tradeoffs in detail with our Executive Committee, we made the final decision to present these particular operas."
There is little doubt that Cerny is a godsend to the Dallas Opera, especially in light of the disaster that George Steele, who was here for just a few months, has wrought at New York City Opera.
And it's important to note that this announcement comes just two days after the Dallas Opera announced a major world premiere for 2015: Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally's Great Scott, starring Joyce DiDonato.
The Aida will be conducted by Music Director Graeme Jenkins and will star soprano Latonia Moore, a former winner of the Dallas Opera Guild's annual vocal competition (1998) who has gone on to fame and, hopefully, fortune, in the years since. In the role of Aida's nemesis, Amneris, mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva will make her company debut. The role of Radames will be sung by tenor Antonello Palombi, who is fondly remembered for his turn as Canio in the 2005 production of Pagliacci. Amonasro, Aida's overbearing father, will be portrayed by baritone Lester Lynch, who played a terrifying Crown in the Dallas Opera's 1994 and 2008 Porgy and Bess. British director John Copley, who gave Dallas a sparkly The Marriage of Figaro in 2008, will direct.
Turandot will see the very welcome return of conductor Marco Zambelli on the podium. It will be staged by Garnett Bruce, who has had some hits and misses here before. Starring in the role in which she made her Metropolitan Opera debut is soprano Lise Lindstrom as Princess Turandot. Antonello Palombi will return as Prince Calaf. Hei-Kyung Hong, who was last heard in the title role of Jules Massenet's Manon (2001) after previously singing the role of Mimì in the company's sold-out 1999 production of La bohème, will sing the role of Liù. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn will portray Calaf's father. Baritone Jonathan Beyer, tenor Joseph Hu and tenor Keith Jameson will sing the roles of Ping, Pang and Pong.
Jenkins will be back in the pit for The Aspern Papers with staging by British director Tim Albery. The cast will feature three of the greatest singers in opera today. The revival will star Susan Graham in her long-awaited Dallas Opera debut as Tina. Soprano Carol Vaness (a personal favorite of mine) will sing the role of the possessive opera singer, Juliana Bordereau, and renowned American baritone Nathan Gunn will portray the Lodger. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser, in his company debut, will portray the composer, Aspern. Dean Peterson will portray the impresario Barelli. Barelli's mistress, a singer named Sonia, will be performed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who recently impressed as one of the trio of artists who performed in the Dallas Opera's Family Concert. This will be her "official" debut. Bass Eric Jordan will make his company debut as a Painter, with soprano Jennifer Youngs (now starring as Laurette in the Dallas Opera's touring production of Doctor Miracle) portraying a Maid.
All performances will be at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera house, which is located in the heart of the Arts District in downtown Dallas, at 2403 Flora St., Dallas.
Renewal packets for full season subscribers and FLEX season subscribers have just been mailed to patrons. Dallas Opera season subscribers can renew their seats for the 2012-'13 season, beginning Jan. 19, 2012. New patrons can purchase their subscriptions for the 2012-'13 season as of March 1, 2012. Subscriptions for all three productions can be purchased for as little as $75.
Single tickets are expected to go on sale to the general public in September. All single tickets for individual performances are subject to availability. Tickets may be purchased at the door, throughout the 2012-'13 season, or in advance by calling 214-443-1000. Subscriptions and single tickets will also be available throughout the season online at www.dallasopera.org.