Dallas — Two longstanding favorites will bookend three adventurous productions for The Dallas Opera’s five-opera 2020-21 “Embrace the Passion” season, with a world premiere at the center of the season; the season will also include two female guest conductors for the first time in the company’s history. General director Ian Derrer announced the season Thursday afternoon at Winspear Opera House.
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro will open the season with a six-performance run beginning Oct. 9. Music director Emmanuel Villaume will conduct the performances, featuring sets created for Washington National Opera; Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly will take the title role and Kyle Lang will direct. The delicacies of Mozart’s comedy will be followed by Wagner’s epic Lohengrin, with four performances beginning Oct. 30, conducted by Villaume with Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones in the title role. Villaume will conduct the new production designed and directed by Louis Désirè; the innovative production will place the orchestra onstage with the soloists and chorus.
Composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer are currently collaborating to create the new opera, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; the world premiere will arrive as the season’s third production on March 5, with three additional performances. Based on the controversial memoir of the same title by Jean-Dominique Bauby, long-time editor of ELLE magazine, and written after Bauby suffered a paralyzing stroke, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will be conducted by Villaume with baritone Lucas Meacham in the role of Bauby (Julian Schnabel directed an acclaimed movie version in 2007). Talbot and Scheer previously collaborated for the opera Everest, which premiered at Dallas Opera in 2014. Scheer also produced the librettos for Thérèse Raquin by Tobias Picker, which premiered at Dallas Opera in 2001; Moby Dick by Jake Heggie, which premiered at Dallas Opera in 2010; the song cycle A Question of Light by Heggie, which the Dallas Opera presented in its world premiere in 2011; and the oratorio August 4, 1964 by Steven Stucky, which the Dallas Symphony Orchestra premiered in 2008. Leonard Folia will direct the production, with sets by Robert Brill. Scheer and Foglia, were present for the announcement Thursday.
“It’s a very complicated, non-linear story, which we hope will be an uplifting,” said Foglia, speaking of the built-in challenges of a story in which the central character is paralyzed and communicates only with blinks of his eye.
Librettist Scheer, who researched the events in the book extensively in interviews with Bauby’s medical staff and family, added, “I think this will surprise you. There will be lots of information than’s not in the book.”
Foglia, who staged Everest and Moby-Dick for Dallas Opera, commented, “I equate Dallas Opera with challenge.”
Orfeo ed Euridice by Christophe Willibald Gluck, Mozart’s older contemporary, will open a run of four performances on April 9, in a collaboration with Texas Ballet Theater. Generally regarded as the foundational work of classical-period opera, Orfeo ed Euridice is a relative rarity in live performance; Russian-born Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of Chicago Opera Theater (and currently the only female music director of a major American opera company) will conduct. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton will take the pants-role of Orfeo, joined by soprano Madison Leonard as Euridice; Chas Rader-Shieber will direct and Isaac Lerner will choreograph the production, which will feature sets from the production by Des Moines Metro Opera.
The season will close with a production of Puccini’s perennial audience favorite Tosca, opening April 17 for a series of six performances. Keri-Lynn Wilson, well-known to Dallas audiences as associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra during 1994-98, will make her Dallas Opera debut as conductor; Jose Maria Condemi will direct the production, originally created for Cincinnati Opera, with soprano Jennifer Rowley in the title role opposite tenor Gianluca Terranova as Cavaradossi and baritone Ambrogio Maestri as Scarpia.
All mainstage productions will be presented at Winspear Opera House. The season will also include a gala dinner and concert event featuring the Dallas Opera Orchestra, conductor Villaume, and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato on November 6 at Winspear Opera House; an art song recital by baritone Benjamin Appl on Jan. 31, 2021, at Moody Performance Hall; The Hart Institute for Women Conductors Showcase with the Dallas Opera Orchestra on February 19, 2021 at Winspear Opera House; the Dallas Opera National Vocal Competition finals with the Dallas Opera Orchestra on May 1, 2021 at Winspear Opera House. The Family Performance Series will include family-friendly operas Jack and the Beanstalk, set to music of Arthur Sullivan on October 10 and March 27, 2021, and Doctor Miracle by Bizet on October 24, 2020, and March 6, 2021; both productions are at Winspear Opera House.
“We’re presenting a very balanced season,” said general director Derrer, “with a mix of familiar, bold and new, intimate, grand.”
Dallas Opera operates on an annual budget of $18 million, with an endowment fund of approximately $30 million.
Flexible season subscriptions are available by calling 214-443-1000 or dallasopera.org.