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Making Dallas Even Better

Engaging Hamlet Solidifies Fort Worth Opera’s Reputation for Excellence and Innovation

Until a few years ago, nineeenth-century French composer Ambroise Thomas’s operatic re-working of Shakespeare’s Hamlet pretty well sat on the shelf and gathered dust; Saturday night, Fort Worth Opera presented the once all-but-forgotten work in a production (conceived for Washington National Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 2009) that is constantly engaging visually, musically, dramatically, and vocally.

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Dog Days Shocks and Awes at Fort Worth Opera Festival

Cannibalism, murder, masturbation, pot-smoking (the last two in one scene) . . . Fort Worth Opera seems determined to set the record for shock on the operatic stage with the current production of David T. Little’s Dog Days at Scott Theatre.

Also, fortunately, in addition to its shock value, Dog Days has all the markings of an operatic and dramatic masterpiece, and its presentation in Fort Worth will go down as one of the more significant dates in the region’s operatic history.

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The Dallas Opera Sheds Beautiful Light on the Rarely Performed Iolanta

Nobody wants to be kept in the dark, isolated by a lack of knowledge or pitied by those around them who are in the know. Ignorance, in most cases, offers little bliss.

In Tchaikovsky’s final opera, Iolanta, (a new production of which opened at The Dallas Opera over the weekend), the title character finds herself kept utterly in the dark, both literally and metaphorically. The daughter of a king, she was born blind and quickly shuffled off to a secluded castle in the woods where she lives alone with a small cohort of servants and caretakers who have been instructed to lie to her about both her identity and physical circumstance. Iolanta is not to know that she is the king’s daughter or that she is blind. Everyone around her carefully avoids any mention of light, beauty, or the concept of sight.

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Andrew Bidlack on Everest, Iolanta, and Why He Keeps Coming Back to The Dallas Opera

Tenor Andrew Bidlack isn’t afraid of a vocal or dramatic challenge. This fearlessness, in addition to his sparklingly bright, clear voice and sensitive musicality, has made him a go-to hire for The Dallas Opera, especially when they are staging a new or obscure work.

Three years ago, when TDO presented a little-known 1970s chamber opera with a dark, psychological thriller of a plot (The Lighthouse), Bidlack skillfully tackled a dual role that required navigating tricky modern music. When the company asked him to sing a lead role in a brand new opera (Everest), Bidlack agreed before the music was even composed (“because it just sounded like a really cool project”). And when TDO approached him to join the cast of their upcoming production of Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed Russian-language opera Iolanta, Bidlack was game again, despite the fact that the only score he could find for the piece was written in Cyrillic.

Earlier this week, we sat down with Bidlack to discuss his post-production thoughts on Everest, his upcoming role in Iolanta, and his close working relationship with TDO over the past three years. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

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The Dallas Opera Plays It Safe With La Bohème

When it comes to programming, The Dallas Opera seems to have settled on a strategy that seeks to please two types of audience members: those that crave something innovative and fresh, and those that long for standard takes on the familiar. Wisely, they are throwing the bulk of their energy and money at enticing the former group with innovative contemporary works and interesting productions, and then rounding out their seasons with budget-friendly versions of standard classics that will appeal to more conservative opera lovers. La Bohème, which opened over the weekend, belongs to the latter category. The production, costumes, and staging feel tired and dull to me, but strong singing and beautiful playing from the orchestra redeem the experience.

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Why The Dallas Opera Is Bringing More Women Conductors to the Podium

Picture a classical conductor in front of an orchestra. What image comes to mind? A tuxedo? A baton? A confident bow? Maybe some wild, unruly hair, bouncing with rhythmic jerks of the head? Regardless of the details, more than likely the image you’ve conjured in your mind’s eye is that of a man. And for good reason, because more than likely, the vast majority of the conductors you’ve seen either in person or depicted in popular culture are men. Statistics back up your experience. Which is why, last week, The Dallas Opera announced a new initiative: The Institute for Women Conductors, or IWC, is a unique residential program that will bring six women conductors under the age of 40 to Dallas for an intensive nine days of master classes, seminars, and, of course, conducting.

In some ways, TDO is an unlikely leader in this area. Before Nicole Paiement conducted Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers in 2014, it had been 40 years since a woman last conducted a TDO mainstage production. With the appointment last summer of Nicole Paiement as principal guest conductor and the IWC set to bring six of the world’s best up-and-coming female conductors to Dallas every year, The Dallas Opera is setting up to not only move out of the Dark Ages, but to lead its field in encouraging equal opportunity at the podium.

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Dallas Opera to Launch Program for Women Conductors

The Dallas Opera announced Monday it will launch a new program to help boost talented women conductors. The institute, which will be inaugurated on Nov. 28, is intended to address a “long-standing” issue of women conductors being underrepresented in the field, according to a statement from the opera.

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With Everest, The Dallas Opera Looks Forward

The Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Everest, a new opera by composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer, has all the ingredients of a blockbuster. Gripping, edge-of-your-seat story-telling, stunning, innovative design, and poignant lyricism combine to create one of the more instantly appealing contemporary operas I’ve seen. If you want to see where opera is headed in the 21st-century, don’t miss this production.

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Dallas Opera’s 2015-16 Season to Feature 2 World Premieres

The Dallas Opera announced the details of its 2015-2016 season today at a press event at the Winspear Opera House. In attendance were composer Jake Heggie and superstar mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who will team up to start the fall with a world premiere of Great Scott, a new American opera by Heggie and Terrence McNally (original story and libretto) starring DiDonato in the title role.

Great Scott is Heggie’s first opera since Moby-Dick, which had its premiere with the Dallas Opera in 2010 during the company’s inaugural season in the Winspear Opera House. Sung in English and set in an unspecified modern American city, Great Scott tells the story of Arden Scott (DiDonato), a fictional star soprano with a major international operatic career. Scott is returning to her hometown, where she plans to help revitalize its struggling company by starring in a world premiere production of a newly discovered bel canto opera. Scott’s plans face a major hitch when the city’s NFL team earns its first Super Bowl appearance, threatening to completely overshadow her big performance. In short, this is an opera about opera, featuring one of America’s greatest living divas playing a great American diva, with a side-plot that involves pro football. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate city for this world premiere than Dallas.

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