2015–2016 Season Seeking the Human Element

Great Scott

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Opera star Arden Scott returns to her hometown to save the struggling company that launched her career. The opening night performance of the long-lost opera she discovered falls on the same night as the home team’s first National Championship game (Go, Grizzlies!). The fate of the company hangs in the balance as Arden discovers that greatness is truly a matter of heart.

Starring Joyce DiDonato • Ailyn Pérez • Frederica von Stade • Nathan Gunn • Anthony Roth Costanzo

Conductor Patrick Summers • Director Jack O’Brien
Set and Costume Design Bob Crowley • Lighting Design Brian MacDevitt
Projection Design Elaine J. McCarthy

Rated PG-13 Adult themes, language, situations


ACT ONE: (In Rehearsal)

Final rehearsals are underway for American Opera’s world premiere performance of Vittorio Bazzetti’s Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei which has lain neglected since its composition in 1835 until it was found by the celebrated American lyric-mezzo Arden Scott in a drawer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Now, to celebrate her official hometown debut, Arden has proposed to American Opera a production of this long-lost – and everyone hopes – masterpiece of bel canto. The future of the struggling company, headed by founder and artistic director Winnie Flato, depends on the success of Rosa Dolorosa – just as the fate of the Grizzlies, the town’s professional football team (owned by Winnie’s husband), depends on the outcome of the Super Bowl across town the very same night as Rosa.

Arden tells the company the story of finding the manuscript and her confidence in its worth, but shares her own self-doubts that she will do it justice. She is at a crucial point in her career and her decision to sing Rosa Dolorosa will have serious consequences for her, both personal and professional. A potentially serious stage accident further rattles everyone’s nerves and a full break is called.

Eric Gold, the conductor, is put surprisingly off guard when Roane Heckle, American Opera’s stage manager, begins a flirtation with him. Baritone Wendell Swann and tenor Anthony Candolino waste no time in making sure that Winnie will remember them for future engagements at American Opera.

Taking all this in is Tatyana Bakst, a young soprano Arden discovered in Eastern Europe and immediately proposed for the second lead in Rosa Dolorosa. Eager to make her American debut at an important occasion, Tatyana misses nothing, including the proposal from Winnie’s husband that Arden sing the National Anthem before the Super Bowl kick-off next Sunday.

Arden and Winnie are enjoying a fond reminiscence of the important role each has played in the other’s life – singer and mentor – when they are interrupted by the arrival of Sid Taylor, Arden’s former boyfriend, now an admired local architect, and his little boy, Tommy, who has an important non-singing role in Rosa.

Arden and Sid are soon reminded of the passion and significance of their prior relationship, which both of them abandoned because of the conflicts of their career choices. Neither of them wants to make the same mistake again.

Returning from their break, the singers remind Winnie what busy, hectic, nomadic existences they have. They’ve even made up a game about it.

The company resumes rehearsal for Rosa Dolorosa. At a critical ensemble moment, Tommy runs on to say his all-important spoken line. Unfortunately, there is a spectacular musical crash and burn instead. Tatyana blames Tommy and berates the boy in front of the entire company. Arden comforts him. The company then rehearses the “Fountain Dance” and everything that could go wrong with it does. The rehearsal comes to a grinding halt again.

Winnie is in justifiable agony and wonders when American Opera will know if Rosa Dolorosa is a success. Only “on the night,” Arden tells Winnie. Arden lives for such moments. In the meantime, they rehearse. Tommy runs onstage again and delivers his line, this time perfectly: “Vesuvius is going to erupt!” The curtain falls.

ACT TWO: (In Performance)

Tatyana has a dazzling success singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl across town. Backstage at America Opera, her colleagues are alternately amazed and appalled as they watch the event on television.

Arden is already feeling the professional and personal impact of her decision not to have accepted the Grizzlies invitation to sing it. Tatyana’s police escort rushes her to the opera house so the premiere of Rosa Dolorosa can begin.

The first act of Rosa Dolorosa goes magnificently: scenes that were tentative in rehearsal now play without incident. Tommy delivers his line impeccably. Even the Fountain Dance goes well. The company is encouraged at how the performance is going. There is a cherry on the icing: The Grizzlies are trouncing their opponents.

Alone in her dressing room, Arden prepares for Rosa’s treacherous mad scene. Sid enters and surprises her: he’s bypassed the Super Bowl to attend her performance. He wants Arden to consider giving them a chance as a couple. This would mean both of them changing their lives dramatically, of course. Much to Arden’s relief, Roane enters and orders Sid out.

Arden and Roane have a moment together. Unlike Arden, he is one of the invisible people in the theater. He calls places for Act Two and leaves.

The ghost of Vittorio Bazzetti, composer of Rosa Dolorosa, appears to Arden. He challenges her as an artist and as a woman, daring her to make the same supreme sacrifice his heroine Rosa did. Arden begins to unravel. The separation between Arden and Rosa is becoming increasingly blurred. He thanks her for her service to his music. He knows the enormous price she has paid for this evening. He urges her to also sing the music of her time, to accept the chance to create Medea Refracted, a new and radically difficult opera composed especially for her, before a younger, more adventurous singer dares its many challenges. 

The entire company is onstage when Arden enters to sing Rosa’s Mad Scene, a lamentation of sacrifice and duty that ends with a brilliantly defiant acceptance of her fate and the will of the gods. The opera ends. The performance has gone flawlessly. The exultant performers take their bows.

During the performance – via supertitles – we have followed the Super Bowl score. In a swift and sudden reversal of fortune, the Grizzlies have lost.

Arden invites the ever-optimistic Winnie to take a curtain call with her. Winnie delivers impassioned words of gratitude for the support the audience has given to her and American Opera all these many years. Her husband has assured her of his support for her beloved opera company. Arden leads the company in cheers for Winnie.

The celebration is jubilant backstage as everyone changes to get ready for the cast party. In the midst of the excitement, Arden decides to brave the Internet blogs to see what the response to Rosa Dolorosa has been. Instead, she reads that Medea Refracted has been given to Tatyana Bakst.  

Tatyana arrives and explains to Arden that she meant to tell her personally. She will also sing the title role of Rosa Dolorosa in a new production in Venice. Stunned but generous, Arden offers the young soprano some advice about what may lie ahead.

Arden and Roane are alone. “Is anyone waiting for me?” she asks. “Lots of fans,” he tells her. That isn’t what she meant.

A ghost light glows on the bare stage. Sid and Tommy are waiting for her. Tommy runs off and Sid asks Arden if she has an answer for him yet. She asks for a moment by herself.

The Ghost of Vittorio Bazzetti appears to Arden and they bow respectfully to each other before he fades away. Standing alone now center stage, she takes in the vast, empty space before her.

Tommy runs in. He forgot his skateboard.

Arden follows him off.

Cast Biographies

Joyce DiDonato (Arden Scott) Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato has soared to international prominence in operas by Rossini, Handel, and Mozart, as well as in high-profile world premieres. Recent career highlights include Cherubino, Rosina, and the Composer at the Metropolitan Opera; the title role of La Cenerentola and Rosina at Milan’s La Scala; six productions with Paris Opera; Rosina with the Vienna State Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin; Octavian at Madrid’s Teatro Real; Cendrillon, Rosina, and Donna Elvira with the Royal Opera House; Cherubino with Lyric Opera of Chicago; Sister Helen Prejean (Heggie’s Dead Man Walking) and creating the role of Meg (Adamo’s Little Women) with Houston Grand Opera. DiDonato’s extensive discography includes complete recordings of several operas and three solo albums. The Kansas native is a past winner of the Richard Tucker Award; the “Singer of the Year” award from the Royal Philharmonic Society of London; and, from the Metropolitan Opera, the Beverly Sills Award.

Ailyn Pérez (Tatyana Bakst) American soprano Ailyn Pérez made her Dallas Opera Debut as Zerlina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 2010She is the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. Other career highlights include Violetta at the Royal Opera and San Francisco Opera, Amelia (Simon Boccanegra) at Teatro alla Scala, Berlin Staatsoper, and Zurich; Mimì with Los Angeles Opera and Zurich; Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) and Countess Almaviva at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival; the title role of Manon in Valencia; Juliette (Roméo et Juliette) in Philadelphia; Marguerite (Faust) with San Diego Opera. She is a recipient of the George London Foundation’s Leonie Rysanek Award, a 2007 winner of a Shoshana Foundation Career Grant, and placed second in the 2006 Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition.

Frederica von Stade (Mrs. Edward “Winnie” Flato) Described by the New York Times as “one of America’s finest artists and singers,” mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade continues to be extolled as one of the music world’s most beloved figures. Having enriched the world of classical music for four decades, Ms. von Stade has appeared with every leading American opera company and is invited regularly by the finest conductors to appear in concert with the world’s leading orchestras. She created the role of Tina in The Dallas Opera’s world premiere production of Argento’s The Aspern Papers (a work written for her) as well as the role of Mrs. Patrick De Rocher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking for San Francisco Opera. She has made over seventy recordings garnering, six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, and “Best of the Year” citations by Stereo Review and Opera News among others. In 1998 Ms. von Stade was appointed as an officer of L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and in 1983 was honored at The White House by President Reagan in recognition of her significant contribution to the arts.

Nathan Gunn (Sid Taylor) American baritone Nathan Gunn has appeared at major opera houses and festivals around the world including the Metropolitan Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Seattle Opera; Houston Grand Opera; The Dallas Opera; the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Paris Opera; and Bavarian State Opera, among others. A frequent interpreter of new works, Mr. Gunn has created a number of roles in world premiere operas, including Daron Hagen’s Amelia, André Previn’s Brief Encounter, and Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy. His broad discography includes two solo albums; the title role of Billy Budd, which won a 2010 Grammy Award, Peter Grimes and Il Barbiere di Siviglia, among others. He is a professor of music at the University of Illinois and serves as the director of the American Repertoire Council at Opera Philadelphia. 

Anthony Roth Costanzo (Roane Heckle) Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo continues to build his reputation as one of the rising stars of the next generation of singers. Mr. Constanzo’s other recent opera engagements have included debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, Canadian Opera Company, the Glimmerglass Festival, New York City Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia and Seattle Opera. On the concert and recital platforms, Mr. Costanzo recently made his debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival, the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Costanzo recently won 1st Prize at the 2012 Operalia competition. He is also the winner of a 2010 George London Foundation Award and a 2010 Richard Tucker Career Grant. In 2009 he was one of the winners of the Grand Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Kevin Burdette (Eric Gold / Ghost of Bazzetti) In summer 2015 Mr. Burdette sang Sulpice in La fille du régiment and Stobrod/Blind Man in Higdon’s Cold Mountain (world premiere) with Santa Fe Opera. In 2015-16 he performs Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore and reprises Cold Mountain with Opera Philadelphia; sings Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance with Atlanta Opera (debut); and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd with Portland Opera. Last season he sang Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia (Opera Philadelphia); created the role of Beck Weathers in Talbot’s Everest (The Dallas Opera); reprised The Ogre in Montsalvatge’s El gato con botas (Gotham Chamber Opera); and sang Leporello in Don Giovanni (Boston Lyric Opera). He sings Stefano in Adès’ The Tempest with the Metropolitan Opera on DVD (2014 Grammy Award and French Diapason d’Or). 

Production Biographies

Patrick Summers (Conductor) Houston Grand Opera Artistic and Music Director and Principal Guest Conductor for San Francisco Opera, Mr. Summers has led a vast repertory for the around the world.  The maestro has led an array of productions at the Metropolitan Opera, including Madama Butterfly, Salome, and I Puritani, which were broadcast live in HD to movie theaters globally. Mr. Summers has also conducted at the world’s preeminent opera companies, including Barcelona’s Gran Teatre Del Liceu, Lisbon Opera, Bordeaux Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bregenz Festival, Welsh National Opera, Opera Australia, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and The Dallas Opera.  Maestro Summers is a constant collaborator with Jake Heggie. Together, they have premiered such works as Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, Moby-Dick and Great Scott.

Jack O’Brien (Stage Director) Broadway: MacbethThe NanceDead AccountsCatch Me If You CanImpressionismThe Coast of Utopia (Tony® Award), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Tony® nomination), Henry IV (Tony® Award), Hairspray (Tony® Award), Imaginary FriendsThe Invention of Love (Tony® nomination, Drama Desk Award), The Full Monty (Tony® nomination), More to LoveGetting Away With MurderPride’s CrossingThe Little FoxesHapgood (Lucille Lortel Award, Best Director), Damn YankeesTwo Shakespearean Actors (Tony® nomination), Porgy and Bess (Tony® nomination). Metropolitan Opera: Il Trittico. Carnegie Hall: Guys and Dolls. Public Theater Central Park: Much Ado About Nothing. London: Love Never DiesHairspray (Olivier nomination). National Theatre: His Girl Friday. Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre, 1981-2007. Six movies for PBS’s “American Playhouse.” Books: Jack Be Nimble, publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Bob Crowley (Set and Costume Designer) Recent productions: An American in Paris (Châtelet, Paris & Broadway), Skylight (London & Broadway), Aladdin (Disney – Toronto & Broadway), The Glass Menagerie (American Rep Theatre, USA & Broadway), The Audience (London & Broadway), Once (London & Broadway – Tony Award -- & US Tour), People (National Theatre), The Dark Earth & Light Sky (Almeida), Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Netherlands, Russia). He has designed numerous productions for the National Theatre including most recently: The History Boys (Broadway -- Tony Award), plus more than twenty-five productions for the RSC, including: Les Liaisons Dangereuses and The Plantagenets (Olivier Award). Opera: The Winter’s Tale, Alice in Wonderland (ROH & Canadian Ballet) Don Carlos (MET, NY), La traviata (ROH), The Cunning Little Vixen (Châtelet).

David Zimmerman (Wig and Make-up Designer) has worked with The Dallas Opera and other opera companies around the world. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Paris National Opera, and Opera Santa Barbara. Mr. Zimmerman’s career extends to Broadway as well, where he has worked on shows including Wicked, Rocky Horror, Show Boat, South Pacific and Evita. His personal clients include Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Patricia Racette, Martha Stewart, Olympia Dukakis, and Ricky Martin. He has also done the make-up for the DIFFA Fashion Runway, Dallas Fashion and Art Charity, and the Yelp.com fashion event. His print credits include two features in Opera News plus features in both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Television and film credits include Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year and a feature film.

Alexander Rom (Chorus Master) is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine, and holds a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from Leningrad Conservatory of Music. Since immigrating to the U.S., he has worked as a performer, conductor, educator, voice teacher, opera coach, and composer. He has been the chorus master for The Dallas Opera since 1990 and an opera coach with the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Cincinnati Festival, and Ravinia Festival. He has worked with world renowned singers including Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jorma Hynninen, Helga Dernesch, Martti Talvela, Joyce DiDonato, and Jerry Hadley. Maestro Rom is an honorary Visiting Professor at Sibelius Academy Helsinki Conservatory and was a Visiting Professor at Savonlinna Opera Festival Music Institute.

Elaine J. McCarthy (Projections Designer) maintains an international career spanning 20 years and nearly every area of live performance. Her opera credits include Everest, La Wally, Moby Dick and Tristan und Isolde with The Dallas Opera, Mazeppa with The Metropolitan Opera, Dead Man Walking with New York City Opera, War and Peace with The Metropolitan Opera and Kirov Opera, Tosca with Opera Festival of New Jersey, and Tan Dun and Peter Sellars’s The Peony Pavilion at the Wiener Festwochen. Additional career highlights include the Broadway productions of Wicked, Spamalot, Assassins, Man of La Mancha, Into the Woods, Thurgood, and Judgment at Nuremberg, as well as the Off-Broadway productions of Frequency Hopping (set and projections), Distracted (set and projections).

Sung in English with supertitles

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