Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 21

by christian.anderson

Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet

I had lunch yesterday with Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, who returns to Dallas in February  as “Isolde” in our production of TRISTAN.  She has just returned home to Santa Fe for a couple of weeks following an engagement in Barcelona, and is heading back to Europe  on Sunday.

She is looking forward to reuniting with Clifton Forbis, who will be our “Tristan.”  The two of them were last in Dallas together as “Siegmund” and “Sieglinde” in DIE WALKUERE, so it promises to be an exciting reunion.

Jeanne-Michele looks great (see photo) and is excited to be coming back to Dallas for her fifth production  with our company.

I had dinner with stage director and choreographer Candace Evans,  who is in Santa Fe this summer to work with the apprentice artists.  She has directed three scenes for the Apprentice Concerts, and is preparing for a busy fall season which includes new productions of EUGENE ONEGIN and CANDIDE, and a debut at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires for THE MERRY WIDOW, in the same production she staged in Dallas a few years ago.

Last night’s opera was Gian Carlo Menotti’s THE LAST SAVAGE, which was being mounted as a tribute to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth and was being done for the first time since it was given at the Metropolitan Opera in 1964.

The opera is a comic trifle–imagine if Rossini had based an opera on a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie and is about a willful young rich girl who fancies herself an anthropologist and goes looking for a “primitive man” in the jungles of India to bring back to Chicago society and “tame.”.

The production was simply delightful, wonderfully and imaginatively directed by Ned Canty in incredibly. clever designs by Allen  Moyer.

The cast featured marvelous comic performances by Anna Christie as the spoiled heiress and Daniel Okulitch as her caveman.  Dan was last in Dallas as Mozart’s FIGARO, and it was great to  see him in something so completely different.

In fact, it was great to see him in anything at all, considering that he was in a very serious automobile accident in Los Angeles last spring from which he was lucky to walk away.   He was in the hospital for a while and was still wearing a neck brace up until rehearsals started here (he had to cancel a DON GIOVANNI in Saint Louis earlier this summer.)

Sean Panikkar (“Cassio” in TDO’s OTELLO) was very good as the Maharajah’s son, as was Jamie Barton as the Maharanee, but almost stealing the show was Kevin Burdette as the wealthy father of the over indulged socialite “anthropologist.”

This souffle was whipped up from the pit by George Manahan who was obviously having as much fun with the score as everyone on stage and in the audience.

Backstage after the performance I ran into David Alden and Jon Morrell, who will be directing and designing a new production of Rossini’s MAOMETTO II for Santa Fe next summer and who were in town for a production presentation.  It was great to see them and commiserate in person over the cancellation of their production of KATYA that was to open in Dallas in October.  They were both very gracious about it and understanding of the necessity to cut back this season, and both hope to be invited back to Dallas soon.

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