A Week in the Life – And One to Remember Always!

by Megan Meister

 Latonia Moore taking a solo bow after her triumphant Metroplitan Opera debut as Verdi’s AIDA on the Saturday afternoon radio broadcast, March 3, 2012

This has been an incredibly exciting week.  Saturday night’s final performance of TRISTAN was a triumphant finale to perhaps the most highly praised production at The Dallas Opera in recent memory.   I was sorry to see the run come to an end, but relieved that we got through it without illness or injury, and each performance was a privilege to attend.  Everything about the production was memorable, from the playing of the Dallas Opera Orchestra to the phenomenal singing of every member of the dedicated cast to the stunning concept and cutting edge technology used in the design of the show.  Bravi to everyone involved!

Monday afternoon was the first rehearsal for our chamber opera production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ THE LIGHTHOUSE and the energy in the rehearsal room was electrifying. Everyone involved in the project is excited, and this production promises to be something truly special.

On Tuesday I flew to Chicago to see the highly acclaimed new Francesca Zambello production of SHOW BOAT at Lyric Opera, starring Nathan Gunn and Morris Robinson, both familiar to Dallas Opera audiences.  Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s groundbreaking 1927 musical might seem an unlikely undertaking for an opera company, but Lyric lavished a great deal of attention (and money !) on the production, and it was a pleasure to hear this music performed by trained voices the way it was meant to be heard, and with the original orchestration.

Wednesday night was the premiere of a new production of Handel’s RINALDO directed by Francisco Negrin and wonderfully conducted by Harry Bicket.  The production was very clever and entertaining, and superbly sung by David Daniels, Luca Pisaroni and in her Lyric Opera debut, South African soprano Elza van den Heever, who made her Dallas Opera debut two years ago as “Fiordiligi” in Mozart’s COSI FAN TUTTE for the opening season of the Winspear.

I flew back to Dallas on Thursday to check on rehearsals for THE LIGHTHOUSE, and then late Friday afternoon flew to New York for what was really the highlight of my week, Latonia Moore’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera in the radio broadcast of Verdi’s AIDA.  I sat in that audience feeling like a proud father, watching this amazing performance by an artist I first discovered as a sophomore at UNT almost 15 years ago.  She was one of the youngest winners of the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition in 1998, and at my suggestion, she went on to study with Bill Schuman at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts.  I then nominated her for a study grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation, which she won, and then she returned to Dallas in 2004 to sing an unforgettable “Micaela” in CARMEN, and won the Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year selected by Dallas Opera subscribers.  She has subsequently gone on to a major international career, including her critically acclaimed performances as AIDA last year at London’s Royal Opera.

She returns to Dallas in the fall to open our season as AIDA, so when I learned that she was going to make her Met debut on 24 hours notice to replace an ailing Violeta Urmana, you can bet I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The audience reaction to her first aria, “Ritorna vincitor” was a roaring ovation that literally stopped the show.  Any of you fortunate enough to have heard the radio broadcast know that this was something truly special.

Latonia confided in me afterward that she hadn’t slept in two days since she first heard that she was going “on” and was incredibly nervous.  To make a debut at the Met is daunting enough under the best of circumstances, but on an international radio broadcast with virtually no rehearsal, I can only imagine the pressure.

What a triumph!  I sat there and listened to the ovations she received with enormous pleasure knowing that Dallas Opera audiences were going to get to hear Latonia in this role in October.

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