3 QUESTIONS FOR DALLAS OPERA GENERAL DIRECTOR AND CEO KEITH CERNY
FROM DAVID FELD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF MODERN LUXURY DALLAS MAGAZINE
1. What if I still don’t like opera after having gone to numerous opera’s, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner, and reading “The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire,” to boot?
Almost everyone I meet enjoys live theater, so I encourage people who don’t consider themselves opera goers to experiment with a wide range of different styles and musical possibilities. One example is operas where the dramatic and theatrical components are equally important (such as our production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse or even an older classic like Britten’s 1954 chamber opera The Turn of the Screw). Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas are another possibility. When performed with elegance and wit, Gilbert and Sullivan makes for great theater and finds a natural home in the opera house. There are other works to consider, too, which fit comfortably in the operatic world (e.g. Chicago Lyric’s upcoming production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical Showboat). And, of course, George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess makes many converts of opera skeptics.
2. If you (Keith) were forced to take only three CD’s to a desert island with no hope of rescue, what would they be? And would they necessarily even be operas?
The first would be a selection of Beethoven piano trios. After graduating from Berkeley, I studied piano for four years in London with Lady Spender (née Natasha Letvin). She had studied intensively in her youth with famed Beethoven interpreter Artur Schnabel, who used to refer to her as “his first granddaughter.” As you can imagine, Beethoven’s piano music was a core part of my musical training, and I would want to bring some of his best works to enjoy. Rather than piano sonatas, I would bring the wonderful Sony Classical CD of Beethoven’s “Ghost” (Op. 70 No.1) and “Archduke” (op. 97) trios performed by Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose.
My second choice would be Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde -- one of my favorite operas, and worth listening to many times; the overture is one of the masterpieces of Western music, and the Liebestod is equally magnificent. I would select the Warner Classics CD with Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with John Treleaven and Christine Brewer singing the title roles.
For my third CD, I’d pick something lighter: the original cast recording of The Will Rogers Follies, starring Keith Carradine. Follies premiered on Broadway in 1991, and won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The musical tells the inspiring and ultimately tragic life story of Will Rogers using the Ziegfeld Follies as a backdrop. If that piece can’t keep your spirits up in a tough situation, nothing can!
3. What are the three great modern operas? “Nixon in China” can’t be one, that’s too easy!
I think that John Adams continues to write very important opera, and am delighted that Nixon in China continues to gain mainstream acceptance. I would add Adams’ opera, Dr. Atomic, which premiered in San Francisco in 2005 when I worked there as Executive Director (COO) and CFO. It’s an excellent work. One of my favorite moments is Oppenheimer’s aria at the end of Act I -- “Batter my heart” -- set to text by 17th century poet John Donne and sung in the world premiere by Gerald Finley. In this aria, I’m particularly intrigued by the juxtaposition of lyrical vocal writing and Adam’s signature minimalist compositional style.
Although I had no hand in its creation, I also believe that Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick is another great opera that will stand the test of time. I also traveled to San Diego in February, 2012 to see it a third time. If that choice sounds a bit partisan because of Dallas Opera’s role in its commissioning, I would also highly recommend Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, which San Francisco Opera premiered in 2000.
I’m a little torn for my third choice. I admire the exoticism and orchestral coloring of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar. If you are after something more firmly rooted in 19th and early 20th century tradition, I think that Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas is a worthy selection.
If I could add a work scored for chamber orchestra as well, it would be Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers. DATP is a unique blend of classical opera and high tech, and a personal favorite. Tod appeared in Dallas as part of TDO’s “Composing Conversations” series, jointly hosted with the Museum of Nature and Science, and was very well received.
Fifth-generation Dallas native David Feld began his career as a design editor in 1994 when he left New York Magazine to join Architectural Digest as a contributing editor. He then became an editor at large for Condé Nast’s House & Garden, producing, styling and writing stories on great residential interiors worldwide. Feld was later named senior contributing editor at Southern Accents.
Locally, Feld served as the creative director of D Magazine Partners for four years, where he led the editorial team for D and D Home and launched D Weddings and D Design Book, with a special interest in developing the audiences for each of the titles. Prior to his time at D Magazine Partners, Feld held the position of editor at large for PaperCITY, where he wrote a monthly column on design (“Our Man At Large: David Feld”) and served as the launch editor of PaperCITY House in Dallas, Houston and San Francisco.
Most recently, Feld worked as a freelance writer/editor for the The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, before returning to his Highland Park hometown and joining Modern Luxury Dallas as Editor-in-Chief and Dallas Group Editor in July 2011.
“Feld brings more than two decades of journalistic and editorial experience to Modern Luxury Dallas. His strong familiarity of Dallas and intent to further increase locally relevant content, in combination with his proven track record for editorial leadership, has ushered in a new era for Modern Luxury Dallas’ publications, including Dallas Brides and Modern Luxury Interiors Texas,” says Modern Luxury Vice President of Editorial Beth Weitzman.