From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell – San Francisco Part 1

by Megan Meister

San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House illuminated at night in the mist

I am in San Francisco to attend a performance of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s MOBY-DICK on Saturday night with almost 40 Dallas Opera patrons who wanted the chance to see and hear it again.  I flew out a day early so that I could also go to Bellini’s rarely staged opera I CAPULETI E I MONTECCHI (THE CAPULETS AND THE MONTAGUES) starring Joyce DiDonato, who will star in Jake Heggie’s next opera, GREAT SCOTT, which will open The Dallas Opera’s 2015-2016 season.

Joyce sang the role of “Romeo” opposite the “Juliet” of Nicole Cabell, and they were simply wonderful.  They seemed to “feed” off of each other, and their arias and duets were simply stunning.

The opera is filled with beautiful music, but is dramatically inert (the libretto is not based on the Shakespeare play, but on the original source material) and this eccentric production, created originally for Munich, didn’t help much.

Conductor Riccardo Frizza did a lovely job accompanying the singers in the true “bel canto” tradition and the orchestra played extremely well for him.

Although Bellini’s choral writing only calls for men, there were just as many women on stage to give French fashion icon turned costume designer Christian Lacroix a chance to display his talent for bizarre haute couture gowns.  I am sure these “super” women were thrilled to have the chance to clamber up and down the bleacher style steps in the final scene of the first act in their original Lacroix dresses, but it simply looked awkward.

I ran into Gene Scheer in the lobby before the performance, and he was thrilled with how MOBY-DICK had gone the night before.

I also ran into Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally at the intermission and we had the chance to talk a bit about GREAT SCOTT for which he is writing the libretto.  He was backstage to see Joyce after the performance, of course, and we ended up sharing a cab back to our neighboring hotels.  He is bursting with enthusiasm about collaborating with Jake and Joyce (and The Dallas Opera) on GREAT SCOTT, and I know it will be an amazing project of which we will all be proud.

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