This is the fifth time in forty years that the Santa Fe Opera has mounted a production of Offenbach’s satirical operetta THE GRAND DUCHESS OF GEROLSTEIN, but this time it was done for mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who looked stunning in the lush period costumes, sang exquisitely (most notably in the beautiful aria “Dites-lui” which is one of the few quiet moments in this rollicking comedy) and delivered the English language dialogue with great panache and delicious comic timing.
This role and this opera couldn’t have been a greater contrast to THE ASPERN PAPERS in which Susan Graham triumphed in Dallas a few months ago (and for which subscriber’s selected her as the recipient of this year’s Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award.).
Conductor Emmanuel Villaume, The Dallas Opera’s recently appointed music director, was in the pit and led the production with great verve and authentic French style, keeping everything together in a masterful way.
This couldn’t have been easy since Lee Blakely’s amusing staging was high energy all the time, as was the choreography by Peggy Hickey. Both of these artists have worked in Dallas in the past (Lee on Massenet’s MANON and Peggy on THE MERRY WIDOW) and they obviously were having fun with this piece. To say that this somewhat frenetic production was “over the top” would definitely be an understatement, but I have rarely heard an audience laugh as much in an opera house.
It was great to see so many Dallas Opera patrons in attendance last night—I must have run into about twenty people at the performance. Keith Cerny was here in Santa Fe last week with another large group of Dallas Opera supporters and it has been wonderful to hear all their enthusiastic praise for our “coup” in having secured Emmanuel Villaume as our new music director, only the third in the history of The Dallas Opera.
After Santa Fe, Maestro Villaume returns to Europe for some engagements before coming back to Dallas at the end of September to begin rehearsals for CARMEN, the opening production of The Dallas Opera’s 2013 -- 2014 season.