Ian Bostridge at City Performance Hall

by Suzanne Calvin

All I can tell you is, people came up to us afterwards telling us they wanted to buy tickets--immediately--to whatever was scheduled next. The reviewers revealed generally favorable reactions to the “imaginative” program and a few quibbles with the way we presented the artist. Read on to get Classical Music Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaac’s perspective for “Theater Jones” and Classical Music  Critic Scott Cantrell’s review of  Saturday evening’s recital  for “The Dallas Morning News.”

Suzanne Calvin, Director of Media and Public Relations

Bostridge

The Year’s Big Moments

by Suzanne Calvin

Norma, Norma, Norma!  In Texas and around the world it’s round-up time as the year comes to a close, and first up is Daniel Patrick Stearns with his great moments in opera from 2013. Don’t miss his confession that he went dumpster diving (okay, so he didn’t use that term) for a Jennifer Higdon score!

Suzanne Calvin, Director of Media and Public Relations

Crazy for Carmen

by Suzanne Calvin

It marked her American debut so the pressure was on, but French mezzo-soprano--in two performances last weekend--showed herself more than capable of handling the heat, and generating a few extra gigawatts herself.

The reviews are pouring in, including this one from Olin Chism of KERA’s “Art & Seek” who called Sunday’s matinee “a magnificent hello by Villaume and the company” in Emmanuel Villaume’s first appearance as music director of the Dallas Opera. Chism also praised Clementine Margaine as “a joy to hear…a gifted actress who managed, somehow, to make the Gypsy seductress not only sexily fiery and steel-willed, but even occasionally vulnerable.” Read Olin’s review here.

Over at the Dallas Observer, music critic Katie Womack wrote “TDO’s production of Carmen (borrowed from the San Francisco Opera) is traditional, with hefty sets, warm lighting and vibrant period costumes. The chorus — especially the women — sounded strong and confident on Sunday and the children’s choir performed beautifully as both singers and actors, adding some much needed movement and energy to crowd scenes….other highlights included the trio of Margaine with her female cohorts in crime (Audrey Babcock and Danielle Pastin as Mercédès and Frasquita respectively). Babcock and Pastin not only held their own in scenes with the mezzo star, but added to the beauty with stunning vocals that resulted in a sumptuous blend of sound. As the pitiful Micaela, who loses her lover to Carmen’s grasp, Mary Dunleavy also sang with impressive technique.”  Read Katie’s take on the production here.

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, the Classical Music Critic for “Theater Jones,” was thrilled by the performance of Maestro Villaume:  “Expectations were high as Villaume took the podium for the first time, to sustained applause, and he didn’t disappoint. Right from the first energetic downbeat, brimming with confidence, Villaume took change of the production and with that same gesture, he also assertively took charge of the Dallas Opera itself. As a conductor, Carmen was a triumph for the new maestro. As a Music Director, affirming his credentials of all to see, it gave him a solid launching pad for the future.”

And Gregory considered Brandon Jovanovich’s Don José crucial to the success of the performance, writing, “…tenor Brandon Jovanovich dominated the production. His supple Wagner-sized stentorian tenor produced both thrilling high notes and a gorgeous soft sound. The climax at the end of his flower aria (“La fleur que tu m’avais jetée”), usually blasted, floated like gossamer. Even better, he is a superb actor. His disintegration from stiff soldier to crazed madman was completely believable, physically as well as vocally.”  Read his “Theater Jones” review right here.

“Dallas Morning News” Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell applauded the casting of the secondary principle roles: “Secondary roles are splendidly cast: Danielle Pastin and Audrey Babcock as Carmen’s friends Frasquita and Mercédès, Kyle Albertson and John David Boehr as the officers Zuniga and Moralès, William Ferguson and Steven LaBrie as the smugglers Le Remendado and Le Dancaïre.”  He also appreciated Villaume’s leadership at the podium, writing: “The orchestra’s playing was mostly quite fine, Villaume giving it finely considered focus, direction, expression and drama.”  Read Scott’s complete review here.

Over at D Magazine’s “Front Row” blog, reviewer Wayne Lee Gay was captivated by Carmen herself, Clementine Margaine in her American debut: “The sheer force of Margaine’s voice impresses when she turns up the volume. She possesses, at the same time, the magical ability to project apianissimo above the orchestra. She delivers all of this with a beauty of tone that holds up throughout her range.  Margaine likewise infuses her rendition of Carmen with high-heat eroticism, from her constantly surprising interaction with the other performers—yes, even in this most familiar of all operas—to her intriguing caressing of French consonants. There have been many great Carmens of many different nationalities through the years, but Margaine brings a French linguistic and cultural insight that adds unique breadth to the role.”  Read Wayne’s commentary on the production here.

David Weuste, writing for the online publication “Opera Pulse,” also had high praise for Don José: “Brandon Jovanovich as Don José brought perhaps the best voice to the stage (perhaps only second to Mary Dunleavy as Micaëla), with a powerful tenor that rang out over even the most powerful parts of Bizet’s fantastic score. He easily melded his voice throughout the performance to match his fellow singers whether it was the bright Dunleavy or the darker Margaine, and his phrasing always seemed to be in touch with Villaume’s direction of the orchestra.”  Read David’s entire take on the production here.

More to come…better get your tickets now.

Suzanne Calvin, Director of Media and Public Relations

The Case for The Aspern Papers

by Suzanne Calvin

You get an analysis, as well as a sterling review, from Classical Music Critic Anne Midgette of “The Washington Post” in this piece on the Dallas Opera’s current production of Dominick Argento’s 1988 opera, THE ASPERN PAPERS, based on a novella by Henry James. Ms. Midgette writes: “This score offers music of nostalgia: lush outbursts from the orchestra; achingly beautiful, fragile vocal lines that duck away into obscurity; ensembles in which the voices are mere shadows of the orchestra’s music; an offstage chorus’s sustained quiet chords, shining like a glass harmonica.”

Enjoy Anne Midgette’s entire review right here:

UPDATE: And this just in (a tad closer to home), the review from another award-winning arts writer, “Sulphur Springs News-Telegram” Arts Editor Terry Mathews who took in THE ASPERN PAPERS last weekend and writes: “What drives this time-traveling plot from 1835 to 1885 time and again are the marvelous performances by the cast. Each voice finds its perfect place, supporting or soaring, seemingly at will.  Deshorties provides plenty of heat as a woman scorned and driven over the edge by her lover’s betrayal. Her mad scene rivals any in operatic reportoire.  Gunn’s take on the stranger was perfectly nuanced and included both sides of the character – opportunist and sad observer to the unfolding tragedy of his idol, the composer Aspern.   Graham squeezes every inch of loneliness and melancholy from  Tina, the aging spinster forced to barter with the stranger for his affection. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when the handsome American arrives, Tina sees an escape route from her dreary life in a ruined mansion.”  Get Terry Mathew’s complete review right here.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

Command Performance

by Suzanne Calvin

The rave reviews continue to pour in for the Dallas Opera’s 25th Anniversary production of Dominick Argento’s THE ASPERN PAPERS, starring Susan Graham, Alexandra Deshorties, Nathan Gunn and Joseph Kaiser at the head of an all-star cast.
Here’s what Mark-Brian Sonna wrote for “The Column” and “Pegasus News”:

Stop reading and buy your tickets now!

“There is a myriad of reasons to go see this breathtaking, awe inspiring, flawless, and thrilling production of Dominick Argento’s masterpiece The Aspern Papers.

“….First and foremost: Susan Graham. She is one of the leading opera singers on the planet. She has performed the world over in numerous roles and received sufficient awards in her career to establish her reputation as one of the pre-eminent voices of this generation. Her voice is simply spectacular but she’s also a gifted actor. To miss out on one of opera’s greats would be a shame. She portrays the niece of Juliana and she has a secret. Her portrayal is sympathetic and eventually bone chilling. Her voice isn’t just goose bump inducing, her portrayal is too. There aren’t enough words to describe how monumental her performance is.

“To be on the same stage as Ms. Graham requires a cast that can keep up. And every performer equals her in their respective portrayals. Hands down this is the best cast opera I’ve seen. Each performer doesn’t just do a superb job vocally, they also look the parts, and more importantly, they act the roles with such veracity that even the singing becomes just a natural extension of their character.

“Alexandra Deshorties is stunning playing both the young and the old Juliana Bordereau. Juliana is the only character that appears both in 1835 and 1885. This requires an opera singer that can transform herself both physically and vocally and Ms. Deshorties is magnificent in her portrayal. She is able to sound like a young woman in certain scenes and an old lady in others while still singing the score sublimely. Because the opera isn’t completely linear, the audience is required to assemble the story line based on the evolution of Juliana’s ever degenerating mental state. Besides the demanding and technical vocal requirements, the performer must develop a character that is completely three dimensional and that helps guide the audience through this complex storyline. Ms. Deshorties makes this complicated acting requirement seem easy.

“As Aspern, the young composer who dies under unusual circumstances, Joseph Kaiser captures the dashing bravado of a young musical genius who is fully aware of his prowess both as a composer and in bedding women. You can see why women fall for him. Yet he isn’t evil in being a philanderer, he simply has an untethered sexual energy and he fails to see how this could possibly bring about his downfall. His tenor is effortless and charming and matches his acting perfectly.

“Dean Peterson as the impresario Barelli has a commanding presence and a rich, supple and textured bass voice. His portrayal is so grounded in reality that his character and his relationships with all the other characters in the scenes from 1835 make him most intriguing.

“Sonia is played with a cunning twist by Sasha Cooke. As Barelli’s mistress, she knows she will have a role in the opera Aspern is working on. But there’s an edge to her performance that makes the audience know she will at any moment, and willingly, take over the role that is written for Juliana. Her character appears very innocent, almost innocuous, but the audience knows better. Keep in mind that the libretto of the opera doesn’t directly clue the audience in on her motivation; she conveys this simply and effectively in the way she sings the score in her melodious mezzo-soprano voice.

“Nathan Gunn plays the Lodger who is trying to manipulate Tina in order to get his hands on the score. He is an unsettling presence. The audience is informed near the beginning of the reasoning behind his actions, but as played by Mr. Gunn we know there’s an ulterior purpose behind his desire in acquiring the music and libretto. Like the other characters in the opera he must convey his reasoning via subtext not via the actual words given in the libretto. This makes his performance so on-the-edge-of-your-seat intriguing that every note he sings captures not just the beauty of the score, but illuminates the psychology behind the character. Only a masterful singer like Mr. Gunn could do this role justice. The richness of his voice and his unique tonality in delivering the ever evolving and complex melody lines are handled with such ease that he creates a palpable and real character.

“Even the smaller roles of the Painter as played by Eric Jordan, the Gardner by Mark McCrory, and the Maid by Jennifer Youngs, add to the complex and disturbing psychology of this story. The Dallas Opera cast these small roles with singers that are sublime in the expressivity of their voices.

“Dominick Argento’s score requires the use of a chorus that is never seen. At times they serve as an echo to some of the words sung on stage, at other moments they simply add the sound of “aah” or “ohh” to punctuate the music, as if the human voice was an additional instrument. Alexander Rom, the Chorus Master, displays once again his unfathomable talent in directing the chorus to accomplish the unusual choral requirements of this score.

“Graeme Jenkins is leaving the Dallas Opera after this season and The Aspern Papers marks his last performance. His understanding of this intricate score is evident. At one point in the opera the orchestra slowly fades into silence, leaving the singers on stage to sing acapella throughout a scene. This fading out of sound is very difficult to achieve without the audience noticing that there is no more instrumentation; he manages to make the orchestra simply disappear. A few moments later the crackling sound and the boom of the orchestra is so loud that the audience nearly jumped out of their seat. The score is at different points lyrical, lush, discordant, macabre, fraught with tension, ethereal and startling. Mr. Jenkins demonstrates his genius in this performance.

“Tim Albery directs this opera with mastery. Every moment is fraught with tension. Even the act of closing a door takes on harrowing meaning in the way he stages this opera. He is also working with a stellar cast of international reputation. It requires a master director to be able to reign in the talent so that they all work together seamlessly….The Dallas Opera’s production of The Aspern Papers is one that deserves to be experienced. One doesn’t just go see this opera, one is transformed by it. It is a world class opera with world class singers in a world class venue.  GO!”

And you can read the entire review right here.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

________________________________________

THE ASPERN PAPERS

The Dallas Opera
Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Runs through April 28th

Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30 pm
Saturday, April 20th at 7:30 pm
Sunday, April 28th at 2:00 pm

Tickets start at $19.00.

For tickets and information, call 214-443-1000 or go to www.dallasopera.org.

Latest Reviews

by Suzanne Calvin

“A quick filler,” to quote a movie character, to catch you up on the very latest reviews.

There’s this interesting personal rumination from author/critic/Renaissance Man William Madison from his blog.

And The Dallas Observer’s no-holds-barred headline that THE ASPERN PAPERS is “one of The Dallas Opera’s Best Productions in Recent Memory” topping the review by Katie Womack, who writes: “Graham’s solos are the highlight of the performance, with nuanced emotion and a powerful, rich tone.  The young Aspern, sung by Joseph Kaiser, is perhaps the most seductive character, which might explain how he managed to charm not one but two divas into his bed. His song of the two sirens is captivatingly beautiful.”

TURANDOT knocked everybody out at Cowboys Stadium and it’s wowing critics, late in the run, too.  Here’s a new review from Mark-Brian Sonna.  He writes, “The Dallas Opera’s production of TURANDOT exemplifies what is meant by the term grand opera. The costuming, the set, the lighting, the voices are all spectacular and there is no doubt that it is pleasing to the eyes and to the ears. Dallas Opera has every right to brag about this production. It is beautiful.”

What are you waiting for?   I know,  I know -- we did our taxes at the last minute, as well.  But you’re free now, right?

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

THE ASPERN PAPERS Leaves Critics Awestruck

by Suzanne Calvin

Yes, the reviews are in (some of them, anyway) and the critics seem to be uniformly knocked-out by the performances in the Dallas Opera’s 25th Anniversary revival of THE ASPERN PAPERS, which opened last Friday evening. Starring Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano  Susan Graham as Tina in her long-awaited TDO debut, French soprano Alexandra Deshorties as a famous opera singer who becomes a recluse, baritone Nathan Gunn as a mysterious lodger, and tenor Joseph Kaiser in his company debut as the composer, Aspern. The work also stars Dean Peterson as Barelli, an impresario and Sasha Cooke as his mistress.

How great was it? Ask Gregory Sullivan Isaacs of “Theater Jones” who wrote, “the final result is neither play nor opera, but a hybrid that transcends both art forms.” Get his review right here.

Over at “The Dallas Morning News,” Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell wrote that “the company served it up with a world-class cast…a subtly imaginative staging by Tim Albery and eloquent playing by the Dallas Opera Orchestra.” Read his review here.

Critic Olin Chism of the “Star-Telegram” praised the “fine cast…strong playing by the Dallas Opera Orchestra and some haunting wordless offstage choral singing.” Read his review here.

And last but not least, Wayne Lee Gay of D Magazine’s “Front Row” blog wrote that “the opening of a new production of The Aspern Papers Friday night at Winspear Opera House more both justifies the company’s original venture a quarter of a century ago and makes a strong case for a permanent place in the repertoire for the piece.”  Get the whole review right here.

Do you have your tickets yet?  The production runs through April 28th.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

Kinda Nice to be Noticed

by Suzanne Calvin

Machover-CSMonitor

Actually, it’s very nice that classical music writer/critic Wayne Lee Gay at D Magazine’s “Front Row” blog took special notice of the adventurous 2013-2014 Season announced just last month at an event at Cowboys Stadium. Read his take on it here.

(Photo of  composer/inventor Tod Machover courtesy of CSMonitor.com)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

Focus on the Family, Opera-Style

by Suzanne Calvin

Anthony-Barrese-3a

Our latest family concert earned the applause of at least one North Texas critic.  Here’s the report from Gregory Sullivan Isaacs of “Theater Jones” about a recent Saturday afternoon mix of “ooos and arias” conducted by Maestro Anthony Barrese and featuring two up-and-coming bright young stars.

(Photo of Anthony Barrese courtesy of operasouthwest.org)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

Stirring the Proverbial Pot

by Suzanne Calvin

I confess that I have never heard Andrea Bocelli live and not much more than snippets of his recordings in various commercials and promos. So, I’m going to stay out of this despite my unfortunate natural tendancy to be as vocal as I am judgmental. However, I found Gregory Sullivan Isaac’s assessment of the “phenomena” of superstar Andrea Bocelli in “Theater Jones” quite interesting and wondered what those who attend his concerts and download his recordings think about him -- not as a man, but as an artist.

Read Gregory’s review here and then please weigh-in, particularly if you attended this American Airlines Center Performance.  I think this could be the beginning of a fascinating discussion.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR