Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Santa Fe Opera Part 1

by tdoadmin

I am convinced that Santa Fe must be a suburb of Dallas (or maybe it is the other way around?) but it seems as if I have run into half of the people I know since I got here two days ago!

Last night was the first of two Apprentice Concerts that showcase the aspiring young singers who come here every summer to sing small roles, cover major roles and sing in the chorus.  These young artists are usually the cream of the crop of singers taken from conservatories and young artist programs all across the country, and if last night was any barometer about the future of opera, we are in safe hands.

This was by far the best group I can remember hearing here— one wonderful young singer after another.

David Holloway, who in his performing days was a great favorite at The Dallas Opera, oversees the program and has skillfully selected scenes that showcase these singers to their best advantage.  There were some singers, naturally, who stood out even among this remarkable collection of talent, perhaps most notably a mezzo-soprano currently studying at Philadelphia’s prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts, who sang a stunning “Princess Eboli” in the “Garden Scene” trio from Verdi’s DON CARLO.  Her name is Cynthia Cook, and I expect we will be hearing a lot more about her soon.

The program seemed to feature a lot of this summer’s tenors, and one of them stood out for me, Joshua Dennis, who happens to be from McKinney, Texas.  He was “Ruggero” in the second act quartet from Puccini’s LA RONDINE, and he not only sang beautifully, but he also waltzed quite well.

There were two scenes that featured soprano Devon Guthrie (one from Monteverdi’s POPPEA and an extended excerpt from Frederic Chaslain’s new opera based on WUTHERING HEIGHTS) and she was exceptionally lovely.

Baritone Christian Bowers was also in two contrasting scenes (from Menotti’s THE CONSUL and the previously mentioned DON CARLO “Garden” trio) and he also made a very strong impression.

I could go on and on, and mention several more singers, including bass Erik Anstine, but this will have to do for now.

If next week’s “scenes” are as good as the ones I heard last night, then it will have truly been an exceptional year for this program.

Tonight I attend the first of five productions I will hear—Bizet’s THE PEARL FISHERS.

Putting His Foot Down

by Suzanne Calvin

…On the path to inspired (and inspiring) leadership.

Dallas arts writer and reviewer Marilee Vergati takes a closer look at Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny’s multifaceted vision for the company and the success of his ongoing mission in Dallas.  In the current economy, it’s not all coming up roses; but Keith appears to be a man capable of making the tough choices and getting things done.  More details in Miss Vergati’s assessment right here.

(Photo of Mr. Cerny courtesy of Karen Almond, Dallas Opera)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

Calling Miss Deshorties!

by Suzanne Calvin


Kind words from Crew at COMMANDOpera on our recent casting of French soprano Alexandra Deshorties as the aging and reclusive former opera singer in THE ASPERN PAPERS, getting a new production early next year.  The event will mark the 25th anniversary of the Dallas Opera world premiere of Dominick Argento’s opera. Miss Deshorties is stepping in for Carol Vaness, who is recovering from recent surgery. Here’s the story.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

Cast Change Announced

by Suzanne Calvin

A change in the cast for the Dallas Opera’s new production of Dominick Argento’s THE ASPERN PAPERS. See below…

Friday, July 27, 2012

Contact: Suzanne Calvin 214.443.1014
Or Megan Meister 214.443.1071

April 12, 14(m), 17, 20 & 28, 2013
“Pursuits of Passion” Season Presented by
Texas Instruments Foundation
Season Subscriptions are on Sale Now! Starting at Just $75!
Single Tickets for Verdi’s AÏDA go on Sale Sept. 10, 2012

DALLAS, JULY 27, 2012 – The Dallas Opera is announcing today that the key role of Juliana Bordereau in the company’s 25th Anniversary production of Dominick Argento’s THE ASPERN PAPERS will be sung by Canadian-born French soprano Alexandra Deshorties. Ms. Deshorties made her Dallas Opera debut in October of 2009 as Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, in the production that opened the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Critic Anthony Tommasini, reviewing for The New York Times, noted “There were lovely elements to her affecting performance. She conveyed both Desdemona’s boldness and her vulnerability.”
Raised and educated in Marseilles, France (prior to studies at the Manhattan School of Music), the singer scored a major triumph during last summer’s Glimmerglass Opera Festival in the title role of the rarely performed Cherubini masterpiece, Medea. William Burnett of “Opera Warhorses” wrote: “…granting they are different artists in many respects, I found that Deshorties approached the role, both through its phrasing and vocal dynamics and in its incisive acting, in a way that I can imagine (Maria) Callas in 1957 having done it onstage.”

“Alexandra is an artist of singular intelligence and beauty,” explains Dallas Opera Artistic Director Jonathan Pell. “However, despite an appearance so glamorous that she’s been the subject of a fashion magazine spread, this soprano is utterly fearless and without vanity in pursuit of the truth of the characters she portrays. I know that our audiences will find her charismatic and compelling onstage, and she will interact brilliantly with her internationally renowned co-stars, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, and Joseph Kaiser.

The pivotal role of the long-retired opera singer in James’ evocative tale had originally been planned for soprano Carol Vaness. However, Miss Vaness was reluctantly forced to withdraw from the new production (commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Dallas Opera 1988 world premiere of Argento’s work—as well as the 125 Anniversary of the publication of Henry James’ novella in book form) on the advice of her doctor. She is currently recovering from abdominal surgery.
Argento’s opera, about a writer obsessed with uncovering a long-lost opera score and willing to do nearly anything to obtain it, will close the Dallas Opera’s 2012-2013 “Pursuits of Passion” Season in the Winspear Opera House, April 12, 14(m), 17, 20 & 28, 2013. Subscriptions are on sale now, starting at $75. Single tickets for the spring season productions will go on sale later this year.


Alexandra Deshorties continues to distinguish herself as one of the leading young sopranos of her generation. Ms. Deshorties’ engagements include her role and house debut as Desdemona in Otello at the Dallas Opera in 2009, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at the Palm Beach Opera and her recital debut at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto. She also made debuts in Valencia as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and at the Bard Festival as Valentine in Les Huguenots. Recent highlights include a return to the Metropolitan Opera House for Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the title-role Medea for Glimmerglass Opera, and the Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro at the Peter Mattei Festival in Sweden.
A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, she made her house debut as the High Priestess in Aïda, and has since appeared as Elletra in Idomeneo, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, First Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Donna Anna in a new production of Don Giovanni, Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos (which was taped for television broadcast), and the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, all of which were conducted by James Levine. She also appeared as Musetta in La bohème, and Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Other past opera engagements have included Fiordiligi at the San Francisco Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Cincinnati Opera, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, the La Coruña Festival in Spain, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and in the Jonathan Miller production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Donna Anna at the Los Angeles Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Aix-en-Provence Festival (in the Peter Brook production which was released on DVD in Europe), and the Gstaad Festival in Switzerland; Violetta in La traviata at the Arizona Opera, and Elletra at the Houston Grand Opera. She also made her role debut as Cleopatra in Guilio Cesare at the Seattle Opera, and sang the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Countess at the Portland Opera Repertory Theater.
On the concert platform she has appeared with the Munich Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic (at the Hollywood Bowl), Seattle Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony, and at the Salzburg Festival. Conductors with whom she has worked include David Atherton, Edward Gardner, Daniel Harding, Rene Jacobs, James Levine, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Michael Stern and Patrick Summers. She has also performed selections from Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été, Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes, and vocal music by Anton Webern with Maestro Levine and the Met Chamber Ensemble in Weill Recital Hall.
Ms. Deshorties studied at the Marseilles Conservatory, where she earned a gold medal/first prize for her performance in vocal juries. She continued her education at the Manhattan School of Music. In 1999, she was the 1st place winner of the Leonie Rysanek memorial prize from the George London Foundation Auditions.

Single tickets for the 2012-2013 Season are subject to dynamic pricing (the earlier they are purchased and the less-in-demand, the lower the price). Subscriptions start at just $75. Inner Circle seating may be priced higher.

For high-resolution, digital photographs suitable for print
To arrange an interview
Or for additional information
Please contact Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR
214.443.1014 or

THE DALLAS OPERA’S  2012-2013 “Pursuits of Passion Season”



Ticket Information for the 2012-2013 Dallas Opera Season

All performances are in the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Subscriptions start at just $75 and are on sale now. Single tickets go on sale September 10, 2012, starting at just $25. For more information, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online at

The Dallas Opera celebrates its Fifty-Sixth International Season in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. Evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees will begin at 2:00 p.m. English translations will be projected above the stage at every performance. Assistance is available for the hearing impaired.

AIDA by Giuseppe Verdi
October 26, 28(m), 31, November 3, 9, 11(m), 2012
Verdi’s Complex and Intimate Love Story Set in Spectacular Ancient Egypt!
An opera in four acts first performed at Khedivial Opera House, Cairo on December 24, 1871.
Text by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a scenario written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.
Time: Old Kingdom
Place: Egypt
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage Director: John Copley
Costume Design: Peter J. Hall
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Latonia Moore (Aïda), Antonello Palombi (Radames), Nadia Krasteva* (Amneris), Lester Lynch (Amonasro), Orlin Anastassov* (Ramfis), Ben Wager (The King of Egypt), Jonathan Yarrington* (Messenger), and NaGuanda Nobles* (Priestess).

TURANDOT by Giacomo Puccini
April 5, 7(m), 10, 13, 19 & 21(m), 2013
Puccini’s Last Masterpiece—Riddled with Passionate Romance and Unforgettable Music!
An opera in three acts first performed in Milan at La Scala, April 25, 1926
Text by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, based on Carlo Gozzi’s fable, Turandot.
Time: Legendary times
Place: Peking, China
Conductor: Marco Zambelli
Stage Director: Garnett Bruce
Production Design: Allen Charles Klein
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Lise Lindstrom* (Princess Turandot), Antonello Palombi (Calaf), Hei-Kyung Hong (Liu), Christian Van Horn* (Timur), Jonathan Beyer (Ping), Joseph Hu (Pang), Daniel Montenegro* (Pong), Ryan Kuster* (A Mandarin), Steven Haal (Emperor Altoum).

THE ASPERN PAPERS by Dominick Argento
April 12, 14(m), 17, 20, 28(m), 2013
The Games People Play—Both Young and Old—To Achieve Their Twisted Desires!
An opera in two acts first performed in Dallas, November 19, 1988.
Text by Dominick Argento, based on a Henry James novella.
Time: Legendary
Place: Lake Como, Italy
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage Director: Tim Albery
Scenic Design: Andrew Lieberman*
Costume Design: Constance Hoffman*
Lighting Design: Thomas Hase
Wig & make-up Design: David Zimmerman
Chorus Master: Alexander Rom
Assistant Director: Michael Mori
Starring: Susan Graham* (Tina), Alexandra Deshorties (Juliana Bordereau), Nathan Gunn (The Lodger), Joseph Kaiser* (Aspern), Dean Peterson (Barelli), Sasha Cooke* (Sonia), Eric Jordan* (A painter), Jennifer Youngs* (Olimpia).

* Dallas Opera Debut
** American Debut

The Dallas Opera is supported, in part, by funds from: City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs; TACA; the Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). American Airlines is the official airline of The Dallas Opera. Lexus is the official vehicle of The Dallas Opera. Cartier is the official jeweler and watchmaker of The Dallas Opera. Rosewood Crescent Hotel is the official hotel of The Dallas Opera. Advertising support from The Dallas Morning News. The T. Boone Pickens YMCA, Smartwater and Stephen Pyles Restaurant--supporting partners. A special thanks to Mrs. William W. Winspear and the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for their continuing support.


Blackburn and Heggie – Together Again

by Suzanne Calvin
Poet Mary Oliver by Josh Reynolds for “The Los Angeles Times,” taken near her home on Cape Cod.

I was delighted to see this story out of the Breckenridge Music Festival. While Brahms is certainly no “slouch,” I was particularly pleased to see that Helen Blackburn, principal flutist for the Dallas Opera Orchestra, is also performing composer Jake Heggie’s flute concerto, “Fury of Light,” based on the poem “Sunrise” by American poet Mary Oliver (see the photo above).

Catch the details of the concert right here.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

The Bare (or is it Awful?) Truth

by Suzanne Calvin

Did they look something like…this?


Must’ve been a good harvest that year; yes indeed--a very good harvest. “The Dallas Morning News” Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell, while pondering a few questions I tossed out to some of our more imaginative arts writers and reviewers, revived one of his most indelible (in fact, indigestible) opera memories -- the sight of an unforgettable men’s chorus in “Aida” that was…well, shall we say “full-bodied”?  I’ll let Scott tell the tale.

“Aida” opens the season on October 26th (the Linda and Mitch Hart Season Opening Night Performance) and subscriptions are on sale now.  Loincloths optional and certainly not encouraged.  Thank Heavens!

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR


by tdoadmin


By Suzanne Calvin

During these so-called “Dog Days of Summer,” when the temperature soars to triple digit heights of discomfort, it’s a good time to remember that American Opera had its origins in tropical places like Havana and New Orleans, as well as in the cooler climate of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.   Both cities were essentially Catholic and profoundly musical, both sat at the crossroads of diverse populations and cultural influences and – like the very early American Opera capitals in Mexico and Peru, where the first operas in the Americas were composed and performed more than 300 years ago – both communities saw opera as an integral part of the civic fabric.

The year that the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, 1776, Havana (a city with a population of around 50 thousand) opened the Teatro Coliseo to host a variety of musical theater offerings.  By 1801, a second opera theater had opened and within a decade there was an “official” Cuban opera company receiving regular government support.  Although influenced by homegrown and Spanish elements like the tonadilla (a short operetta tackling contemporary stories about the underclass—much like the Italian verismo movement of the late 19th century), Havana opera theaters imported most of their principal singers from Italy and France.  With a stable of stars and a large, highly professional orchestra, Havana produced as many as eighty performances a year, including works by the greatest opera composers of the day.  In fact, Mozart’s Don Giovanni had its Havana premiere in 1818 – a good seven years before it debuted on the New York stage.

During the early 1830s when opera was still an American rarity, the people of New Orleans, already well-seasoned opera and theater goers, threw themselves into the construction of an opulent four-story opera house—then the largest in the U.S.—costing an almost unheard-of $350,000.  Gold and ivory boxes (47 in the first tier) could be had for a thousand dollars per season.  The jewel in the crown of this magnificent house (which would ultimately burn down, as they all seemed to in the pre-electrical era) was a two-ton glass chandelier, made in London and containing 175 gaslights and 23-thousand prisms.  However, a ticket would only ensure you a seat; it was your personal conduct that ensured you would remain in it until curtain call.

Yes, long before Richard Wagner laid down the basic laws of modern audience behavior at Bayreuth, the management of the St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans decreed: no smoking in the boxes or lobbies, hats off during the performance, no loud talking, no slaves or courtesans downstairs and no women in the front orchestra section, no rapping of walking sticks on the floors or furniture, and so forth.

“The Proprietor is determined to keep strict order in the establishment,” read the Opening Night program, “to put down, at every risk, every attempt to disturb the quiet and attention which ought always to be ascendant in a public assembly, but which is too often violated by ignorant…disorderly persons, who think…they may make as much noise as they please.”  And don’t let the door hit you on the way out (I made that part up but, really, isn’t that the attitude on display?).

Despite overbearing impresarios, opera in New Orleans and Havana not only thrived but, by the 1840s, had found a way to escape the sizzling Gulf Coast/Caribbean summers by going on tour, where they made a little history of their own.

It was a French opera company from New Orleans that first performed Donizetti’s c in New York City, taking the Big Apple by storm.  Only one of the composer’s operas had been performed in that part of the world and the company ended its successful 1843 Northeast engagement with another unfamiliar Donizetti work, Anna Bolena.  The troupe, knowing a good thing when they saw it, returned in subsequent seasons to fan the ardor for French comic opera, in addition to presenting excellent productions of grandiose works by Auber and Meyerbeer that left sophisticated newspaper critics at a loss for words.

Coincidentally, just days after the original New Orleans tour left town, a group of Italian opera singers, en route to Havana Opera, arrived in New York City in time to profit from all the excitement.  They sang Norma to wall-to-wall crowds, followed by additional bel canto works including Lucia di Lammermoor—a Havana favorite previously unknown to Eastern audiences.  This no doubt inspired the Havana opera company to include New York in a subsequent summer tour.  Praised by the New York Herald as the “most finished and excellent company that has ever visited this city,” the Havana Opera introduced more bel canto masterpieces to eager audiences, as well as Ernani and I Due Foscari by the practically unknown Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi.

In 1850, Havana conquered New York again with a jaw-dropping slate of crowd-pleasing programming: Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, L’elisir d’amore and La Favorite, along with the previously performed Verdi pieces and two new ones—Attila and Macbeth.  A year later, they returned for the last time, performing these same works and a couple of new ones: Bellini’s I Puritani and Donizetti’s comic gem, Don Pasquale.  Most importantly, over the course of these tours, the Caribbean-based company introduced New York audiences to something they had never before known: casts of uniformly strong, spectacular singers.  The stage was set for opera as we know and appreciate it today, and for a host of great concert and recital tours, from Jenny Lind to Enrico Caruso to The Three Tenors.

So wherever you’ve gone to escape the oppressive summer heat, be thankful that outstanding southern opera companies looking for cold cash and sweet relief brought their innovation, artistry, and fearless repertory choices with them, to make opera one of the most thoroughly international American art forms from that day to this.


Suzanne Calvin is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, blogger and playwright who serves as Manager/Director of Media and PR for the Dallas Opera.

Artistic Director Jonathan Pell at the Arena di Verona Part II

by tdoadmin

Act I of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of CARMEN at the Arena di Verona.

Yesterday I went to a newly opened opera museum in an old palazzo that has been funded by a support organization of the Arena di Verona.

The first part of the exhibit focused on the music publishing house of Ricordi, and featured contracts and correspondence between the various generations of the family and the composers they represented, including Verdi and Puccini.

The highlight of this part of the exhibition was an agreement between Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Francesco Maria Piave to write the text for RIGOLETTO.

What astounded me was the fact that the document was a printed form with blanks to be filled in with the dates, the names of the composer and librettist, the subject of the opera and the name of the commissioning theatre all filled in by hand.   This struck me as very “high tech” for 1850!

The rest of the exhibition was a wonderful display of score manuscripts, video excerpts from past productions from the Arena, set and costume design sketches from the Arena’s old and current productions, as well as some actual costumes and large props and set pieces.

It was really interesting and highly recommended to any opera lover who finds their way to Verona.  One bit of advice, though.    Plan to go the day after you attend a performance.  If you present your ticket stub at the museum, the entrance fee is half price!

Last night’s performance was a Franco Zeffirelli production of CARMEN, and it was another massive spectacle.   The cinemascope effect of the unusually wide stage was emphasized by two full companies of flamenco dancers on side stages, dancing much of the evening.  I found it distracting, but I am sure many found it thrilling.

The singing was mostly good, and Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili made an unusually earthy, if somewhat coarse CARMEN.   Tenor Alejandro Roy stepped in for an ailing Marcelo Alvarez, and did a more than creditable job.  Perhaps the best singing of the evening, as is so often the case, was from the Micaela, soprano Irina Lungu.

The production seemed a bit generic and lacked chemistry, but perhaps some of that can be attributed to the change of tenor.  Brandon Jovaovich is scheduled to take over the role for the August performances, and I bet that will up the ante.

Act II of CARMEN at the Arena di Verona, July 2012.


by Suzanne Calvin


From my very personal standpoint, it’s emphasis on the first and third syllables. But for many, many, many people reading this -- I am flat out 100% wrong and an ignoramus to boot! 

That’s one of the more charming aspects of any production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot.”  Nobody argues about how you pronounce HIS name, it’s how you say the name of the Persian/Chinese/Italian princess that puts various and sundry knickers in a twist. But admit it: isn’t that the sign of true aficionados? That people would care so madly/passionately about how a fictitious character’s name is pronounced?

You’d think this opera was set at Hogwarts instead of the Imperial City.

Anyway, here’s KERA’s attempt to sort it all out for you.  Seattle Opera tackles the topic right here.

Now, just to avoid further confusion over REALLY important stuff: our production of this 20th century classic won’t take place until next spring (April 5-21,2013) in the Winspear Opera House. But lots of great preview movie screenings, tastings and budget-minded summer events are on tap through August. Check out the Dallas Opera’s cool, casual “Baritones and Beachballs” listings here.

(Photo by njmike731 at Photobucket)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR