Berlin Part I by Jonathan Pell, TDO Artistic Director

by Megan Meister

I arrived in Berlin at 7:30 this morning on an overnight flight from New York and went straight into a full day of auditions that started at 10:30.  Even with a few cancellations, I still managed to hear 41 singers from 21 countries, only two of whom I had heard before.  The list of places from where these young singers come is fascinating, so in alphabetical order, the singers were from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States and Uruguay !

These auditions were held in a rehearsal room in Berlin’s Komische Oper before a panel of representatives from opera houses and artist managers from around the world looking for exciting new talent.

Roughly 20 of these singers we heard today were selected, and will go on to  sing again on stage of the Komische Oper Theater tomorrow and Tuesday, along with about forty or fifty singers who were already passed on to the final round from screening auditions or industry recommendations.

The only prize awarded, since this is not a competition, is the chance to be heard by so many opera houses at one time, and the possibility of being engaged to sing by some of these theaters.

With a few notable exceptions, today’s group was slightly disappointing, but tomorrow promises to be a better day!

When Pay Day Deserves to be in Caps

by Suzanne Calvin

Bloomberg dug into the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011 tax return and wrote up a piece claiming that Artistic Director James Levine saw a 39% increase in his paycheck that year, due “in part” to the success of the opera company’s HD screenings which have attracted audiences all around the globe. No mean feat for the Met or Maestro Levine in the midst of a seriously troubled economy.

No, honestly, if you are seeking an uncontestable definition of success, try this on for size: the Met came out of the 2010-2011 Season with a $41 million surplus -- despite an 8 percent increase in spending AND a $25 million deficit hanging over from the previous year. Un-be-lievable.

Check out the Bloomberg story in all its enviable detail right here.

It’s a bit like settling into the wrong line at the grocery store, isn’t it?

(Lincoln Center photo by John Glines for

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

3 Questions for Keith – Desert Island Edition

by Suzanne Calvin


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.

Out There

by Suzanne Calvin


(Photo by Ken Howard for Opera Theater of St. Louis)


“Dallas Morning News” Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell is checking out this year’s offerings during the summer season in St. Louis and has flipped for “Alice in Wonderland” writing, “South Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s five-year-old Alice in Wonderland might be the most ‘out there’ work I’ve seen in 22 years of coming here. Of course, Lewis Carroll’s fantastic tales of strange creatures in strange places, of its eponym expanding and contracting like a telescope, anticipated theater of the absurd by a good century.” Catch more of his review here.

Also, Scott’s review of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”…er…I mean “Sweeney Todd” as well as his take on the classic opera offerings this season.

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

Keeping “Dallas” in Dallas

by Suzanne Calvin


Although it doesn’t make sense for the new TNT “Dallas” to shoot anywhere but, we live in a strange age in which such decisions are based not on logic, but on the highest bidder. And, evidently, there are other cities just itching to stand in for Big D. For this reason, and more, on the day when the eagerly awaited reboot of the iconic “saddle soap opera” hits the screen, the Dallas City Council will also decide how much more it wants to pony up to try to keep the show shooting right here.  Ah, no sooner do I finish this sentence than the verdict is in: $1.2 million, according to “D Magazine,” provided the show is picked up after the pilot. 

What?  You didn’t think the Ewing clan would drive a hard bargain?  Guess again.

Oh, if you happen to be looking for a viewing party this evening, try the FrontRow’s soiree at the infamous Texas Theater in Oak Cliff where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit.  Read more here.

And here’s some good background on the negotiations and various production perks from Robert Wilonsky at “The Dallas Morning News.”

I hope the show’s a big hit tonight and a worthy successor to the original.  We hear Hagman is positively Shakespearean in his villainy.  Whoo-hoooo!

(Photo courtesy of TNT)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media & PR

From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell

by Megan Meister

I made it back from Saint Louis on Sunday, and leave tomorrow for the Opera America Conference in Philadelphia.  One of the promising highlights should be the Opera Company of Philadelphia production of Nico Muhly’s new opera Dark Sisters, which debuted earlier this year at New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera, and which will star Caitlyn Lynch, who recently made her Dallas Opera debut as “First Lady” in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in April.

From Mozart to Muhly—this lady is versatile!

I just heard that American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo shared the first place prize in the 2012 Placido Domingo Operalia Competition which was held last week in Beijing.  I first heard Mr. Costanzo as an apprentice artist at Glimmerglass, and he has continued to grow as an artist by leaps and bounds.   I happened to be at his Metropolitan Opera debut earlier this season in Handel’s Rodelinda, and I am delighted to say that he is already contracted to make his Dallas Opera debut.  Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the fall of 2015.

No, I am not going to tell you what he is doing—that would take all the fun out of it, but in any case, congratulations Anthony!

Blockbusters, Opera-Style

by Suzanne Calvin

It’s the time of year when oceans of ink are devoted to the cinematic summer blockbusters du jour. However, there’s more than one “gateway” to attract eager paying audiences, as explored in the latest edition of “Off the Cuff” by Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny--his ongoing “Theater Jones” series on opera, arts and culture.

Check it out here. (Photo by Karen Almond for the Dallas Opera)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell

by Megan Meister

Last night’s COSI was a pleasant surprise with some excellent singing.

I say it was a surprise because it started off with a frenetic (and noisy) staging of the overture, which usually sends a signal that I am in for a long, tedious night, but once the action began, the audience and I  enjoyed a relatively conventional, traditional period production.

The night belonged to the two sopranos.

Rachel Willis Sorensen, who has spent the last two years being “groomed” in the Houston Opera Studio, was an excellent “Fiordiligi” but Jennifer Aylmer, the “Despina” nearly stole the show.

Beautifully sung, charmingly characterized and with exemplary English diction, it begs the question as to why she’s not singing everywhere?

Ably abetted  by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Leemhuis from Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center Young Artists Program, baritone Liam Bonner, another Houston Studio alum, and UNT graduate and Dallas Opera Guild winner tenor David Portillo, it was an extremely well matched quartet of lovers.

The production was nicely conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni and well paced by director Michael Shell.

It was a lovely way to end my visit to Saint Louis!

From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell

by Megan Meister

Yesterday afternoon was the first orchestra dress rehearsal for the American premiere of Unsuk Chin’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, in a very imaginative and clever production by OTSL’s artistic director James Robinson.  Particularly considering the fact that this was the first time all the elements were coming together (orchestra, singers, sets and costumes) it went amazingly well and promises to be a big hit for the company.

Last night was a production of CARMEN done as a 1940s film noir, with all the sets and costumes in black and white (and various shades of grey.)  The standout performance was soprano Corinne Winters as “Micaela”, but this happens so often in this opera.  The poor mezzo playing the title role sings her heart out, and the soprano singing “Micaela” walks away with the show.   The last time Dallas Opera did CARMEN in 2004, Latonia Moore, who was making her TDO debut as “Micaela” won the Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award that season.

By the way, just a reminder, but Latonia returns to Dallas to open our season in the fall in the title role of Verdi’s AIDA.

From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell

by Megan Meister

I have been coming to Saint Louis every summer for nearly thirty years to see the festival at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.  I always enjoy coming here, but I have to confess the humidity can be almost unbearable.  Well not this year—the weather has been glorious!

Last night’s performance of Stephen Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD was terrific, with a cast headed up by Dallas Opera favorite Rod Gilfry, who was chilling in the title role.  Opposite him was Broadway star (and Tony winner) Karen Ziemba as Mrs. Lovett, whose mix of trained “legit” voice  and what is known as the “Broadway belt” style of singing was ideal. Susanne Mentzer was wonderful as the “Beggar Woman” and I couldn’t help but flash back to 1993, when she sang “Dorabella” in COSI FAN TUTTE opposite Rod Gilfry’s “Guglielmo” at The Dallas Opera.   That was Rod’s TDO debut, and was also the American debut of a young British conductor named Graeme Jenkins…

Also in the cast, making her OTSL debut was the radiant young soprano Deanna Breiwick, a recent Juilliard graduate, who I recently found out actually lives in my old New York apartment.  Not just the same building—the actual apartment!  How odd is that?

The performance was wonderfully conducted by OTSL’s music director Stephen Lord, who has a long history with The Dallas Opera, and conducted our production of LA RONDINE a few years ago.  I am off to meet with him this morning, so I will have to cut this short.

I will see the dress rehearsal of a new opera based on ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang this afternoon and then a performance of CARMEN tonight, and COSI tomorrow, so more later.