It is 6:00 in the morning and I am in the Vienna Airport waiting for my flight back to Dallas. I came over for three intense days of auditions held at the historic Theater an der Wien, where a panel of my colleagues and I heard almost 100 singers from 34 countries. There were representatives from Florence’s Maggio Musicale, as well as the opera houses in Antwerp, Toulouse, Santiago, and several German opera houses, including Cologne.
Among the singers auditioning there were a number of Americans who are either based in Europe or were here on an audition tour, including soprano Ava Pine, who was dazzling in arias by Handel and Gounod even at 10:30 in the morning !
Perhaps the most exciting auditions for me were a group of singers from the young artist program at Moscow’s famed Bolshoi Theater, and there was one soprano in particular that was really impressive. I expect that she is at the beginning of what promises to be an extraordinary career.
There were so many singers from so many countries that I couldn’t help but be struck by the extraordinary passion shared by all of these artists from around the world who have devoted themselves to a life in music.
I was also able to attend two performances while I was here, which was fascinating. The first was a new production of Verdi’s IL TROVATORE at the Vienna Volksoper (sort of the Viennese equivalent of the late, lamented New York City Opera or London’s English National Opera) which starred tenor Stuart Neill as “Manrico.”
Some of you may remember him in the title role of FAUST in Dallas in 1998, and obviously he has moved on to significantly heavier repertoire.
The following evening I attended a stunning new production at the Theater an der Wien of Mozart’s IDOMENEO, starrring Richard Croft in the title role. It was conducted by Rene Jacobs and staged by Damiano Michieletti, and performed by a superb cast which also included Marlis Peterson as “Elettra.”
The production was somewhat puzzling, but filled with breathtaking imagery and performed with intense commitment. I have not always enjoyed productions of this opera seria, which often seems static, but even with jet lag I was riveted from beginning to end.
It was also wonderful to see Rick Croft, who is on the faculty at the University of North Texas, enjoy such a personal triumph.
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Jonathan Pell, Artistic Director
The Dallas Opera
It’s not too late to get your tickets for tonight’s world premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Ahab Symphony” expanding on ideas the composer explored in his critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, “Moby-Dick.” The new work, written for the UNT Symphony Orchestra and featuring the UNT Grand Chorus and tenor soloist Richard Croft, will be presented at 8 p.m. in Winspear Hall (not to be confused with the Winspear Opera House) at the Murchison Performing Arts Center in Denton.
The first movement, “Dawn,” is heavily influenced by the opera. The second movement, “The Wind,” inspired by the challenges faced by both the character Ahab and Herman Melville, “explores the eternal battle of man versus nature, and the inherent powerlessness and frustration of this conflict. This leads to an aching third movement, ‘The Narrow Balcony,’ and a fourth movement, ‘The Pieces,’ that takes a tone of yearning simplicity and resignation.” Or so says the UNT media release.
Any way you slice it, it’s bound to be a pulse-pounding, seafaring evening; the program opens with several salty works by Mendelssohn and Britten. Here’s more from Classical Music Critic Scott Cantrell of “The Dallas Morning News.”
Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR
February 23 (Denton) and 24 (Dallas) at 7:30 p.m.
Ava Pine, Theodora * Ryland Angel, Didymus
Richard Croft, Septimius * Jeffrey Snider, Valens * Jennifer Lane, Irene
Pre-concert lecture: Dr. Ruth Davis, University of Cambridge, at 6:30 p.m.
A tragic tale of love, faith and virtue set in 4th century Antioch, Handel’s oratorio Theodora follows the martyred princess Theodora and her Roman lover Didymus. Featuring extraordinary soloists, including Ava Pine and Ryland Angel alongside UNT faculty members Richard Croft, Jeffrey Snider and Jennifer Lane, Dallas Opera Music Director Graeme Jenkins will lead the UNT Baroque Orchestra and Collegium Singers at both Winspear halls—the Winspear Performance Hall in Denton and the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.
Continuing the tradition of UNT faculty/student performance collaborations, a student will also join this outstanding cast in the role of the Messenger through a competitive audition process.
Theodora is presented by UNT College of Music and is made possible by the UNT Fine Arts Series, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Dallas Opera, and Don and Ellen Winspear. This will be the fifth production of UNT’s Handel Oratorio series.
The Feb. 23 performance will take place in the Winspear Performance Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center in Denton. Tickets are $12-$20 and can be purchased by visiting music.unt.edu/mpac or by calling 940-369-7802.
The Feb. 24 performance will take place in the Winspear Opera House in Dallas. Tickets are $12-$20 and can be purchased by visiting www.attpac.org, or by calling 214-880-0202.