Opera Preview

Arias for newbies: Dallas and SMU opera seasons are stacked with sexy choices

Arias for newbies: Dallas and SMU opera seasons are stacked with sexy choices

Opera, said 20th century wit Robert Benchley, “is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.”

Stabbed in the back, poisoned, run through with a rapier, felled by consumption, entombed, smothered, strangled, shot, claimed by Satan or giant dragon — this is how opera characters die. And almost all of them go down singing.

If you’re new to opera, or have never seen a major operatic production, this is the season for you. Between Dallas Opera, which opens its 2012-2013 season October 26 at the Winspear Opera House, and the mainstage opera from music departments at Southern Methodist University, there are good opportunities over the next few months for us newbies to discover the passion and spectacle of classical musical theater.

Aida, Dallas Opera, Winspear Opera House
October 26, 28, 31; November 3, 9, 11

Over a century before Elton John and Disney teamed up for their soapy version of the ancient tale of Egyptian palace intrigue, Giuseppe Verdi wrote his four-act masterpiece, which debuted in Cairo in 1871.

 More than two dozen local guys hunk it up as rip-abbed Egyptian slaves in Aida.

Full of grand spectacle and sexy costumes, the opera tells of a hot love triangle among Aida, an Ethiopian princess captured and turned into a slave in Egypt; a handsome Egyptian military commander named Radames; and Amneris, the Pharaoh’s beautiful daughter. Amneris is obsessed with Radames, who is madly in love with Aida but so loyal to the Pharaoh that he’s afraid to make the wrong choice.

In the Dallas Opera production, Latonia Moore stars as Aida (a role she’s performed with New York’s Metropolitan Opera); Antonello Palombi plays Radames. Nadia Krasteva makes her Dallas Opera debut as Amneris. Lester Lynch co-stars as Amonasro, and Orlin Anastassov is Ramfis. Ben Wager plays the king of Egypt. More than two dozen local guys have been cast as “supernumeraries,” hunking it up as rip-abbed Egyptian slaves.

Doctor Miracle, Winspear Opera House
November 10

“Opera in English is about as sensible as baseball in Italian,” said H.L. Mencken. Okay, but Dallas Opera’s Family Matinee series hopes this comedic Georges Bizet piece, sung in English, will introduce kids and new-to-opera parents to the wonders of classical singing.

The one-act opera, presented in partnership with the SMU and University of North Texas vocal departments, will be performed at 10:30 am and 2 pm on the second Saturday in November at the Winspear Opera House. Family-oriented activities will happen in the lobby at 12:30 pm. Tickets are just $5.

Albert Herring, Bob Hope Theatre, SMU
February 7-10, 2013

Meadows School of the Arts’ 2012-2013 season features this mainstage performance of Benjamin Britten’s comic masterpiece. The opera is being presented as part of the worldwide Britten centennial in 2013. In this charming comedy of manners — backed by the Meadows Sympony Orchestra — a young boy takes a sudden leap into adulthood. (Cue the leading lady’s cleavage.) Tickets are $7-$13.

Turandot, Dallas Opera, Winspear Opera House
April 5-21, 2013

Giacomo Puccini’s last opera debuted at La Scala in 1926 (finished after the composer’s death) and is the second big title in Dallas Opera’s season. Set in ancient China, this three-act opera, conducted here by Marco Zambelli, stars soprano Lise Lindstrom in her Dallas Opera debut as Princess Turandot.

 You have to love an opera that has characters named Ping, Pang and Pong.

Christian Van Horn makes his Dallas Opera debut as Timur, with Antonello Palombi as Calaf, Hei-Kyung Hong as Liu and Jonothan Beyer as Ping. (You have to love an opera that has characters named Ping, Pang and Pong.)

The story is a complicated tale of love and death. When Calaf falls in love with emotionally frozen Princess Turandot, he asks for permission to wed her. But there’s an obstacle: To win her hand, he must solve three riddles. Any wrong answer means execution.

He passes the test, but Turandot balks. So he offers to commit suicide if she can guess his real name. (Hint: It’s not Rumplestiltskin.)

The biggest arguments about this opera are usually about how to pronounce the title. Purists says you shouldn’t sound the final “t” in Turandot. The best-known aria in this one is “Nessun Dorma” (“none shall sleep”), sung memorably on stage and recordings by Pavarotti, Domingo and Bocelli. And also by Miss Aretha Franklin, memorably stepping in for an ailing Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

The Aspern Papers, Dallas Opera, Winspear Opera House
April 12-28, 2013

Dominick Argento’s two-act opera is based on a Henry James novella. An editor travels to Lake Como, Italy, and enters the lives of a poet’s surviving lover, once a famous diva, and her unattractive niece in order to uncover hoarded manuscripts he wants to publish.

Snippets of a lost opera, Medea, are heard throughout this haunting piece, sung in English (with supertitles). The opera had its world premiere at Dallas Opera in 1988 in a staging The New York Times critic Bernard Holland called “the kind of production composers dream of.”

Graeme Jenkins conducts this new production starring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as the niece, Tina, in her long-anticipated Dallas Opera debut, with soprano Alexandra Deshorties as the reclusive diva and baritone Nathan Gunn as an obsessed music lover.

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Dallas Opera single tickets and season subscription packages may be ordered online or by calling 214-443-1000.

Aida at the Dallas Opera
Latonia Moore as Aida in Dallas Opera's season opener. Photo courtesy of Dallas Opera
Turandot at Dallas Opera
Lise Lindstrom in her Dallas Opera debut as Princess Turandot. Photo courtesy of Dallas Opera
The Aspern Papers at Dallas Opera
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Tina in The Aspern Papers, her long-anticipated Dallas Opera debut. Photo courtesy of Dallas Opera