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Home mySSlife Entertainment Making Magic: ‘To do an opera, it takes a village.’

Making Magic: ‘To do an opera, it takes a village.’

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Editor's Note: This is the final in a series about the inner workings of The Dallas Opera.

The Dallas Opera has pared down the 2012-2013 season, "Pursuits of Passion," to three productions, but what magnificent productions they are. They've chosen "Aida," "Turandot" and the 25th anniversary staging of "The Aspern Papers," by Dominick Argento, whom TDO Assistant Conductor Michael Heaston calls "America's greatest living composer."

The finale of Turandot features one of opera's most recognizable arias, "Nessun Dorma," made famous by The Three Tenors at the 1990 World Cup Soccer tournament in Los Angeles.

"Aida," of  course, has the grand march, which has been used in cartoons, and in television and movie soundtracks.

"The Aspern Papers" made its debut at TDO in 1988. It is based on 1888 novella by Henry James.

"I went to school where he [Argento] was professor emeritus," Heaston shared. "We've assembled a cast of superstars, including Susan Graham, Carol Vaness and Nathan."

Graham, a native of Midland, was named "America's favorite mezzo" by Gramophone Magazine and Musical America's "Vocalist of the Year" in 2004. Acclaimed lyric soprano Vaness is famous for her interpretation of "Tosca," having sung the role opposite Luciano Pavarotti in his final operatic performance. Gunn, a baritone, has appeared on TDO stage as Doctor Malatesta in "Don Pasquale" and "Guglielmo in "Cosí fan tutte."

Singing the title role in "Aida" is Houston native and rising star Latonia Moore, the 2004 winner of the Dallas Opera Guild's vocal competition. Moore made her official TDO debut as Micaela in "Carmen" that same year.

"Miss Moore just this season made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 'Aida,'" Heaston noted. "I was able to go up for a performance. The audience was overwhelmed and her ovation went on for quite a long time."

Singing opposite Moore will be Italian tenor , who famously walked on in his street clothe s to s ing the role of Ramades at La Scala in 1996 when Roberto Alagana walked off after being booed by the audience in the first act.

Palombi will be pulling double duty for TDO, as he will also sing the role of the prince in "Turandot."

Heaston and TDO Artistic Director Jonathan Pell welcome the challenges each season brings.

"I'm still at the point in my career of doing a lot of things for the first time," Heaston acknowledged. "You have to study and know all the orchestral pieces. You have to be able to play the piano. You have to know the translation word for word. You have to be able to play and sing the roles. It takes a long time to digest. Keeping organized between all the different jobs I do is a challenge."

Pell says "dealing with all the personalities, staying sane and making sure that everybody is moving in the same direction" is his particular challenge.

The best part of his job, Pell says, is "the satisfaction that the public has experienced something that might alter their life forever. The artists are up there because I engaged them. When it works, it's the greatest feeling in the world. When done well, it's an extraordinary experience."

Heaston says he is pleased, especially, at the end of the season, when the audience walks out of the theater wanting to renew their tickets. He also believes in the importance of collaboration.

"To do opera, it takes a village," he said. "It's a synthesis of all art forms. If I just had to sit at my desk every day and not get to work with other people, that would be the worst thing possible."

Pell and Heaston spend time in the off season judging vocal competitions. Pell sees a bright future for his chosen art form.

"Every year I go out and talk to young singers and artists," he noted. "There is no lack of enthusiasm or talent. Despite the precarious economic climate, all these people want to devote themselves to a life of music."

To opera's naysayers, to those who don't know much about the music or who say they don't speak a foreign language, Pell says, "We have supertitles [translations above the stage] now. People should just stop questioning and allow it to take them over. They could be transported to another place. That's what great opera can do."


The Dallas Opera season begins with "Aida," by Giuseppe Verdi. It runs October 26, 28 (matinee), 31 and November 3, 9 and 11 (matinee).

"Turandot" opens April 5 and will run on April 7 (matinee), 10, 13, 19 and 21.

"The Aspern Papers" will run April 12, 14 (matinee) 17, 20 and 28 (matinee).


Single tickets go on sale in September. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 214-443-1000 or visiting www.dallasopera.org. Season tickets are available from $76 to $1,015.

TDO also offers special student discounts, family packages and build-your-own-ticket options. Visit the opera's website for complete information.


Click here to see the Grand March from "Aida" from a 1989 performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.




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