Can’t they leave well enough alone: an ‘amped’ evening at the Meyerson 

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov 19, 2007 - How to improve on perfection? Leave it alone. Less is more, and all that.

Renée  Fleming

At the Dallas Opera’s anniversary gala, “Bravo 50!” held at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center Saturday night, the best laid plans of lighting and sound technicians went wrong. Way wrong.

Two words about psychedelic lighting effects on the hall’s ceiling and the walls – not necessary. The Meyerson is a beautiful space. The opera’s orchestra and chorus, under the expert direction of maestro Graeme Jenkins,  dressed up the stage just fine, thank you very much. No need to gild the lily. 

Headlining the event were Chris Botti on jazz trumpet, and Renée Fleming, the most sought after soprano of our time.

Chris Botti

With firepower like Botti, Fleming, and an acoustically perfect hall that the jazz trumpeter calls “Carnegie Hall South,” there was absolutely no need for the sound guys to amp up his trumpet.

But amp it up they did. When an instrument is miked, every note is blown to the back of the house, leaving no room for the subtlety that someone with Botti’s talent brings to the stage.

His “Ave Maria” completely overpowered the opera’s orchestra and chorus, stripping every bit of reverence from Schubert’s classic.

What should have been lovely takes on “When I Fall In Love” and “Cinema Paradiso,” turned into  headaches for me and those sitting nearby. 

� When I interviewed him in September, Botti promised to add �Nessun Dorma� to the Dallas set list. Although the number was not listed in the program, he snuck it in. His arrangement is lovely and nuanced and brings a surprise, almost prayer-like ending to the powerful aria from Puccini�s �Turandot,� but the microphone robbed the audience of Botti�s glorious interpretation.

�� Proof that Botti�s trumpet did not need amplification came when Miss Fleming joined him for �Scherzano sul tuo volto.� Botti�s lush sound blended seamlessly with Fleming�s. Unplugged, they were a triumph.

�� Fleming has been criticized for adding unnecessary trills and runs to her performances. Some padding was evident Saturday night, but for the most part, the diva delivered pure vocal magic.�

�� Her tribute to Maria Callas, who performed with the Dallas Opera in 1957, was lovely, and her �Song to the Moon,� from Dvofi�k�s �Rusalka,� was free of vocal machinations. �The Letter Scene� from �Eugene Onegin,� was filled with drama enough for any stage, and her final number, �E Donna Mobile,� from Verdi�s �Rigoletto,� reminded us that opera is not always about demented divas, death and dying. Sometimes, it�s just downright fun.

The créme de la créme of Dallas society arrived at the gala in long, black limousines. Klieg lights added a Hollywood red carpet feel to the night sky there in the arts district. The elite were dressed to the nines in Armani tuxedos, Chanel evening suits and Tiffany diamonds for a night that began with cocktails and the show, and ended with dinner and dancing in the Meyerson’s grand lobby.

One of the society ladies sitting next to me  expressed her dismay about the amplification. 

�Why ruin the boy�s beautiful sound with technology?� she asked. �It just made my head hurt.�

Indeed. Next time leave well enough alone, and let the fabulous Meyerson handle the rest.

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