Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One Giant Leap for the Dallas Opera?

An article in the New York Times discusses the appointment of George R. Steel as general director: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/13/arts/music/13stee.html . George R. Steel who was an executive director of the Miller Theatre at Columbia University has been hired as General Director at the Dallas Opera. The move to the Dallas Opera may have been surprising for a few reasons. The company is known for more traditional performances. Mr. Steel is not a traditionalist. Also, he does not have a lot of experience directing opera. Apparently, the Dallas Opera is in need of a real change. No one really knows what this means. At the Miller Theater, Mr. Steel, for the most part, tended to leave out the more popular composers. Although he did have series’ such as “Brahms the Progressive,” where he had Brahms’ chamber works played along side early twentieth century works of composers who where influenced by Brahms.

I am curious to see what Mr. Steel will bring to the Dallas Opera. His programs all included a great deal of contemporary music and some early music. The Dallas Opera gives him a lot more to work with than his previous post. He will even have the opportunity to conduct 3 performances. It will be interesting to see what innovations he will bring and what the audience reactions will be. The Dallas Opera is already commissioning the new opera “Moby Dick” by Jake Heggie. Mr. Steel wants the Dallas Opera to be a cultural leader. He thinks that if it is marketed as “hip,” it is very possible for this to happen. I don’t know anything about marketing (which is probably why I spend so much) but I do think it is important to commission new music and keep the art fresh and alive. There is a lot of interesting twentieth century opera out there that, I personally don’t think will ever be considered “standard repertoire.” Some of it is really old enough to be considered classic by now but for many of us, it still sounds too strange to sit through. It would be amazing indeed if a company as influential as the Dallas Opera dedicated itself to new music. This may be a stretch but imagine a major opera company that only presents contemporary works: Berio’s “Un re in ascolto,” Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre,” throw in “Bluebeard’s Castle” with just one or two standard-ish operas, such as say, “Pelleas et Melisande” and Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” as well as a newly commissioned work and there’s a whole season. I think I could get behind that. Perhaps if it were “hip” enough to suit me, I would even get a subscription. Sarah, a Harry Potter opera could be just the thing to entice me!

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