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Dallas’s new Winspear Opera House dazzles

The new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas, Texas has been receiving lots of press attention in the lead-up to its opening night.  The stunning opera house has been pictured in newspapers all over the country, and anticipation is growing for the first opera production to be presented in the new house: a new Dallas Opera production of Verdi’s Otello, which opens on Friday, October 23.

Scott Cantrell, veteran music critic of the Dallas Morning News, talks with Spencer de Grey, who headed the new opera house’s design team from Foster + Partners.  He describes the new building as “a huge presence, spreading a finned sunscreen far beyond its functional footprint.  The ruby-red inner drum, rising through the lobby and projecting above, is the Arts District’s sole splash of color.”  And he quotes de Grey: “Very much at the heart of what we’re trying to do is making the building not one that you have to pluck up your courage to enter, but very transparent.”  Cantrell praises the fact that de Grey insisted “that even patrons parking in the underground garage enter the opera house through the same front doors as people walking in off the street.”

The New York Times saluted Dallas’s two new performing arts buildings in an article on October 14:

“The latest additions to the [Dallas arts] district [are] the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre and the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House… . Facing off across Flora Street, the district’s main thoroughfare, they embody radically different design philosophies, one coolly experimental, the other a traditional take on civic architecture cloaked in a modern wrapper.  Yet together they give the area the cultural stature Dallas has long been craving.”

In September, Opera News was among the first publications to publish an article about the new Winspear Opera House – also written by the ideally-situated Cantrell.

“Although coolly modern both inside and out, the Winspear is built around a traditional horseshoe-shaped interior.  Depending on pit configuration, the hall seats between 2,200 and 2,300 on the orchestra floor and four tiers of wraparound balconies. … Behind the curtain, spaces and facilities are fully up to date.”

And the invigorated Dallas Opera has put together an exciting first season for its new home, opening on October 23 with a production of Verdi’s Shakespeare-based Otello, starring tenor Clifton Forbis in the title role; the singer is returning to his roots with the company where he began his career in the chorus.

In Opera News, Cantrell points out that the company is able for the first time in its half-century existence to put on more than one repertory opera at a time.  After Tim Albery’s October production of Verdi’s Otello, the first season in the new house resumes in February with Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.  Next comes the highly-anticipated world premiere of Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, which will run concurrently with Madama Butterfly.  Cantrell quotes Dallas Opera veteran Jonathan Pell, who is the company’s new Artistic Director:

“‘We wanted to showcase the facility by opening with a big opera that would allow us to show all the new opera house could do,’ says Dallas Opera veteran Jonathan Pell, who earlier this year was given the new title of Artistic Director.  ‘We also wanted to do some repertoire that would highlight its intimacy.’”

It’s been 20 years since Dallas has stirred up so much artistic excitement: its Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, which the New York Times calls “a subdued limestone building designed by I.M. Pei [that] did little to enliven the downtown arts district when it opened in 1989.  Even the critically acclaimed Renzo Piano-designed Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened nearby in 2003, was not enough to transform the area.”

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OTELLO by Giuseppe Verdi
October 23
, 25(m), 28, & 31; November 5 & 8(m), 2009
A new Dallas Opera production to inaugurate the Winspear Opera House!
An opera in four acts first performed at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, February 5, 1887
Text by Arrigo Boito after William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Otello, or The Moor of Venice
Time: the 15th century

Place: The island of Cyprus
Conductor: Graeme Jenkins
Stage director: Tim Albery
Production design: Anthony Baker
Lighting design: Thomas C. Hase
Wig and make-up design: David Zimmerman
Chorus master: Alexander Rom
Starring: Clifton Forbis (Otello); Allan Glassman (Otello, Oct 25); Annette Dasch (Desdemona); Lado Ataneli (Iago); Sean Panikkar (Cassio); Elizabeth Turnbull (Emilia); Mark McCrory (Montano); and Raymond Aceto (Lodovico)

For more information about the Dallas Opera, please visit:

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© 21C Media Group, October 2009

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