Dallas Opera Launches Chamber Opera Series at Wyly Theater

It is a lament as old as the carpets at the Music Hall at Fair Park: the Dallas Opera performs few contemporary operas, and the season is too conservative and filled with “greatest hits” pieces.

Is it time for progressive opera fans to bury the hatchet? The Dallas Opera is setting off into uncharted waters with a new performance series, the Chamber Opera Series, which will focus on contemporary pieces, new commissions, and other “opera rarities.” The new chamber series will launch during the 2011-2012 season with “Queen’s Composer” Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, and that production will be directed by Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty. Dallas can’t get enough collaboration these days, and I must say, the cross pollinations are mighty intriguing.

The new series is a boon for new Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny, who took the helm of the company less than a year ago and is launching a new opera series – the first of its kind in the United States – despite a period of economic uncertainty.

The choice of Kevin Moriarty to launch the series also indicates an opera company trying to inject youthful energy and approachability into its repertoire.

“Kevin Moriarty’s insightful stage direction, as well as his gutsy and intelligent programming and leadership, have established him as one of the pre-eminent figures in the Texas performing arts scene in a remarkably short time,” Cerny says in the Dallas Opera’s release.

The first production, The Lighthouse, was written in 1979, and it is a thriller set in Scotland. The performance will take place at the Wyly Theater, and it will be interesting to see how the theater is configured for the performance given the combination of Moriarty’s spatial ambition and the demands of singers.

The primary production team for The Lighthouse is set. Nicole Paiement will conduct. Beowulf Boritt, the ambitious scenic designer behind some of the Dallas Theater Center’s most flamboyant productions – It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, Give it Up!, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Who’s Tommy – will rejoin Moriarty. Claudia Stephens, associate Professor of costume design at Southern Methodist University who most recently designed the Fort Worth Opera’s debut of Before Night Falls, will be the production’s costume designer.

The singers have not yet been announced, though Dallas Opera Artistic Director Jonathan Pell says contracts are nearly finalized. Again, from the release:

“In order for this opera to achieve its maximum impact,” explains Dallas Opera Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, “each artist must be an excellent singer as well as an accomplished actor.  We are now finalizing contracts with three superb artists who have demonstrated their amazing ability to etch indelible and unforgettable portraits of characters they have portrayed in other works.

You can find read the full release announcing the chamber opera season here.