The Dallas Opera Announces a New Dedicated Chamber Opera Series

By: Mar. 15, 2011

The Dallas Opera announces the launch of its Dallas Opera Chamber Opera Series in the upcoming 2011-12 season, the catalyst for an historic artistic collaboration between The Dallas Opera and the Dallas Theater Center. The new series, designed to complement the main-stage opera performances in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, will enable The Dallas Opera to produce lesser-known contemporary works, new commissions, experimental pieces, and opera rarities in intimate "jewel-box" venues. No other American Opera Company is currently committed to producing a separate chamber opera series. The Dallas Opera Chamber Opera Series will be inaugurated in March 2012 with a Dallas Opera production of Peter Maxwell Davies's eerie 1979 thriller, The Lighthouse, a chamber opera about an unsolved disappearance off the coast of Scotland. The production will be conducted by Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director of San Francisco's Ensemble Parallèle, and staged by the Dallas Theater Center's Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty.

"I am tremendously proud that, less than a year after taking the helm of The Dallas Opera in exceptionally tough economic times, I am able to announce such an important step for this company," says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. He continues:

"Expanding our repertoire to include chamber opera and new commissions has been a linchpin of my artistic vision for The Dallas Opera. By committing ourselves to this path and forging a landmark collaboration with Kevin Moriarty and the Dallas Theater Center to launch this series - the first such collaboration between our two companies - The Dallas Opera hopes to instill new excitement and a fresh spirit of collaboration and innovation into this, and every upcoming season.
"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. Just as Nicole Paiement is an absolutely superb choice to conduct this unusual and challenging work, Kevin is the ideal director to stage this gripping new production."

Based on actual events, The Lighthouse begins with a prologue set in an Edinburgh Court of Enquiry. The remainder of the 90-minute opera takes place on a remote, wind-swept island at what is here called "Fladda Isle Lighthouse," where a trio of lighthouse keepers vanished without trace. The plot of this chamber opera serves up the supernatural and the psychological in equal measure, yet leaves the mystery at its heart unresolved.

From the composer's notes on the opera:

"The original inspiration for this work came from reading Craig Mair's book on the Stevenson family of Edinburgh. This family, apart from producing the famous author Robert Louis, produced several generations of lighthouse and harbor engineers. In December 1900 the lighthouse and harbor supply ship Hesperus based in Stromness, Orkney went on its routine tour of duty to the Flannan Isles light in the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse was empty - all three beds and the table looked as if they had been left in a hurry, and the lamp, though out, was in perfect working order, but the men had disappeared into thin air.
"There have been many speculations as to how and why the three keepers disappeared. This opera does not offer a solution to the mystery, but indicates what might be possible under the tense circumstances of three men being marooned in a storm-bound lighthouse long after the time they expected to be relieved."

Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty explains:

"At Dallas Theater Center, we believe that arts organizations are stronger when they work together. Joining The Dallas Opera to support its production of The Lighthouse is a great opportunity for Dallas Theater Center to contribute to The Dallas Opera's outstanding work and to introduce both our audiences to a modern opera that they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to experience in Dallas.
"For me, one of the great pleasures of living in Dallas is being able to experience operas at The Dallas Opera, so it's a special joy for me to have this chance to direct The Lighthouse, which will be my debut as an opera director. It's a beautiful, complicated opera: the score is breathtaking in its psychological depth, innate theatricality, and stunning musicality.
"I'm thrilled to join members of Dallas Theater Center's production staff and my longtime design collaborators, set designer Beowulf Boritt and costume designer Claudia Stephens, to welcome The Dallas Opera into the Wyly Theatre, where we will bring this important piece to life in a theatrically compelling production."

Performances of The Lighthouse, with support from Jessie and Charles Price, will take place in the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center (located directly across the street from the Winspear Opera House) on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 7:30pm; Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 7:30pm; and on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2pm.

Tickets will be available to Dallas Opera Season Subscribers, followed by Dallas Theater Center Subscribers and the general public. Further details and exact ticket prices will be announced at a later time.

"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."

The Lighthouse, a Dallas Opera production, will be designed by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt with costume designs by Claudia Stephens, both well-known to local theater audiences through their work at Dallas Theater Center, while enjoying national reputations.

A 2009 revival of this contemporary classic prompted GeofF Brown of the London Times to write: "The Lighthouse wears its age well. By 1980, the mad clown in Davies's music had been subdued; he'd refreshed his language with classical forms, descriptive writing, even take-home tunes. Indeed, his ear for pictures is so strong that Aaron Marsden's black, minimalist setting stunts nothing, for the craggy rocks, wind gusts, and squawking sea birds are all in the music."

Parking onsite will be available in the Lexus Red Parking beneath the Winspear Opera House and the Lexus Silver Parking adjacent to the Wyly Theatre. Should those reach capacity, additional paid parking is available at nearby One Arts Plaza and in several surface lots. Prices range from $5 to $25 per vehicle.

Single tickets are on sale now (prices and discounts subject to availability) for the 2012 Spring Season productions, through the Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at (214) 443-1000 or online at Student Rush best-available tickets are available for $25 (one per valid Student I.D.) 90 minutes prior to each performance.


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