The Dallas Opera, one of the nation’s premier opera companies, is preparing to open its 53rd season on October 23 with a new production of Verdi’s Otello, in the company’s brand-new home, the 2,200-seat Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House designed by Foster + Partners under Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster. “We wanted to open our season in the new house with something big and grand that would show off the Winspear Opera House’s capabilities,” explains Dallas Opera artistic director, Jonathan Pell. “A Verdi opera was the obvious choice, and during our initial conversations with the late Bill Winspear, for whom the opera house is named, we learned that Otello was his favorite opera. As the final schedule for the end of the opera house’s construction and its subsequent opening was set, the date October 23 was chosen for the opening night of the opera. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this date would have been Mr. Winspear’s 75th birthday, so the choice of his favorite opera for that date has extra significance for us.”
The Dallas Opera moves into the new Winspear Opera House after many decades in residence at the Music Hall at Fair Park. “The first thing our patrons will notice is the incredible intimacy of the Winspear Opera House compared to the enormity of the Music Hall,” explains Mr. Pell. “The back wall of the new opera house is where the front of the balcony starts in the Music Hall! The other big change for Dallas audiences will be our ability to have multiple productions in repertoire at the same time. Now, opera lovers can travel to Dallas and experience more than one opera in the course of a weekend.”
The house’s inaugural opera performance of Otello, with Dallas Opera Chorus alumn tenor Clifton Forbis in the title role, is being presented in a new Dallas Opera production by Tim Albery, with set and costume designs by Anthony Baker, both making their company debuts. The Dallas Opera’s music director, Graeme Jenkins, conducts. “Having Clifton Forbis sing the title role in Otello has a special significance for us,” remarked Jonathan Pell. “He sang in the Dallas Opera Chorus for two years and made his first solo appearance in an opera in Dallas as a messenger in a production of Aida. He has, of course, gone on to sing in the major opera houses of the world. He has sung the title role in Otello at La Scala and has become known as well for Wagner’s mammoth role of Tristan, which he recently sang opposite Deborah Voigt at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The connection of his having started his career here seemed poetic, and we loved the symmetry of his coming back to open our new opera house.”
The Dallas Opera has a rich tradition of giving American audiences a first glimpse of some of the world’s most gifted singers. Since the company’s inaugural concert, given by legendary soprano Maria Callas, many international stars have made their U.S. debuts at The Dallas Opera, including Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, and Jon Vickers, as well as designer/director Franco Zeffirelli. Following in this tradition, the German soprano Annette Dasch will make her American debut as Desdemona in Dallas before traveling to New York for her Metropolitan Opera debut as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro.