A Beginner's Guide to Braving the Opera in North Texas This Busy Spring
Over the next two months, the Dallas Opera and the Fort Worth Opera will present a combined total of six operas with some 20-plus performances. From classic Italian masterpieces to modern American works sung in English, there's a lot of variety from north Texas' opera companies this spring.
For the uninitiated, opera can be daunting. Luckily, we here at The Mixmaster are Opera Nerds, so we're at your service, ready to answer all your pressing FAQs. Opera Nerds are not known for their brevity, so we'd better get started.
How dressed up do I have to be? Are we talking tie? Tux? Definitely pants, right?
As far as theater and classical music go, opera audiences take home the prize for best dressed (or at least most over-dressed).
This is partly out of tradition, and partly because this extravagant, over-the-top art form seems to demand some sort of sartorial response. Especially on opening nights and weekends, you can expect to cop an envious glance at your fair share of couture and jewels. You definitely don't need a formal gown or tux (although you may see a few). With a tie or nice dress, you'll blend in just fine. And hell, this is Amuhrica! And you paid for your tickets goshdarnit, so wear what you please.
Speaking of tickets, how much is this gonna cost me?
Single tickets to Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Opera performances run from around $20-$225. If you have sticker shock, remember that opera is massively expensive to produce. For each performance, a full orchestra of musicians must be paid in addition to the cast on stage. The soloists and chorus are typically supplemented with supernumeraries (non-singing extras), and it takes a huge behind-the-scenes-crew to manipulate expansive sets, etc. For opera, it's worth it to splurge. The cheap seats often have obstructed views and this is the kind of music you want to hear sung right in your face.
Got a valid student ID? Maybe an invalid student ID that looks pretty valid? Show up at the Winspear 90 minutes before a performance and TDO student rush tickets are available for $15 ($25 for great seats). At Bass Hall in Fort Worth, student rush tickets are all $15 (cash only) and you'll get the best seats available at time of purchase. There are tons of specials and group packages on both websites.
Aren't operas in Italian or German or something? Will I even understand it?
Depends on the opera. If the opera is in a foreign language, there will be supertitles (like movie subtitles) projected above the screen. A few of the operas the FWO and TDO are putting on this spring will be sung in English.
How long is an opera? I'm taping the Rachel Zoe Project, you know?
Again, depends. Here's a run down of what to expect from all six of the operas that will be staged in north Texas over the coming weeks:
The Dallas Opera's Turandot
This is a classic, early 20th-century Puccini opera. It's grandiose, Italian and filled with sweeping romantic melodies. It's also long. With three Acts, it typically clocks in at just over three hours (including two intermissions), so grab a drink and get comfortable. Set in ancient China, the story follows the title character as she plays the ultimate game of hard to get, demanding any suitor answer three riddles before they can have her hand. If they can't answer correctly, her admirers are executed. This dramatic tale of love and death contains one of the world's most recognizable operatic melodies, Nessun Dorma (you might recognize this version or this version). TDO is also screening this opera for free at Cowboys stadium.
The Dallas Opera's Aspern Papers
This American opera by composer Dominick Argento had its world premier in Dallas 25 years ago at Fair Park Music Hall. In fact, the opera, which is based on a Henry James novella, was commissioned by TDO. Sung in English, this is a sort of academic mystery about a long-lost opera manuscript and the determined scholar in pursuit of it. An aging diva and her attractive young niece round out the cast of this two-hour long, two-act work.
Fort Worth Opera's La bohème
Fort Worth Opera's 2013 festival opens with yet another long, romantic Puccini opera. This dramatic Italian favorite will also last about three hours, but is broken up into four acts. La bohème tells the story of bohemian artists living in Paris in the 1830s. Rodolfo and Mimi are the characters at the center of the opera's tragic love affair (tragic because Mimi is dying of tuberculosis). Like any good Italian opera, there is plenty of overly romantic opining and a tragic death scene at the end.
Fort Worth Opera's Glory Denied
This modern opera tells a modern tale of love and war. The plot, based on journalist Tom Philpott's book by the same name, follows America's longest-held prisoner of war as he comes home from Vietnam to find his wife involved in a love affair with another man. This two-act opera was premiered in New York in 1997 and FWO's production marks a regional premier. The music is tuneful and lyric, not uncomfortable to listen to, and sung in English.
Fort Worth Opera's The Daughter of the Regiment
This French opera by Donizetti tells the story of a young girl who is found as an infant and then adopted by a French military regiment. It's bubbly, light, and hilarious - far less serious than the two Puccini operas listed above. In addition to entertaining as a comedy, this opera contains some insanely difficult singing for the lead tenor. Virtuosity will be on display when he sings an aria with nine high Cs, more than any other opera demands.
Fort Worth Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos
This opera-within-an-opera by Richard Strauss is sung in German and presented in one act with a prologue. Another comedic offering, Ariadne is a slapstick comedy of errors, the plot of which is set into motion when a wealthy patron demands a serious opera company perform in collaboration with a ridiculous comedy troupe.