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Dallas Opera's 'Great Scott' a grand mix of operatic clichés

10.31.15
Patrick Summers
Dallas Morning News

There’s a mad scene, a ghostly visitation and a deus ex machina, as a midcareer mezzo frets over life choices and ongoing career prospects. An up-and-coming soprano, tenor and baritone vie desperately for attention. A queeny stage manager — a countertenor, no less — would rather be listening to Lady Gaga. Opera and football, old music and new, contend for advocates and audiences.

Mingling comedy and poignancy, this is the stuff of Great Scott, the new opera by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally that had its world premiere Friday night at the Winspear Opera House. Co-commissioned by the Dallas Opera and San Diego Opera, it had about as formidable a lineup of participants as the Dallas company could assemble.

The opening-night audience guffawed again and again at the opera’s veritable catalog of inside-opera characters (including, of course, gay ones) and gags. Heggie’s thoroughly tonal and often tuneful score is no less generous a mélange: dreamy, woozy orchestral music at the start; faux-Bellini coloratura and dog-trot motifs; soaring Straussian arias; and a good deal that sounds closer to Broadway musicals. At the Super Bowl, Tatyana turns the national anthem into a bel canto scena, backed by four policemen.

Patrick Summers is the most authoritative and responsive conductor a singer — and composer — could wish for, and the Dallas Opera Orchestra plays assuredly and expressively. Choral contributions have been well coached by Alexander Rom.

Read the rest of the review here