Dallas Opera

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The Dallas Opera is an opera company located in Dallas, Texas (USA). The company was founded in 1957 as the Dallas Civic Opera by Laurence Kelly and Nicolà Rescigno, both of whom had been active with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the first as administrator, the second as artistic director.

The company made its mark in American opera long before the upsurge of regional opera in the US,[1] especially with the appearance of Maria Callas who opened the Civic Opera's first season with an inaugural recital conducted by Rescigno.

From 1957 to 2009 the Dallas Opera performed in the historic Music Hall at Fair Park. But for the 2009-2010 season, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, one venue of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, became the opera's new home. That season included the world premiere of Moby-Dick by composer Jake Heggie, one of many new commissions which have been presented by the company.

The company's artistic successes[edit]

Callas returned the following year to perform in La traviata in a production by Franco Zeffirelli and in Medea, directed by the Greek director, Alexis Minotis, two of her infrequent performances in the United States. According to John Ardoin, the long-time music critic for The Dallas Morning News,[2] she sang in Lucia di Lammermoor in the 1958 season. Callas' rehearsal, with Resigno conducting the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, on 20 November 1957 was recorded, as was her performance in Medea on 6 November 1958.

Of the company's successes, one writer notes that "the Dallas Opera may have been just beginning, but what they accomplished was of the highest standard",[3] while, in an interview, John Ardoin outlines the role of Laurence Kelly:

“Everything must ride or fall on the taste of one man…. As it did with Kelly and his company. He went through all kinds of crap for 10 months out of the year -- mean fund-raising and playing social games and all -- to do what he loved the most for two months out of the year. And Kelly didn't care if you did Aida, or Rigoletto, or Carmen -- it just had to be the best Aida, and Rigoletto, and Carmen. He would agonize over it, and think it out. Nothing was ever casual with him, in the casting or the productions. That's not to say he didn't make mistake. But, ultimately, it was his taste, and his vision, and his commitment that did the trick".[4]

Many singers have made their American debut in Dallas, such as Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Gwyneth Jones, Waltraud Meier, Magda Olivero, Joan Sutherland, and Jon Vickers. Designer/director Franco Zeffirelli also made his US debut there. Dallas also has helped launch the careers of such American singers as Renée Fleming, Diana Soviero, and Ruth Ann Swenson.

The Dallas Opera commissioned Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers (opera) and gave its world premiere, which was nationally broadcast to four million viewers on PBS's “Great Performances” series in 1988. The company's first commission was for Robert Xavier Rodriguez's one-act children's opera Monkey See, Monkey Do in 1985. Additional commissions were for Tobias Picker's Thérèse Raquin in 2001 and Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick in 2010. Recent commissions have included British composer Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer's Everest, based on a catastrophic 1996 expedition to the world's highest peak; Great Scott, Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally's love letter to opera and the classical arts, starring Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Perez, Frederica von Stade, Nathan Gunn, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Kevin Burdette; and Mark Adamo's Becoming Santa Claus.


Anthony Whitworth-Jones became General Director in 2001. However, his plans for expanding the company's repertory did not come to fruition in the wake of an economic downturn during his tenure, and he stood down from the post in 2003.[5] His successor, Karen Stone, was appointed in mid-2003 as the company's fifth General Director. She had previously worked with Graeme Jenkins at the Cologne Opera in Germany, where he was principal guest conductor. Stone resigned from the post effective 30 September 2007.[6]

The current General Director and CEO is Keith Cerny, who began his tenure in May 2010 and immediately launched the company's hugely successful public simulcast series in locations ranging from AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) to Klyde Warren Park. Cerny broke new ground with a nine-city simulcast of Tod Machover's Death and the Powers that brought the cutting-edge contemporary opera to audiences from San Francisco to Stockholm. An industry leader in adopting the latest technological innovations in opera staging, Cerny is credited with stabilizing company finances, which allowed TDO to engage some of the most important composers and librettists of our era to create new operas, and to launch major initiatives including the "Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera" (2015) designed to address the challenge of gender imbalance at the top levels of the classical music industry. In November 2015, Cerny's existing contract as General Director and CEO was extended until 2022.

French conductor Emmanuel Villaume took over the position of music director on 30 April 2013,[7] succeeding Graeme Jenkins, who held the post between 1994 and the end of the 2012-2013 season, after which took the title of Music Director Emeritus. In November 2015, Villaume's contract was also extended through June 2022.[citation needed]

Dallas Opera's performance venue[edit]

Exterior of the Winspear Opera House

Musical Director Graeme Jenkins believes that the new venue will prove an engine of growth for the company, and predicts that, within five years, it will be operating on a par with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera.[1]



  1. ^ a b Loomis, George "Otello, Dallas Opera", Financial Times, 26 October 2009)
  2. ^ Ardoin, The Callas Legacy, p. ?
  3. ^ Galatopoulos, p. ?
  4. ^ James Jorden interview on The Parterre Box web site, November 2005
  5. ^ Cantrell, Opera News. (Retrieve my subscription only)
  6. ^ Cantrell, Scott, "Dallas Opera chief leaving", The Dallas Morning News, 8 August 2007
  7. ^ Megan Meister, "The Dallas opera Proudly Announces Our New Music Director Emmanuel Villaume" April 30, 2013 on dallasopera.org


  • Ardoin, John, The Callas Legacy, Old Tappan, New Jersey: Scribner and Sons, 1991 ISBN 0-684-19306-X
  • Ardoin, John and Fitzgerald, Gerald, Callas: The Art and the Life, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974, ISBN 0-03-011486-1
  • Cantrell, Scott, "And That Spells Dallas", Opera News, November 2006 (Account of 50th Anniversary season under General Director, Karen Stone)
  • Davis, Ronald L, (with foreword by) Miller, Henry S, Jr., La Scala West: The Dallas Opera Under Kelly and Rescigno, University Park, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press, 2000
  • Galatopoulos, Stelios, Maria Callas, Sacred Monster, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998, ISBN 0-684-85985-8

External links[edit]