If at first you don't succeed

Opening night and world premiere of the Dallas Opera's "Becoming Santa Claus" was a strange and wonderful event. To begin with, I dribbled toothpaste on my black opera attire, and had to start over dressing in my dark chocolate opera outfit. We will not even get into my failed frozen pumpkin experiment except to say the thawing sections are too gooey for the intended bird feeder craft project. Now I'm attempting a slow drying in a low oven. The theme of the day is Plan B.

The Dallas Opera commissioned Mark Adamo to create a Christmas opera in hopes it would become a reliable Nutcracker/Christmas Carol/Polar Express-style annual money-maker. I admire the motivation, but I'm not sure they succeeded.

Good news first--the production has successful sets and costumes designed by Gary McCann.  It's quite Through the Looking Glass, complete with portraits that express more emotion than the living characters.

Bad news is the intentionally shrill, shrieking music, especially the vocal parts of the elves. I don't expect new operas to be hum-friendly toe-tappers, but they should not cause physical pain! Oh, and the wigs looked like they came from Party City.

I remain fascinated by the huge collaborative undertaking required to create a new opera or a new production. For the 50th season of the Dallas Opera local sculptors Tom Orr and Frances Bagley were invited to design the sets and costumes for Verdi's "Nabucco", and the results were stunning. Attending the premiere of the Dallas Opera's commissioned "Moby Dick" with mind-blowing projections was an amazing five star experience. Already in 2015 the Dallas Opera presented two brand-spanking-new very successful operas, "Everest" and "Great Scott". The mountain-climber opera made the audience part of the oxygen-deprived challenge. "Great Scott" was a delightful Rossini-does-NFL soap, enjoyable and even thought provoking, but nothing I can hum. Of course I am basically tone deaf.

In all of those bold ventures the Dallas Opera  created works where I felt totally engaged. At "Becoming Santa Claus" there was no personal engagement, no emotional connection, no likeable characters, and no transporting music. I kept trying to imagine any child of my acquaintance sitting through it (with no potty breaks or snacks).

I sincerely hope the Dallas Opera can do a major reworking of this opera to fulfill the possibilities of an annual family tradition/money-maker. And this time Dallas Morning News opera critic Scott Cantrell and I agree!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Kathleen said...

I admire your Plan B success! I hope the Dallas Opera will take your advice and rework this! Sounds like a lot of great collaboration. Getting rid of the shrieking and adding potty breaks sounds good to me!

seana graham said...

This is too bad, because I really love Adamo's "Little Women" opera. He certainly can do melodic when he chooses to.

Good luck with the pumpkin.

Collagemama said...

I guess I did have good pumpkin luck. Plan B with the oven didn't work, but there were still pumpkins available in the garden that had not gotten gooey or been nibbled. The craft was fun.

Good to know about "Little Women", Seana. Fort Worth Opera has done it, but I didn't go.

seana graham said...

Of course you'd have to like the original book, but if you do, do see it if it comes your way. I think the second time I saw it was actually on PBS.