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