The Dallas Opera Announces a New, Dedicated Chamber Opera Series, to Be Launched in March 2012 with The Lighthouse by Maxwell Davies
The Dallas Opera is thrilled to announce the launch of its Dallas Opera Chamber Opera Series in the upcoming 2011-12 season, the catalyst for an historic artistic collaboration between The Dallas Opera and the Dallas Theater Center. The new series, designed to complement the main-stage opera performances in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, will enable The Dallas Opera to produce lesser-known contemporary works, new commissions, experimental pieces, and opera rarities in intimate “jewel-box” venues. No other American opera company is currently committed to producing a separate chamber opera series. The Dallas Opera Chamber Opera Series will be inaugurated in March 2012 with a Dallas Opera production of Peter Maxwell Davies’s eerie 1979 thriller, The Lighthouse, a chamber opera about an unsolved disappearance off the coast of Scotland. The production will be conducted by Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Ensemble Parallèle, and staged by the Dallas Theater Center’s Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty.
“I am tremendously proud that, less than a year after taking the helm of The Dallas Opera in exceptionally tough economic times, I am able to announce such an important step for this company,” says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. He continues:
“Expanding our repertoire to include chamber opera and new commissions has been a linchpin of my artistic vision for The Dallas Opera. By committing ourselves to this path and forging a landmark collaboration with Kevin Moriarty and the Dallas Theater Center to launch this series – the first such collaboration between our two companies – The Dallas Opera hopes to instill new excitement and a fresh spirit of collaboration and innovation into this, and every upcoming season.
“Kevin Moriarty’s insightful stage direction, as well as his gutsy and intelligent programming and leadership, have established him as one of the pre-eminent figures in the Texas performing arts scene in a remarkably short time. Just as Nicole Paiement is an absolutely superb choice to conduct this unusual and challenging work, Kevin is the ideal director to stage this gripping new production.”
Based on actual events, The Lighthouse begins with a prologue set in an Edinburgh Court of Enquiry. The remainder of the 90-minute opera takes place on a remote, wind-swept island at what is here called “Fladda Isle Lighthouse,” where a trio of lighthouse keepers vanished without trace. The plot of this chamber opera serves up the supernatural and the psychological in equal measure, yet leaves the mystery at its heart unresolved.
From the composer’s notes on the opera:
“The original inspiration for this work came from reading Craig Mair’s book on the Stevenson family of Edinburgh. This family, apart from producing the famous author Robert Louis, produced several generations of lighthouse and harbor engineers. In December 1900 the lighthouse and harbor supply ship Hesperus based in Stromness, Orkney went on its routine tour of duty to the Flannan Isles light in the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse was empty – all three beds and the table looked as if they had been left in a hurry, and the lamp, though out, was in perfect working order, but the men had disappeared into thin air.
“There have been many speculations as to how and why the three keepers disappeared. This opera does not offer a solution to the mystery, but indicates what might be possible under the tense circumstances of three men being marooned in a storm-bound lighthouse long after the time they expected to be relieved.”
Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty explains:
“At Dallas Theater Center, we believe that arts organizations are stronger when they work together. Joining The Dallas Opera to support its production of The Lighthouse is a great opportunity for Dallas Theater Center to contribute to The Dallas Opera’s outstanding work and to introduce both our audiences to a modern opera that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience in Dallas.
“For me, one of the great pleasures of living in Dallas is being able to experience operas at The Dallas Opera, so it’s a special joy for me to have this chance to direct The Lighthouse, which will be my debut as an opera director. It’s a beautiful, complicated opera: the score is breathtaking in its psychological depth, innate theatricality, and stunning musicality.
“I’m thrilled to join members of Dallas Theater Center’s production staff and my longtime design collaborators, set designer Beowulf Boritt and costume designer Claudia Stephens, to welcome The Dallas Opera into the Wyly Theatre, where we will bring this important piece to life in a theatrically compelling production.”
Performances of The Lighthouse, with support from Jessie and Charles Price, will take place in the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center (located directly across the street from the Winspear Opera House) on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 7:30pm; Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 7:30pm; and on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2pm.
Tickets will be available to Dallas Opera Season Subscribers, followed by Dallas Theater Center Subscribers and the general public. Further details and exact ticket prices will be announced at a later time.
“In order for this opera to achieve its maximum impact,” explains Dallas Opera Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, “each artist must be an excellent singer as well as an accomplished actor. We are now finalizing contracts with three superb artists who have demonstrated their amazing ability to etch indelible and unforgettable portraits of characters they have portrayed in other works.”
The Lighthouse, a Dallas Opera production, will be designed by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt with costume designs by Claudia Stephens, both well-known to local theater audiences through their work at Dallas Theater Center, while enjoying national reputations.
A 2009 revival of this contemporary classic prompted Geoff Brown of the London Times to write: “The Lighthouse wears its age well. By 1980, the mad clown in Davies’s music had been subdued; he’d refreshed his language with classical forms, descriptive writing, even take-home tunes. Indeed, his ear for pictures is so strong that Aaron Marsden’s black, minimalist setting stunts nothing, for the craggy rocks, wind gusts, and squawking sea birds are all in the music.
Parking onsite will be available in the Lexus Red Parking beneath the Winspear Opera House and the Lexus Silver Parking adjacent to the Wyly Theatre. Should those reach capacity, additional paid parking is available at nearby One Arts Plaza and in several surface lots. Prices range from $5 to $25 per vehicle.
Single tickets are on sale now (prices and discounts subject to availability) for the 2012 Spring Season productions, through the Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at (214) 443-1000 or online at www.dallasopera.org. Student Rush best-available tickets are available for $25 (one per valid Student I.D.) 90 minutes prior to each performance.
THE LIGHTHOUSE: key biographies
NICOLE PAIEMENT * (conductor)
Conductor Nicole Paiement has been the Artistic Director of Ensemble Parallèle – a professional ensemble, dedicated to contemporary chamber opera and interdisciplinary projects – since its foundation in 1994. With Ensemble Parallèle, Paiement has recorded many world premiere performances, commissioned many new works from composers of different countries, and toured in countries including Australia and Korea. The Ensemble’s most recent projects have included the world premiere of Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar, the west coast premiere of John Rea’s re-orchestration of Berg’s Wozzeck, and the San Francisco premiere of Philip Glass’s opera Orphée. Paiement is presently working on the world-premiere performance of the chamber version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, as well as a commissioned opera by composer Dante De Silva. This summer, in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts, she will conduct Ensemble Parallèle in a new adaptation of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts.
Paiement is also the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project – a series focused on building new music for the city of San Francisco. Over the years, BluePrint has collaborated with various organizations in the San Francisco Bay area. These have included the Pacific Rim Festival, Asian Art Museum, Other Minds Festival, and the International Women Composers Festival.
Additionally, Paiement serves as director of ensembles at the University of California, Santa Cruz and as the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble.
Maestra Paiement is an active guest conductor. She made her 2004 Korean conducting debut in the world premiere of Chan-Hae Lee’s opera Back to the Origins and Nicola LeFanu’s Old Woman of Beare. She has committed her talents to a variety of interdisciplinary projects, collaborating with dancers and media artists, both in America and abroad.
The Lighthouse will mark only the second time in the 54-year-history of The Dallas Opera that a woman conductor has ascended to the podium. The company’s first female conductor was Sarah Caldwell in 1974 performances of Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon.
KEVIN MORIARTY * (stage director)
Kevin Moriarty joined the Dallas Theater Center in September 2007 as the theater’s sixth artistic director. His recent positions include Artistic Director of the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY; Head of the MFA Directing Program for the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Consortium; and Associate Director at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI.
At the Hangar, Moriarty directed world premiere productions of Bach at Leipzig by Itamar Moses; Indoor/Outdoor by Kenny Finkle; Rough Magic by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; Bleeding Kansas by Kathryn Walat; and Fixed by Scott Organ. He has also directed Hangar main-stage productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bloodline: The Children of Argos, The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly!, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
At Trinity Repertory, Moriarty directed productions including The Merry Wives of Windsor (Elliot Norton Award, Best Director, 2004); Nickel and Dimed; Indoor/Outdoor; Richard II; Richard III; A Delicate Balance; and A Christmas Carol. He has directed plays and musicals regionally and in New York City, including: Jesus Christ Superstar starring Sebastian Bach and Carl Anderson (National Tour; McCoy/ Rigby, Nederlander, Really Useful Group, 2002-05); The God Committee by Mark St. Germain (Lambs Theatre); A Christmas Carol starring Stacy Keach (Cutler Majestic Theatre); Betrayal (Syracuse Stage); Romeo and Juliet (Lincoln Center Institute); Guys and Dolls (Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre); and Jekyll and Hyde and The Secret Garden (Theatreworks/USA). He was born in Rensselaer, Indiana, and spent his childhood in the rural Midwest.
On graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a music education degree in 1989, Moriarty worked as a public school music teacher at Lacrescent Senior High School in Minnesota for three years before attending the Trinity Repertory Conservatory. He later worked as an actor, an assistant director for Michael Mayer on Broadway, a teaching artist at middle schools in New York City, and as a visiting instructor and guest director at Wagner College, NY. Moriarty is a member of the Drama League Directors Project’s Advisory Council, the recipient of a Drama League Directors Project directing fellowship, and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.
BEOWULF BORITT * (Scenic designer)
A frequent artistic collaborator of the Dallas Theater Center’s Kevin Moriarty, Beowulf Boritt’s work for the Dallas Theater Center includes designs for It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman, Give it Up!, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Who’s Tommy. On Broadway, Boritt has designed for Sondheim On Sondheim, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, LoveMusik, Rock of Ages, and The Two and Only. Off-Broadway, his scenic designs have wowed audiences at more than 50 shows, including The Scottsboro Boys, The Last Five Years, The Toxic Avenger, Sleepwalk with Me, Saint Lucy’s Eyes, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, and Miss Julie. He has also designed for the Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage Theatre, MCC Theater, the New Group, Pearl Theatre Company, American Place Theatre, and Keen Company, as well as the 2007 and 2008 Ringling Bros. Circus. Boritt’s numerous honors include an Obie Award, Audelco Award, and Barrymore Award, in addition to two Lortel Award nominations and three Drama Desk Award nominations.
CLAUDIA STEPHENS * (costume design)
Associate Professor of Costume Design at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, Claudia Stephens moved to Dallas in 1997 from her base in New York City, where she successfully designed for opera, theater, and dance. During her 30 years as a costume designer, Stephens has created costume designs for more than 140 productions in both the U.S. and abroad. Her students are currently working in the costume industry in NYC, LA, Chicago, Texas, Florida, Idaho, and Oklahoma. In New York City, Stephens’s designs have been seen at Lincoln Center, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Playwrights Horizons, Dance Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, Classic Stage Company, and Soho Repertory Theatre, to name a few.
On Broadway (including tours), Stephens has worked with Stephen Sondheim, Ann Hould-Ward, and Cleo Laine (Into the Woods, national tour); James Lapine, Ann Hould-Ward, and Stephen Bogardus (Falsettos); Bernadette Peters, Martin Short, Neil Simon, and Santo Loquasto (The Goodbye Girl); Neil Simon, Alan Alda, Kate Burton, and Santo Loquasto (Jake’s Women); Gene Saks, Kevin Spacey, Mercedes Ruehl, and Santo Loquasto (Lost in Yonkers); and William Ivey Long, Philip Bosco, and Victor Garber (Lend Me a Tenor).
Elsewhere in the U.S., Stephens’s opera and theater designs have been seen at Portland Opera, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Merrimack Repertory Theater, Triad Theatre, and others. A member of Big Dance Theater since 1995, Stephens’s costume designs for dance have leapt across stages in New York City, across the United States, and in Europe.
Recently, she designed Before Night Falls for Fort Worth Opera with director David Gately and scene designer Riccardo Hernandez (May 2010) and the 2008 southwest premiere of the opera Angels in America, also with David Gately and Fort Worth Opera; Comme Toujours Here I Stand, with Big Dance Theater, which premiered in Lyon, France (April 2009); A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the opening of the Charles & Dee Wyly Theatre (fall 2009); and Dividing the Estate, also at the Wyly Theater, opening March 2011.
Claudia Stephens holds a BFA in Theatre from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA in Costume Design from Carnegie Mellon University.
* Dallas Opera debut
All events and guest artists are subject to change.
Information about “March at The Dallas Opera” may be found online by visiting www.dallasopera.org and checking the calendar listings.