LIKE SO MANY BABY BOOMERS warily approaching that milestone birthday—yes, you know which one—the Dallas Opera finds itself at the contemplative crossroads of half a century. Happily, there’s no midlife crisis in sight: Beginning this month, the venerated institution will be treating its guests to a star-strewn golden-anniversary season. So put those AARP subscriptions away. The DO is more alive than ever.
Now, it’s true that this vitality has not always been apparent—after all, Houston Grand Opera (two years the Dallas company’s senior) boasts most of the national publicity and has a more acoustically gratifying home to boot. But that hardly makes the DO second- rate. For one thing, there’s its pedigree: In the beginning there was the unequaled soprano Maria Callas, singing in angelic octaves at the company’s inaugural recital. Then there was Montserrat Caballé, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Plácido Domingo, among others, who all made their U.S. debuts in Dallas. As Dallas Morning News classical music critic Scott Cantrell points out, “The company really came out of the gate in a grand way.”
Today the DO is still a contender in the international competition for velvet-voiced singers, and it has done a decent job of keeping up with the ever-increasing de- mand—thanks to visual oversaturation—for more-elaborate productions (video killed the opera star?). With general director Karen Stone at the helm, the company is in good hands: Since her arrival in 2003, the DO’s hefty deficit has been vaporized and its “artistic product stabilized,” as Cantrell, for one, sees it. And Stone is making good on her promise to vary the repertoire. Of this season’s five full-length operas, four are a first for the company.
And all of them are stacked with talent. The luminous Ruth Ann Swenson will take on the weighty lead role in Maria Stuarda. (Of her dazzling turn in last year’s Rodelinda, Cantrell says, “I remember thinking there could not be more glorious singing.”) Also of note are Christopher Ventris, a vocal powerhouse, in the lead role of Lohengrin, and his cast mate Sergei Leiferkus as Fred- erick of Telramund. And keep your ears perked for Anna Shafajinskaia as Abigaille in this month’s opener, Nabucco; Vivica Genaux as Rosina in The Barber of Seville; and Verónica Villarroel as Magda in La Rondine. More arias, anyone? The cherry on top is a onetime concert of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring bass Robert Lloyd and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.
Fifty or not, the DO can’t afford to go soft. If anything, it must ride the season’s mo- mentum into the future, which includes a move into a world-class opera house, one of four venues to be clustered together in the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. This new home won’t be completed till late 2009, but early-onset excitement can’t be quelled; Big D will soon be the only city anywhere to have four buildings in one block designed by Pritzker Prize—winning architects. There are certainly questions ahead—how to boost ticket sales, modernize the repertoire, and nurture new talent—but if the Dallas Opera’s next five decades are anything like its first five, we’re in for a treat. As the saying goes, once you’re over the hill, you pick up speed. Nov 10, 12, 15, & 18. Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 1st Ave; 214-443-1000; dallasopera.org JORDAN BREAL
This small town 65 miles north of Dallas may be best known as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birthplace, but it’s the local art scene that’s been drawing attention of late. What residents already know—and tourists are quickly realizing—is that Denison’s ten-block downtown square is a veritable creative cocoon, populated by neighborly artists and rife with galleries and studios. The optimal way to acquaint yourself with the charming local talent? This month’s Fall Fine Art Tour, a two-day open house with talks, demonstrations, and meet and greets spread among sixteen galleries. The hub of all this artistic activity—and a great place to start—is the 400 block of Main Street, where you’ll find the following delightfully diverse tenants. Nov 4 & 5. Along Main, 903-465-1551, smalltownbigart.com
Mary Karam Gallery Beautiful images by a handful of “photographic artists” are all the more stunning hung in Karam’s spare and sophisticated space. You should catch “Visions,” a show curated by June Redford Van Cleef and up through November 14, if only to see Cathy Strong’s infrared images of horses. 404 W. Main, 903-465-3703, marykaramgallery.com
Images—A Gallery of Fine Art A mélange of styles cohabit in this gallery, run by a partnership of sixteen artists. From oil landscapes to gold-leaf pointillism, contemporary acrylics to cut-paper collages, wooden kaleidoscope eggs to handcrafted jewelry—the creative energy here spills over into many media. 408 W. Main, 903-463-0408
Artplace Gallery and Framing Prepare to discover a few gems amid the eclectic but well-edited presentation of works here. Director Shelley Tate Garner, herself a multitalented artist with a varied oeuvre, will let you in on all the details of the dozen or so painters, sculptors, and photographers represented. Standouts include Dominique Haas, who works in the Yucatán and molds leather sculptures, and Tara Thelen, of the Netherlands, whose delicate black-and-white paintings are crafted with fluid acrylics and dry metallics. 413 W. Main, 903-327-8180, artplacegallery.com
416 West Gallery Opening just in time for the weekend is “Super Heroes,” an all-media juried show that seeks to define the titular term (you can see more entries at On Main Off Center, 325 W. Main). Director Barbara Elam’s own craft of choice is printmaking; peek around the back wall to glimpse the large press and ask the retired Rockford College professor to explain the intricate process. 416 W. Main, 903-463-0416, 416westgallery.com
Old Katy Glass Works It’s no wonder that proprietor Mike Williams is the president of the Denison Arts Council. He has a keen collector’s eye, and he’ll happily point you to another gallery if your tastes run a different direction. But the art here—his own custom stained-glass pieces and 3-D wall sculptures, Keith Hartline’s Picasso-esque clay etchings, and Chance Dunlap’s deceptively graceful metal fauna, for example—is