SO YOU HAVE YOUR OPERA tickets, what next? If you don't, it may not be too late. See below. The Metropolitan Opera performs in Dallas in the State Fair Music Hall, in Fair Park. Football devotees will know it as the large auditorium near the Cotton Bowl. Fair Park is easily reached, on plainly marked exits from I.H. 20 (R. L. Thornton Freeway).
Parking inside the Park is free to opera-goers, except that the nearest lot is reserved for Patrons of the Dallas Grand Opera Association. Be a little early to insure a convenient parking place, and to be sure you won't be late to the opera. No one is seated after the lights go down.
What to wear to the opera? Almost anything from formal evening wear, to street dresses, to pants suits. Formal dress is seen less and less as time goes by, but if you have a gown you want to show off, it's still all right. Business suits are fine for men. Whatever you wear, you can expect to be stared at. That's the chief occupation of almost everyone (after a glance at the program) while waiting for the opera to begin. And ladies, even Bella Abzug should leave her hat at home when she goes to the opera.
The Music Hall has been completely renovated since the last Metropolitan Opera Spring Tour season in Dallas, two years ago. It is now resplendent and exceptionally comfortable. Even the armrests are padded. There is a bar and a long row of telephones for anyone who gets a little too much opera for one sitting.
What to do before and after the opera? See "Around the State" in this magazine for information on restaurants, museums, etc. Right in Fair Park you will find the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the Aquarium, the Health and Science Museum and Planetarium, and the Museum of Natural History. There are restaurants there too; come early and make a day of it. If all else fails, you can always sit on the benches and watch the ducks on the pond next to the Fine Arts Museum.
If you really came to Dallas because you like good music, and have an FM radio in your car, tune in WRR-FM (101.1) as soon as you are in FM range of Dallas, for twenty hours a day of excellent classical music programming.
If you still haven't gotten your opera tickets, it's probably not too late. There are no really bad seats in the auditorium, except perhaps the very cheapest, which are somewhat remote from the stage. Order them from State Fair Box Office, P. 0. Box 895, Dallas, Tx. 75221.
The operas include: May 17, Carmen (Bizet); May 18, Macbeth (Verdi); May 19 (Matinee) Tosca (Puccini); May 19 (Evening), Il Trovatore (Verdi). All the performances start at 8 P.M. except the matinee of Tosca.
If you really want to be prepared for the operas of your choice, don't miss any opportunity to hear or read about them. Doing your homework will greatly increase your pleasure in the performances. Even if you don't know a hawk from a handsaw about opera, you will find these operas a delight—chock-a-block with grand tunes a tone-deaf organgrinder would relish.
You will like the operas even better, however, if they are somewhat familiar. Going to the opera with no notion of what is going on on the stage is reducing opera to a mere concert in costume, and you will miss half the fun. At the very least, go to your public library and read the stories of the operas. Kobbé's Complete Book of the Opera or The New Milton Cross' Complete Stories of the Great Operas will do. Ernest Newman's Stories of the Great Operas is better still for those with some knowledge of music. (It has on piece on Macbeth.)
Whatever you do don't wait till the last minute to read the story of the opera. Looking at a libretto or program by pocket flashlight or cigarette lighter after the lights dim will only confuse you and annoy your neighbors! There is a painless (and free) way of preparing for the opera if you live within range of WRR-FM. They always play recordings of operas coming to Dallas on Sunday evenings at 8.
Good recordings of the operas are available in abundance. Of Carmen there are two recordings of the Opéra-Comique version with spoken dialogue to be used by the Met. One has the Metropolitan cast (see below) conducted by Leonard Bernstein, and is due to be released in April. The other is Angel's version with Grace Bumbry and Jon Vickers. Other recordings with the familiar sung recitatives feature Price, Callas, and De los Angeles. If you have any respect for the French language, avoid the version with Price and Corelli. Corelli slaughters the French text.
There are three appealing recordings of Macbeth, with Nilsson, Rysanek, and Souliotis as Lady Macbeth. There are several good recordings of Tosca. One is an outstanding bargain, with Milanov, Bjoerling, and Warren, on Victor's VICS—600, an all-star recording in stereo on sale at budget prices. There are also many versions of Il Trovatore , probably the best of them being the Price, Tucker, Warren recording on RCA Victor.
Carmen has been called "the most popular opera in the world," but it turns out that after all these years we have been hearing a lot of music that wasn't composed by Bizet at all. As it originally appeared in 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, it was provided with spoken dialogue, according to the traditions of that theater. However, Carmen in this version was rather a stiff drink to the "family" audiences in Paris. It was soon changed into a grand opera for Vienna by providing it with sung recitatives by Ernest Guiraud, using different and somewhat milder words.
This is the grand opera version which gained popularity outside France and to which we are accustomed. It should be exciting