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The Living Opera of Dallas:
A Report on the Inaugural Performance

Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Eisemann Center - June 19, 2005
Opening Night Performance Exceeds Expectations

I attended the opening night performance of a new opera company in the Dallas area: The Living opera of Dallas. It is an ambitious project to start a new opera company. Founder and director Michael Chadwick, as they say, had his work cut out for him.

Mozart's Don Giovanni was the opening night opera, and I was anxious to see how well it would turn out. I would say that, on all counts, it exceeded my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised that it did. And glad.

I liked the guy that sang Giovanni, Kirk Eichelberger. He has a strong voice, acts well, and is very cute. He has apparently been singing around, including this part.

The best of the women was Tawny Steward, who sang Zerlina. She and Stephen Hartley, as Masetto, made a good team.

My least favorite singer was Marianne Cope as Donna Anna. She had a strange bleat in her voice that I found rather unpleasant, especially in the balcony. She looked good, though, and acted well.

The rest of the cast was average and serviceable, acting well and singing well, but not exceptionally so. Nathan Furman was amusing as Leporello, but could have had a bit more "oomph" in his voice, and Stephen Hall, otherwise satisfying as Don Ottavio, sort of blew his big aria, Il Mio Tesoro, which, if well done, can be a show stopper.

The Eisemann Center was not the best choice as a venue. It is a lovely, modern theater, but the acoustics are not that good for classical music and opera. Plus, at 1550 seats, it was way too big for the number of people that showed up. The theatre was only half full, and so it looked poorly attended, when in fact, in a smaller house, it would have looked full. I sat in the balcony for the first half, and the sound was clear, but with no bass. I moved downstairs for Act II, and the sound was dull, but more evenly mixed, sort of like a recording with the noise filter turned on. Given a choice, I would pick a seat downstairs, which favors the singers.

The orchestra was OK. It was ragged at first, but came together as the show progressed. I am sure everything sounded better on Saturday.

The costumes were rented, and very nice. The sets less so. The stage was poorly decorated and the sets simply looked cheap. That is not a problem necessarily, if the stage is well lit, but it wasn't. As I told my friend Joan Merriman, "Simple is fine if it is done with style." We both laughed. There were projections for the backgrounds, and while that is a nice idea, they were too dim, and especially did not look good from the balcony.

There is an semi-professional group in Houston called Opera in the Heights, which apparently does similar productions in an old church sanctuary with about 550 seats. This show would have been great in that context.

It sounds like I am being overly critical, but in fact I enjoyed it. It was a very honorable first effort done on a shoestring, and, if properly nurtured, and perhaps moved to a more intimate performance space, could be a great asset to the Dallas arts scene. However, I give it little hope, as these things do not usually get the support they deserve. After all, opera is an entertainment, not a duty, and most audiences have their expectations set too high.

The critics, of course, hated it, but what do they know! They invariably judge such things according to the wrong criteria. The Living Opera is no Dallas Opera, but that is not the point. I think it was wonderful to hear young singers doing a good job, and feel that such things are valuable, both to audiences and singers. There is a long standing and honorable community theater effort. Why not the same for opera!

One other thing. The Living Opera is planning to do Marriage of Figaro and Rakes Progress next year. That is the kind of programming they should be doing. There are lots of American Operas that deserve to be heard, and which can be done effectively by young singers, rather than by the main stream opera companies. For example, in recent years I saw Street Scene by Kurt Weill and Britten's Albert Herring at SMU, and The Crucible at NTSU. All were fine performances that did not depend on virtuoso performances by famous singers to succeed. I think The Living Opera has a good idea, doing one favorite opera and one American work each season.

The Living Opera of Dallas will be performing Donizetti's popular comic opera, L'Elisir d'Amore, on July 29-30, 2005. Tickets are available through The Living Opera of Dallas, 972-744-4650, and on their website, I am looking forward to seeing how well they do.

Ed Flaspoehler - Wagner Society of Dallas

For More Information Contact:

Wagner Society of Dallas
P.O. Box 25201
Dallas, TX 75225-0201
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The Wagner Society of Dallas

PO Box 25201
Dallas, TX 75225-0201
(214) 363-6070

Virginia R. Abdo and
Dr. James T. Wheeler

email: WSD@

Digital Photos on this website, unless otherwise noted,
copyright Edward P. Flaspoehler, JR

Home ] Up ] [ The Living Opera - Don Giovanni 2005 ] Dead Man Walking - Austin 2003 ] Gotterdammerung in Dallas 2002 ] Berlin Wagner Festival 2002 ] Opera on Florida's Gulf Coast 2001 ] HGO Tannhauser 2001 ]


Many Wagner Society of Dallas members fondly remember Sheila Jones Harms, who was an active member of the organization, and who presented many interesting programs and recitals over the years.

Now, WSD member Ed Flaspoehler has completed his biography of Sheila, called The Cold War Soprano: Memoirs of a Singer-Spy.

If you are interested in opera and fine singing, Sheila's biography will surely be of interest to you. Not only will you get an inside glimpse of what it takes to become an opera singer, and learn about the world of opera in Post- WWII Vienna, but, because Sheila and her husband Werner, were also CIA agents, you will get a look at the Cold War from a personal point of view.

You can get a copy of Ed's book on the internet at

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