Saturday, October 24, 2009
Winspear Opera House in Dallas opens season with smashing sold out Otello
Dallas' high society checked out the Arts District's shiny new red toy.
From the techno-fabulous raising of the chandelier that preceded Act 1, to a post-opera buffet-style VIP-only dinner by Wolfgang Puck Catering, the night felt charmed. Two intermissions gave the 2,200 or so folks in attendance lots of opportunity to patrol the semi-spherical lobby in their finest of finery. Women wore floor-length gowns, a majority of them red in homage to the Winspear's glazed red hull. With the night's slight chill, some seized the chance to haul out their furs.
Former first lady Laura Bush was in attendance in her role as honorary chairwoman of Ovation!, the two-week celebration of the opera's inaugural season in its new home. They had her tucked on an upper level away from the throng with her secret service retinue, though she surely could've left them at home, given the high-society makeup of the audience, verified by the presence of Dallas Morning News society columnist Alan Peppard and his wife Jennifer.
Otello is a three-act opera based on Shakespeare's Othello, about a Moorish general whose jealousy over his wife Desdemona makes him mad, and starred Clifton Forbis in the title role, baritone Lado Ataneli as Iago, and soprano Alexandra Deshorties as Otello's wife Desdemona. The action didn't move fast but the sound was awesome, clear on low-key parts as well as the forceful solos. Sets resembling the side of a large ship were updated between acts. As the performers sang, the English translation of their words were projected onto a black band across the top of the stage.
It's best not to arrive late, since entrance to the seating area is denied once the performance begins. Stragglers clustered outside, watching the opera on a closed-circuit TV in the lobby. The staff was extremely helpful; coat-check girl Jill kindly comforted one late attendee.
In order to accommodate the post-opera dinner, sections of the lobby were roped off and tables were set up for a makeshift dining room, outfitted in red. Taking up that much valuable real estate created a bottleneck in some areas, especially leading up to the bars, though the benefit is that it encouraged a kind of forced camaraderie.
An older group stood together, effusing about the hall's acoustics.
"That's a great view," said a gentleman looking out the glass window to the reflecting pool. "Better than the view we've had at the Hall of State or any of those other venues." -- referring to the prior home of the Dallas Theater Center.
"The sound is amazing," said one woman. "We've waited years for this."
"Yes we have," said another.
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