Monday, November 02, 2015

One for the ages

Heggie and Clare
I heard Great Scott Sunday afternoon at Dallas Opera. Throughout the opera, I kept thinking, this is an aria that I'm going to hear in recital, that singers are going to take up (much like one hears Nessun Dorma or O Mio Babbino Caro from Turnadot or Gianni Schicchi) - but it wasn't just one tune, it was almost all of them! That's not a big surprise from a composer like Jake Heggie.
Great Scott is personal, and affable. The comedy has drama, and flair. Not only does this come from the original libretto by Terrance McNally, but from the music, and the stellar cast. It is also funny and witty. Stereotypes abound throughout the two acts, from the two male leads as bari-hunk and narcissistic tenor, to an overeager, young understudy who "would kill" to make it. There's also love: a star and her mentor, a conductor and stage manager, an old flame and the one that got away, as well as the heartstring pulling demonstration for the love of music/opera.
Joyce DiDonato goes beyond the role of Arden Scott. She is Great Scott. Here's a star that returned to her home town Symphony garnering national attention, and then a few years later sang at Game Seven of the World Series with her hometown team...and the singing? The role requires the juxtaposition of modern and Bel Canto opera singing - just two of her signature traits - seamlessly throughout the opera.
I mentioned Puccini as examples earlier, but the only real comparison I can make of Great Scott is with Richard Strauss. The opera within an opera, Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeia isn't the first fictional work complete with a Composer role, that would be Ariadne auf Naxos. Here though, Heggie and McNally make use of a rehearsal, and then a performance of Rosa in the second act, to great use in both the story line and for DiDonato's impeccable singing. A final quartet also mirrors (in the best sense) the famous Trio in Der Rosenkavalier.
There is so much to love about Great Scott, and this performance was outstanding. It could be called a "perfect storm" of talent and accomplishment of the part of all. Go see it in Dallas now, or put it on your calendar for May in San Diego!
Hear an interview with John and Jake here: