Someone at the Dallas Opera has a sense of history. The company’s very first staged performance in the Music Hall at Fair Park, on Nov. 22, 1957, was Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri. Its very last staged performance in the hall, on March 14, 2009, will be Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers. (It’s the same opera, of course; the company has switched to English for the title — unthinkable in the old days — though the sung language will remain Italian.)
When the curtain falls on the last performance, the Dallas Opera will start scrambling for the big move to the Winspear Opera House, which is going up right now adjacent to the Meyerson Symphony Center. If all goes as planned, it will be ready for performance in the fall of 2009. The company hasn’t announced a season yet, but the new hall will allow much more flexibility than the old hall did. For instance, the possibility of presenting two operas in alternation, as the Houston Grand Opera does now.
The two Italian Girls bookending the half-century in the Music Hall are a reminder that the Dallas Civic Opera, as it was first known, developed a quick reputation for Italianate opera. Co-founders Larry Kelly and Nicola Rescigno started with a bang, enticing some major Italian (and international) stars to Dallas. The 1957 cast included Giulietta Simionato as the Italian girl, Nicola Monti as Lindoro, Paolo Montarsolo as Mustafà and Giuseppe Taddei as Taddeo. In the 2009 cast the singers in those four roles will be only half-Italian: Manuela Custer (despite that “Custer,” she’s an Italian), William Burden, Paolo Pecchioli and Patrick Carfizzi (despite that “Carfizzi,” he’s an American).
The remainder of the 2008-2009 season, announced this past weekend, includes Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in November, Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus in December, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux in January and Puccini’s La Bohème in February.