By now, you’ve heard that the Dallas Opera has a new general director. George Steel is in town this week, and he took time out from looking for a new place to meet up with the local media. First impressions: he’s personable, unpretentious and seems serious about welcoming new audiences to opera.
How to attract folks who may be hesitant about giving opera a try? First, says Steel, is programming. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you have to be excited about the work being staged, and able to communicate passion and conviction for it.
Giving information about a performance in a way that doesn’t accidentally presume knowledge. Opera can make one feel like there’s a “presumption you ought already to know it,” says Steel. That’s one reason he enjoys programming new music – it puts everyone on the same footing. “Everyone walks in the door to have an adventure.”
What we may see in the future: simulcasts, perhaps at Victory Park or other outdoor venues. Events connected with the Metropolitan Opera’s screenings in local theaters. More collaboration with other area arts institutions – Steel’s especially interested in the visual arts scene in Dallas and Fort Worth. And just plain more opera – the new Winspear Opera House gives the company scheduling opportunities that didn’t exist in Fair Park.
How to pay for it? With the fund-raising for the Center for the Performing Arts, “the bar has been raised for cultural participation,” Steel says, and he’s confident that donors will support the programming inside the buildings just as they have the new construction.
And how about that new opera house? Among other things, he appreciates its transparency. “There’s no dark door you slither through” and “you see the commerce of art happening inside.”
Fun fact: He likes barbecue. And he once saw Leonard Bernstein – a big influence – perform an original rap called – ahem – “Crocodile Rap.” It was awful.