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George Steel, Agent of Change


by Jerome Weeks 13 Sep 2008

Anthony Tommasini, the classical music critic of the New York Times, has written a bittersweet profile of George Steel, the new general director of the Dallas Opera. Sweet, because Tommasini clearly values Steel highly as an innovative New York musical theater presenter and producer (he has turned Columbia University’s Miller Theater into “a hotbed of […]

CTA TBD

Anthony Tommasini, the classical music critic of the New York Times, has written a bittersweet profile of George Steel, the new general director of the Dallas Opera. Sweet, because Tommasini clearly values Steel highly as an innovative New York musical theater presenter and producer (he has turned Columbia University’s Miller Theater into “a hotbed of adventurous programming”). Bitter, of course, because next month, Steel starts with the Dallas Opera. It’s an outfit that Tommasini, with a fair degree of accuracy, considers downright stodgy:

The Dallas Opera? Talk about conventional programming. This season the company is offering mostly comfy favorites: La Bohème, Die Fledermaus, The Marriage of Figaro, The Italian Girl in Algiers. In this context the inclusion of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux seems downright risky.

But then, Steel argues, that’s precisely why the Dallas Opera hired him. In contrast to his earlier, more cautious statements about learning the ropes, Steel now sounds as though he’s been given something of a mandate to shake things up. Here’s hoping.

This, by the way, is one of the ancillary benefits (and increased pressures) of ambitious new buildings like the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theater. Citizens, in effect, are saying to these arts groups: We’ve given you the facility you ‘ve always wanted.

Now give us that world-changing art we’ve heard about.

Image from classicaldomain.org.

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