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Noted Broadway Director Jack O’Brien Hired for Dallas Opera Premiere

by Jerome Weeks 25 Jan 2013 1:09 PM

The opera, Great Scott, already had Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally working on it. So now the Dallas Opera has a Tony Award-winning director to go with him.


The Dallas Opera had previously announced that it was going to open its 2015-16 season with Great Scott, a new commission for Moby-Dick composer Jake Heggie only this time, the opera is to be written by Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!). Now the DO has gotten a Tony Award-winning director to go with it.

Jack O’Brien, the former, long-time artistic director of San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, has helmed such Broadway productions as Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty and Damn Yankees. O’Brien has previously directed with the DO, including 1987’s Porgy and Bess. Great Scott will also feature celebrated, Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in her North Texas debut.

The full release follows:















This Production of Great Scott

Received Funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund

            DALLAS, JANUARY 25, 2013 – The Dallas Opera is thrilled to announce that Broadway legend and Drama Desk and Tony Award-winning director, producer, playwright, and lyricist Jack O’Brien has been engaged to direct the company’s world premiere production of GREAT SCOTT, a new, full-length opera by acclaimed American composer Jake Heggie (Moby-Dick) and the Tony Award-winning playwright/librettist Terrence McNally (Master Class) in their first joint opera since their groundbreaking masterpiece, Dead Man Walking.

The Dallas Opera commission, with generous underwriting support from The Eugene McDermott Foundation and The Hoblitzelle Foundation, is slated to open the Dallas Opera’s 2015-2016 Season Friday, October 30, 2015 in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District.

GREAT SCOTT is based on an original story by Mr. McNally and will star luminous American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.  The opera will be conducted by one of the fastest-rising young artists on the podium today: Maestro Evan Rogister.


While Jack O’Brien directed the “smart and effective” (Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times) 2007 production of Il trittico for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, in addition to critically acclaimed productions of The Magic Flute in San Francisco, Tosca in Santa Fe, Street Scene in New York, and his groundbreaking HGO production of Porgy and Bess which toured for the next decade, he is chiefly known for his work in the theater, both on-and-off Broadway.  Mr. O’Brien is the winner of three Tony Awards (and nominated for seven more), as well as five Drama Desk Awards for a wide range of works including Hairspray, The Piano Lesson, and Tom Stoppard’s epic trilogy of revolutionary ideas, The Coast of Utopia.


The extraordinarily accomplished Mr. O’Brien served as Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego for more than a quarter-century, where he directed more than 60 productions, including a revival of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth televised in 1983 as part of the PBS “Great Performances” series.  It was there that O’Brien co-produced Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (1986) before moving the musical to Broadway the following year.  Other notable highlights include A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour (1988), Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 starring John Goodman and Hamlet, starring Campbell Scott, cited by Time magazine as the “finest classical revival” of 1990.

Mr. O’Brien took time out in 2012 to pen the first volume of his projected three-volume theatrical memoir, Jack Be Nimble, which will be published later this year by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

Jack O’Brien made his official debut with the Dallas Opera in 1968, when the company performed his lively adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the UnderworldHis opera directorial debut occurred in 1972—here at the Dallas Opera—when he replaced stage director Ellis Rabb at the helm of Dido and Aeneas, featuring a cast of stars that included Tatiana Troyanos, Graciella Sciutti and Jon Vickers!  Mr. O’Brien returned fifteen years later in 1987, with George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, the Dallas Opera’s first production of this twentieth-century masterpiece.




“In the remarkable wake of Moby-Dick,” explained Jake Heggie when this project was announced, “I am over the moon to return to The Dallas Opera for my next grand opera. And a brave project it is: a big, new American opera based on an original libretto by one of our most honored and beloved playwrights, the great Terrence McNally. This is our first major collaboration since Dead Man Walking back in 2000, and we are ecstatic to work together again.

“GREAT SCOTT promises to challenge, inspire and delight us all, especially as it is being created for one of the most beloved and brilliant opera stars of our time, Joyce DiDonato. The musical and dramatic possibilities have my imagination bubbling over!” Heggie added,  “And once again, I am deeply impressed by the vision, courage, leadership and commitment to bold, new work by the entire Dallas Opera family and community.”


“I’ve been trying to get Jack O’Brien to direct on our stage for more than twenty years,” explains Dallas Opera Artistic Director Jonathan Pell.  “He has more successful projects in a decade than most serious artists manage to pull off in a lifetime—and a jaw-dropping schedule to match—making it nearly impossible to find mutually compatible dates.

“However,” Pell adds, “Jack has always credited TDO with being one of the companies that helped launch his career in opera and, frankly, he loves any opportunity to collaborate with Terrence on a new project.  For once, the stars aligned for us, and the time was right.”


Joyce DiDonato, “probably the most in-demand lyric coloratura mezzo in the world” (Opera News), will sing the title role of opera singer Arden Scott.

“We look forward to hearing Joyce DiDonato in the exceptional acoustic of the Winspear Opera House,” says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny, “and experiencing the magic she creates onstage in her performances.  Her extraordinary artistry and accessibility, combined with the unique talents of Jake and Terrence at the peak of their careers and the recent addition of the amazing Jack O’Brien, hint at the possibility of something very special—perhaps even unforgettable—when the world premiere of GREAT SCOTT opens the season in 2015.

“We are also thrilled at the prospect of seeing one of the conducting world’s brightest new stars leading the cast, chorus and orchestra into bold, new territory.”


All five performances will be conducted by Maestro Evan Rogister, who recently finished a two-year stint as Kapellmeister at Deutsche Oper Berlin under music director Donald Runnicles.  His U.S. operatic debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with performances of Hänsel und Gretel and later La bohème while serving as a conducting fellow in a position created for him by HGO Music Director Patrick Summers.  Last summer, he triumphed in Santa Fe, conducting a new production of Karol Syzmanowski’s King Roger which prompted Chicago Tribune Classical Music Critic John von Rhein to write: “Rogister impresses as a young conductor to watch.”  Mr. Rogister will make his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut later this season, conducting both Verdi’s Rigoletto and Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Renée Fleming.


Following the October 30, 2015 world premierethe Linda and Mitch Hart Season Opening Night Performance at the Dallas Opera—additional performances of GREAT SCOTT are scheduled to take place on the Shannon and Ted Skokos Stage in the Winspear Opera House on November 1 (m), 4, 7 & 15 (m), 2015.  As always, Dallas Opera season subscribers will have first access to seats for this exciting new production.

Parking onsite will be available in the Lexus Red Parking beneath the Winspear Opera House and the Lexus Silver Parking adjacent to the Wyly Theatre.  Should those reach capacity, additional paid parking is available at nearby One Arts Plaza and in several surface lots.  Prices range from $5 to $25 per vehicle.



            Single tickets for the Spring “Pursuits of Passion” Season are on sale now (prices and discounts subject to availability, starting at a new low price of $19) through the Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or online at www.dallasopera.orgStudent Rush best-available tickets are available for $25 or $50 (one per valid Student I.D.) at the Winspear box office, ninety minutes prior to each performance.





JACK O’BRIEN (Director)

Jack O’Brien (Artistic Director Emeritus, The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego) served as the Artistic Director of The Old Globe from 1982 through 2007, directing more than sixty productions.  Most recently, O’Brien directed Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes in Theresa Rebeck’s Dead Accounts on Broadway last fall. Other Broadway credits also include: Catch Me If You Can, Impressionism, The Coast of Utopia (Tony Award), Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Tony nomination), Henry IV (Tony Award), Hairspray (Tony Award), Imaginary Friends, The Invention of Love (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award), The Full Monty (Tony nomination), More to Love, Getting Away with Murder, Pride’s Crossing, The Little Foxes, Hapgood (Lucille Lortel Award, Best Director), Damn Yankees, Two Shakespearean Actors (Tony nomination), Porgy and Bess (Tony Award). Metropolitan Opera: II trittico. London: Love Never Dies, Hairspray (Olivier nomination), National Theatre: His Girl Friday. Six movies for PBS’s “American Playhouse.” Awards: 2008 Theatre Hall of Fame Inductee, 2005 John Houseman Award, ArtServe Michigan 2008 International Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate, University of Michigan. Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of San Diego. Film (actor): Sex and the City 2.

JAKE HEGGIE (Composer)


Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, The End of the Affair, To Hell and Back, and the stage works For a Look or a Touch, and At the Statue of Venus.  He has also composed more than 200 art songs, as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music.  Current projects include Camille Claudel: Into the Fire a dramatic scene for Joyce DiDonato and the Alexander String Quartet commissioned by San Francisco Performances; Another Sunrise, a new stage work for soprano Caitlin Lynch, commissioned by Seattle’s Music of Remembrance; songs for baritone Rod Gilfry and a new work for pianist Jon Kimura Parker and violinist Aloysia Friedmann.  Heggie was the 2010/11 guest artist-in-residence at the University of North Texas at Denton.  Part of that residency included the commission of his first symphony, which will receive its premiere this spring with tenor Richard Croft as soloist.  Jake Heggie’s operas have been performed to tremendous acclaim internationally in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, South Africa and by more than a dozen American opera companies.  The composer’s numerous songs and cycles are also featured in recitals around the world.  An ardent champion of writers, most of Heggie’s operas and stage works feature libretti written by either Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer.  Heggie was the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and has been composer-in-residence for the San Francisco Opera, Eos Orchestra, and Vail Valley Music Festival.  As a coach and teacher, he gives classes at universities throughout the United States and at summer festivals such as SongFest in Malibu and the Steans Institute at Ravinia.  Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco.


TERRENCE McNALLY* (Librettist)


Terrence McNally was awarded the Dramatists Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.  He is the winner of Tony Awards for his plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, as well as his books for the musicals Ragtime and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.  In 2010, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presented Terrence McNally’s Nights at the Opera, a three-play festival of his work.  His other plays include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; Corpus Christi; A Perfect Ganesh; The Ritz; It’s Only a Play; Some Men; Golden Age; Deuce; The Lisbon Traviata; Bad Habits; The Stendhal Syndrome; Dedication, or The Stuff of Dreams; Next; Unusual Acts of Devotion; Sweet Eros; Witness; Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? and his first play …And Things that Go Bump in the Night.  Mr. McNally has written the books for the musicals The Full Monty, A Man of No Importance, The Visit and The Rink.  He won an Emmy Award for “Best Drama” with his teleplay Andre’s Mother.  He wrote the screenplays for Frankie and Johnny, Love! Valour! Compassion! and The Ritz.  He wrote the libretto for the critically acclaimed opera Dead Man Walking with music by Jake Heggie.  Among his many awards are a Citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, four Drama Desk Awards, three Hull-Warringer “Best Play” awards from the Dramatists Guild, two Obies, two Lortel Awards and two Guggenheim Fellowships.  Mr. McNally has been a member of the Dramatists Guild since 1965 and served as the organization’s Vice-President (1985-2001).  He lives in Manhattan with his spouse, Tom Kirdahy.


EVAN ROGISTER* (Conductor)


Evan Rogister recently finished a two-year stint as Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper Berlin under its music director Donald Runnicles.  In Berlin he had particular success with performances of symphonic operas such as Tannhäuser, Rienzi, Otello, and Hänsel und Gretel, in addition to numerous repertoire evenings of La boheme, Carmen, and Die Zauberflöte.  In the 2011-12 season, Rogister returned to the Deutsche Oper as a guest conductor, leading productions of Don Giovanni and Otello.  Later in the season he made his debut at Stockholm’s Royal Swedish Opera, with performances of a new production of Lohengrin.  Last summer he conducted the first performances by a major American theater of Karol Szymanowski’s 20th century masterpiece King Roger, in a new production for the Santa Fe Opera by acclaimed director (and co-founder of Milwaukee’s Skylight Theater) Stephen Wadsworth.  Future appearances include a return to the Houston Grand Opera for La boheme and a debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with Rigoletto and Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire with Renée Fleming.  He will also conduct the Dallas Opera world premiere of Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Great Scott.  Recent and upcoming orchestral engagements include debuts with the Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, the Bochum Symphoniker and the Prague Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Alabama Symphony.  His U.S. operatic debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with performances of Hänsel und Gretel and later La boheme while serving as a conducting fellow in a position created for him by music director Patrick Summers.  In 2009, Rogister, a dual citizen of Germany and the US, made his Seattle Opera debut to great critical acclaim conducting the renowned Robert Lepage production of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung.




“Perhaps the most potent female singer of her generation” according to the New Yorker, Joyce DiDonato entrances audiences and critics alike across the globe. With a voice nothing less than 24-carat gold as proclaimed by The Times, DiDonato has soared to international prominence in operas by Rossini, Handel, and Mozart, as well as through her wide-ranging, acclaimed discography.  Born in Kansas and a graduate of Wichita State University and The Academy of Vocal Arts, Joyce DiDonato trained on the young artist programmes of San Francisco, Houston, and Santa Fe opera companies. Her signature parts include the bel canto roles of Rossini, leading the Financial Times to declare of her Elena in La Donna del Lago, “Simply the best singing I’ve heard in years.”  In 2010, DiDonato won the highly prized Artist of the Year at the Gramophone Awards, as well as the Recital of the Year for her album Colbran: Rossini’s Muse. She also collected a German Echo Klassik Award as Female Singer of the Year. Other honours include the Mets Beverly Sills Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Singer of the Year, citations from Operalia, and the Richard Tucker, and George London Foundations.  Last season began with DiDonato’s debut at the Deutsche Oper as Rosina Il barbiere di Siviglia. She then returned to the Teatro Real, Madrid for her first European Octavian Der Rosenkavalier and sang Sister Helen Dead Man Walking at Houston Grand Opera. She returned to the Metropolitan Opera in the spring of 2011 for Isolier Le Comte Ory and Komponist Ariadne auf Naxos, following this with a European tour in the title role of Ariodante with Il complesso barocco, to coincide with the release of her recording of the same opera on Virgin Classics. She triumphed at Covent Garden at the end of the season, in the title role of Massenet’s Cendrillon.  Recent highlights include the feat of back-to-back title roles at La Scala, Milan (Der Rosenkavalier and La donna del lago), the world première of the baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera, concerts with the New York Philharmonic in New York and London, and the title role of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at Houston Grand Opera.  An exclusive recording artist with EMI/Virgin Classics, DiDonato’s third EMI/Virgin Classics solo CD, Diva Divo is a collection of arias by male and female characters based on the same story.