Opera has been considered a pastime synonymous with culture since the 16th century. We are all familiar with operatic tropes: the gusty Brunhilde with her horned helmet, the masked phantom haunting the stage, the robust bass. Generally, these familiar characters are placed in a historical setting; opera feels like it belongs to the past. However, on Oct. 30, Dallas will be the home of the world premire of a 21st-century opera, “Great Scott.” The opera, by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally is co-commissioned and co-produced with the San Diego Opera. Joyce DiDonato stars as Arden Scott.
The plot of “Great Scott” seems trite on the surface: a woman returns to her hometown to put on an operatic production only to find that the night of the performance coincides with the local professional football team’s first Super Bowl. However, at its core, it is a story about the waning relevance of high culture in the face of pop culture. In some ways it critiques the American love for spectacle, in which football reigns supreme over the opera.
In an email campaign, Jake Heggie described the struggle of the main character:
“[Arden Scott] has sacrificed so much, devoted her time, passion and talent to the the art form and music she loves. But, in a world that seems more and more to care only about popular culture and trends, does the struggle and sacrifice mean anything? Does it all matter?”
Because of this intersection of new and old, “Great Scott” is a perfect opera for the 21st century. It is not a tale of doomed lovers or magic flutes but about the place this antiquated art form has in modern society.
“Arden’s journey is our journey. We all want to matter in the world — to participate meaningfully in our community — to leave it better and stronger,” Heggie wrote. “That means we face difficult choices in where we devote our energies and resources. I believe that the arts connect and humanize us as very few other things can: through the power and majesty of music and drama, we experience beauty, joy, laughter, reflection, sorrow, tears and transformation together.”
Student Rush tickets are $15 in the Dress Circle or Grand Tier and $25 in the Mezzanine or Orchestra Floor; just arrive at the Winspear Opera House 90 minutes before the performance with a valid student ID. Opening night for “Great Scott” is Oct. 30 at 8:00 p.m. at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
If you want opera in your life but cannot spare the money, on Nov. 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. a free simulcast of the opera “Tosca” will be shown at Klyde Warren Park. “Tosca” will simultaneously be performed at the Opera House Nov. 6-22 and remains one of Puccini’s most beloved operas.