Encore! Encore!

Fulvio descends on the casino oasis to impress his business colleagues and wakes up the next morning beside a blonde named Darla. Like an Italian-bred millionaire getting drunk in Vegas and marrying a Brooklyn-bred showgirl, there are matches made in irony heaven--not built to last, but a hell of a ride while they do. This Sunday, another fateful "but it was bound to happen sooner or later" collision takes place at the Dallas Galleria, when the lowest of lowbrow trends collides with the loftiest of highbrow sensibilities: Puccini meets the karaoke machine.

Actually, this has been going on for the past four years, at The Dallas Opera's Annual Opera Karaoke Contest, held at--fittingly--Shakespeare Beethoven & Co. on the third floor of the mall. (Get it? Shakespeare does the shopping mall--another weird match.) Hosted by children's entertainer and opera enthusiast Eddie Coker and judged by both Coker and Dallas Opera Director Plato Karayanis, this contest invites all amateur bellowers to participate, and all lovers of such dramatic tragedy to watch. Yeah, sure, some of you can sing "O Mio Babino Caro" with the best of the Dallas Opera, right? Here's your chance not only to prove it, but also to win some stuff in the process: opera tickets, compact discs, store discounts. Even if your Bizet is best in the shower (and whose isn't? even Enrico Caruso probably preferred the private steam bath to the stage), you could still nab a prize for best attitude or best costume. Time to dig that horned helmet out of the attic.

Participants can choose from a pre-set list of accompaniment selections, including Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and of course Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, Offenbach, Bizet--all the big boys. Or, you can call in advance and get your own choice approved. Messieurs Coker and Karayanis know who the pros are in this town, so you seasoned big leaguers don't even try to hog the fleeting spotlight.

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. that Sunday, signed-up participants (call the number below in advance) take the stage one by one, each would-be diva and pretend tenor baring his or her very soul for audience and judge approval: an accountant dressed as Bruennhilde, a plumber in clown-face crying with gut-wrenching authenticity, or even the next Kiri Te Kanawa in scuffed-up Adidas. Yow. (Sounds like an episode of Frasier.) This may be the best example of tragicomedy this side of the Metropolitan. It's certainly the most entertaining thing to happen at the mall in a long time.

--Christina Rees

The Dallas Opera's Fifth Annual Opera Karaoke Contest happens at Shakespeare Beethoven & Co., third floor of the Dallas Galleria (near Saks Fifth Avenue) on Sunday. Call (972) 387-1720 to enter and for a complete listing of musical selections.


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