Big Audio Dynamite

This is one of a series of essays in the Dallas Observer's calendar section demonstrating that some among our staff are, not to put too fine a point on it, one-browed knuckle-draggers.

Our subject this week is opera, or specifically The Dallas Opera's premiere of a new production of Giancomo Puccini's Turandot, which we're told is very good.

Like we'd know the difference.

Oh, we've tried to appreciate opera. Several years ago, PBS broadcast a series of works by Wagner. We eagerly sat down to watch Tannhäuser, which begins as a minstrel, beloved of Venus, decides to leave her. Dunno why. Probably because of the weight she'd put on. That sometimes happens when you get into a regular relationship.

Unfortunately, PBS subtitled the opera in English, so we knew what was being sung. For what seemed like 30, maybe 40 minutes, we were treated to: "I'm going now." "Oh, don't go." "Listen, woman, I'm gone like a cool breeze." "Oh, stay. I'll fix us a nosh."

And on and on. Sleep came before appreciation.

But this version of Turandot, with a newly written ending, might inspire us to try again. It's about a hard, murderous ice princess and the man desperate to win her love, despite threats of death and the fact that he has a good willing woman waiting in the wings. Reminds us of some unpleasant college experiences.

"So, is this a good one?" we asked Suzanne Calvin, spokesperson for the opera.

"Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely...This is what we would tentatively term dynamite," Calvin assured us, as she insisted that to truly appreciate opera, we need to see the real thing, not television. (Which sounded suspiciously like an insult to television, but we let it pass.)

The Dallas Opera's production features soprano Anna Shafajinskaia, whom Calvin says has won praise as the definitive Turandot of this era (she's the ice princess).

So, big star. New ending. A well-received production. Maybe we'll take Calvin's advice and give opera another try. They do serve beer, don't they?

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams