Dear Dallas Opera: Please Let Beggars Be Choosers and Give Us Great Scott

Across the country, opera audiences are thinning. The old guard is getting older and youthful cans aren’t plunking down in the chairs. So while there’s something inherently bratty about saying “I would prefer this free thing over this other one,” just follow me here.

Dallas Opera has been busy funding, fostering and performing exceptional new operas, to the point that it has become an embarrassment of riches. Last year’s Everest was a triumph, and this year’s hilarious opera-within-an-opera, Great Scott, is laddering up for similar success. Which makes me wonder: Why is TDO simulcasting Tosca?

According to the Dallas Opera, its free simulcast selection is based on some complicated algorithm of venue, time of year, weather, broad or selective audience appeal, and so on. And we’re grateful for the offering, but Tosca and Great Scott are running concurrently.

And in a season with two world premieres, doesn’t it make more sense to share one of those? Especially if it helps attract a fresh audience to an old artform? I can watch a Tosca on YouTube.

Six Reasons why Great Scott Should Get the Simulcast Treatment
  1. It’s in English — Not just English-English. Some parts are flat-out Texan. 
  2. It’s not in English — Because librettist Terrence McNally (Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Master Class, Dead Man Walking) has cleverly nested an old opera within a new opera, you get a nice dose of traditional drama and dialect throughout. I could imagine someone watching this and then wanting to learn about the old stuff. Let’s go ahead and call Great Scott a “gateway libretto.”
  3. It’s funny — You know how with traditional operas you can’t stop laughing because the sexism and the racism are so widespread and unintentionally hilarious? Well Great Scott isn’t like that. It’s funny on purpose. 
  4. It’s not funny — Women in opera aren’t treated well. They’re always on the business end of knives or gravity or poison. But Scott takes a different route. This soprano has dedicated her life to her career at the cost of all else. It’s now time to reflect on letting go, hanging on, and — wait for it — work/life balance.
  5. It’s from here — Dallas loves talking about itself. And bragging. And BIG things. Without Dallas, this world premiere wouldn’t be happening. Let’s give 'em something to talk about. 
  6. There’s football in it. Kinda. — While estrogen gets fogged around the stage, across town the local team is playing in the Super Bowl. One scene actually takes place in the football stadium for an operatic rendition of the National Anthem.

This year’s Tosca simulcast is happening at Klyde Warren Park, but how cool would it be to show Great Scott at the stadium? Way, way cool.

Tosca's pre-performance festivities at the park begin with a cartoon and more at 6:30 p.m. Friday, November 6. It's free.
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Jamie Laughlin
Contact: Jamie Laughlin