George Steel, the newly named director of the Dallas Opera, met with reporters for lunch today, and, of course, he promises to turn the Dallas Opera into “the best in the country.” That was measured ambition compared to that of Jay Marshall, the Dallas Opera chairman, who said his goal was to turn Dallas into the premiere destination for opera-lovers the world over.
Steel is in town for a few days (meeting with reporters today and house-hunting tomorrow) before he takes up permanent residence in October. The Yale grad and long-time New Yorker said he’s “overjoyed” to be here. He also insisted that all his New York friends think this is the best move for him, and that his 3-year-old daughter is already calling herself a Texan. Steel has Texas roots himself, his grandmother being a native.
Steel says his goal is not only to make Dallas an opera destination, but also to make it the centerpiece of the Dallas arts scene. He will do this partly by making opera relevant to new audiences. How so? By trolling the club scene, just maybe.
Early during his celebrated tenure as director of Columbia University’s Miller Theater, Steel would often visit clubs in New York to see who was going and why. “I would look at the demographics," he recounted, "and say, 'That’s who I want to see at the opera.'”
It seems like a tall order, but having spent an hour with Steel, he seems like a man with enough mojo and intelligence to pull it off.
Marshall said the move to the Winspear Opera House (slated for next October) will allow for more shows, meaning Steel will be able to continue the tradition of innovation and risk-taking that made him one of the New York art scene’s most celebrated names.
“Over the next 10 to 20 years Dallas Opera is going to grow in an extraordinary way,” Steel said. “The money is here, the ambition is here. People want it to happen, and it’s going to happen.” --Jesse Hyde