Nicole Paiement
Nicole Paiement | Credit: Cory Weaver

Dallas Opera General Director Ian Derrer, visiting San Francisco (and taking in Tosca) over the Labor Day weekend, told SF Classical Voice that the company’s lineup of women directors for the 2022 season came about as a matter of luck:

“One of the effects of the pandemic has been the need to shift many productions and, therefore, re-examine artist availabilities. We had many positions to fill in the upcoming year particularly with directors, which gave us a fresh opportunity to look at the best candidates for the job. We were exceedingly lucky to get top-notch directors. The fact that they were all women, well, that speaks for itself.”

Dallas is now among an increasing number of opera companies and symphony orchestras around the world making efforts to bring women fully into leadership positions, just as major San Francisco organizations have long worked on eliminating discrimination.

Dallas Opera - Winspear
Dallas Opera company’s home: Winspear Opera House | Credit: AT&T Performing Arts Center

Dallas Opera has undergone leadership, cultural, and directional changes over the past few years, says company publicist Rachelle Roe. The company has weathered the pandemic with an extensive new multi-channel streaming service, and it can claim some of the most diverse casting and participation in the field. Derrer’s contract was just extended for five years. He says:

“In order to stay connected during the pandemic we decided to fully embrace a second ‘digital’ stage. Like many opera companies, we had previously been tiptoeing into the digital waters, but quick successes like #AskMaestro with Emmanuel Villaume helped dramatically boost our online presence and influence.

“Now the question is how do we best serve our communities (both local and afar) with educational and entertaining programs in addition to what we present on the Winspear stage. We are a dual track opera company aligning both our ‘stages’ to complement and enhance one another.”

The Dallas season opens with Madame Butterfly (that’s the English title, but the opera is sung in Italian), Feb. 18–26, directed by Laurie Feldman, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, with Latonia Moore as Cio-Cio-San, Evan LeRoy Johnson as Pinkerton, Megan Marino as Suzuki, and Adam Lau as the Bonze.

Jonathan Dove’s Flight, March 4–12, is a Dallas Opera premiere, directed by Kristine McIntyre, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, with John Holiday as the Refugee, Jessica Pratt as the Controller, and Karita Mattila as the Older Woman.

Kristine McIntyre
Kristine McIntyre is stage director for Flight | Courtesy of the artist

The Barber of Seville, March 19–27, is directed by Tara Faircloth, conducted by Lina Gonzalez-Granados, with Lucas Meachem as Figaro, Wallis Giunta as Rosina, Alasdair Kent as Count Almaviva.

The Pearl Fishers, April 2–10, is directed by Shawna Lucey (director of the SF Opera Tosca), conducted by Nicole Paiement, with Joyce El-Khoury as Leïla, René Barbera as Nadir, Morris Robinson as Nourabad, and Alfredo Daza as Zurga.

Shawna Lucey
Shawna Lucey directed Tosca in San Francisco, will direct The Pearl Fishers in Dallas | Credit: San Franciso Opera

Paiement, artistic and general director of San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle, is also principal guest conductor of the Dallas Opera and on the faculty of Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute. She told SFCV:

“Mentoring over the years such a diverse group of talented women conductors from across the world has truly been a privilege.

“My career as a conductor has greatly focused on bringing opera into the 21st century. Participating in changing the landscape of leadership on the podium is yet another way I can contribute to keeping this artform vibrant and alive.” (The next Hart Institute Showcase will be held in November.)

Paiement has been studying The Pearl Fishers score and works with Lucey, the director: “Though I have conducted Carmen many times, this will be the first time I conduct Les Pêcheurs de Perles. I always enjoy working on works from the past, taking the approach that they, too, can remain fresh and new.”

Derrer adds:

“It has been my pleasure to work with Nicole as both a conductor and an educator. Now we can add the role of General Director at Opera Parallèle to the list. Whatever the role, Nicole displays great innovation, as we’ve seen recently with Opera Parallèle’s presentation of Everest. She’s a force that keeps churning out new ideas and ways to produce them.”