New Heggie Opera, Great Scott to Premiere in Dallas

Jason Victor Serinus on January 15, 2015
Composer Jake Heggie

On January 12, the Dallas Opera announced that Bay Area treasure, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, will join mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and soprano Ailyn Pérez in San Francisco composer Jake Heggie and Tony Award-winning playwright and librettist Terrence McNally’s newest operatic collaboration, Great Scott. The male singers, no less distinguished than the opera’s female triple threat, includes baritone Nathan Gunn, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, bass Kevin Burdette, tenor Garrett Sorenson, and baritone Michael Mayes.

A co-production with the revitalized San Diego Opera, Great Scott opens the Dallas Opera season on October 30, 2015, with five performances scheduled through November 15. San Diego Opera will mount the opera in the 2016-2017 season.

Three-time Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien, the former artistic director of San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, will stage the Dallas production. The designer is six-time Tony Award-winner Bob Crowley, who has also received 13 Tony nominations.“At the heart of Great Scott are big questions about artistic and personal sacrifice, picking our battles, and the kind of cultural legacy we want to leave for the future.” — Jake Heggie

“I’m very honored and touched to be a part of this magical, remarkable occasion,” Heggie declared at the opening session of OPERA America’s Opera Conference 2014 in San Francisco last June. “At the heart of Great Scott are big questions about artistic and personal sacrifice, picking our battles, and the kind of cultural legacy we want to leave for the future, as well as our personal responsibility in that legacy.”

Heggie tells San Francisco Classical Voice that the opera is about a famous American opera singer, Arden Scott, who has returned to her hometown to save her struggling local opera company. The great Scott is set to star in Rosa Dolorosa: Daughter of Pompeii, a rare, never-before-produced, bel canto opera.

“As luck would have it, the night of the world premiere is the same night that the local football team, the Grizzlies, plays in their first Super Bowl. It’s everything you can imagine happening on the stage, backstage, in rehearsal, and in her life. But what also appeals to me is that it’s a quest for identity and a transformative journey. Scott is forced to consider the sacrifices that she has made, and discover that true greatness is a matter of heart.

“We end up with an opera within an opera, very much like Strauss and von Hofmannsthal’s Ariadne auf Naxos. We have two mad scenes, an erupting volcano, a children’s chorus, and a corps de ballet. And I even got to write a football fight song, that will be played by the Highland Park High School Highlanders band!”

Great Scott is the second operatic collaboration between Heggie (Moby-Dick) and McNally (Master Class). Their first, Dead Man Walking, premiered at San Francisco Opera in 2000. Opera Parallèle remounts the opera, with a new orchestration, this February in San Francisco, and in March in Santa Monica.

While San Francisco has staged several operas by Heggie over the years, Dallas Opera seems to be becoming one of his homes away from home. Moby-Dick, written with Gene Scheer, had its world premiere in Dallas in 2010 and will return there in November, 2016.