Celebratory Slate

Celebratory Slate

Dayton Opera Offers Promising Anniversary Season

By Eric Street

The Cast Of 'Porgy And Bess' Photo By Tim Wilkerson/Atlanta Opera

Do your friends complain that the papers only print bad news? Tell them this: the Dayton Opera is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season with three must-see operas and a Star Gala featuring leading singers from recent Dayton Opera productions. “Our 50th season will truly be a community-wide celebration filled with many firsts for Dayton Opera and our audience,” said Thomas Bankston, Dayton Opera general and

artistic director.

Appropriately for an American company’s Golden Anniversary, the season opens October 23, 29 and 31 with the most American of all operas – George Gershwin’s golden operatic hit Porgy and Bess.  “With the help of Tom Bankston’s casting magic and gorgeous sets, we’re going to showcase African-American artists and give Dayton a Porgy to remember,” said Chuck Duritsch, Dayton Opera marketing director. In this year of anniversaries, Dayton Opera’s first solely produced presentation of Porgy also marks the 75th anniversary of its 1935 Broadway premiere.

Many who have never darkened an opera house door will recognize songs from George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” Though Porgy and Bess is set in 1920s Charleston, South Carolina, the themes it addresses are as contemporary as today’s news from the temptations of drugs and infidelity to the power of hope in the human heart despite all odds.

This costly production of Porgy is made possible through broad based community-wide collaboration, including Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), Central State University, Wilberforce University and the Dayton Philharmonic with music director Neal Gittleman. “I’m so proud of the way Dayton Opera partners with other organizations,” Duritsch added.  “It helps us take things up to the next level.” Porgy will be sung in English with English surtitles.

In conjunction with Porgy, opera-goers will be treated to an exhibition in the Wintergarden featuring works by Olu Bandele, Larry Collins, Abner Cope, Dwayne Daniels, Bing Davis, Donivan Hahn, Terrance Hammonds, Kevin Harris, Annisa Lewis, Velma Morris, Althea Murphy-Price and Ellen Price. From Porgy to Barack is a portfolio of lithographs inspired by both the opera and the election of the United States’ first African-American President. Twelve African-American artists from the Greater Dayton region created images working with lithographic materials provided by the printer, John Driesbach, and Central State University. The exhibit premieres during a press event kicking off Dayton Opera Week on October 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the Schuster Center. It is open to the public free through October 31.

The season continues January 28 and 30 with another Dayton Opera first: the company premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven’s monumental Fidelio. In a special 50th anniversary collaboration with aforementioned Dayton Philharmonic music director Neal Gittleman, this production will take a semi-staged, dramatized concert form. Amid some of Beethoven’s most soaring music, a narrator presents the gripping story of a heroic wife fighting to save her wrongly imprisoned husband from an unjust assassination in prison. Its thrilling choral finale embodies the same spirit as the stirring “Ode to Joy” that closes Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

On April 15 and 17, Dayton Opera dons uniforms with Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment, a tuneful and utterly delightful comedy about the rambunctious Marie, who has been raised by an entire army regiment. For a while it looks as though she may have to abandon the regiment and her beloved Tonio, but all ends happily in this opera famous for Tonio’s “9 High C’s” aria, one of Pavarotti’s most famous signature tunes.  While celebrating their 50th anniversary with Donizetti’s effervescent military romp, Dayton Opera will also celebrate Dayton’s own military and support personnel of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with discounts on season and individual tickets for all enlisted and support personnel.  Dayton Opera chorus master and conductor Jeffrey Powell will conduct, marking his own 20th anniversary with the company.     Dayton Opera climaxes its 50th anniversary season May 22 with a festive Star Gala featuring an impressive roster of recent stars of the Dayton Opera.  The Dayton Opera Chorus will join them in a recital of some of opera’s greatest music, highlighting the company’s rich 50-year history. Projected images of the people and productions from Dayton Opera’s history will recall memories of seasons past and bring this landmark anniversary season to a fitting close.  A special 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner attended by the Star Gala artists follows as an optional add-on to this Sunday matinee performance.

Single tickets are on sale and range from $39 to $92 with further discounts available for seniors, students and all WPAFB personnel. Tickets for groups of 10 or more are on sale as well. Subscription for the 2010-11 season are available by mail and phone and range from $122 to $313 for a full series. For more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit online at www.DaytonOpera.org.

Reach DCP opera critic
Eric Street at contactus@
daytoncitypaper.com


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