Michael and David Reflect on Season 45

From Michael Egel, General & Artistic Director:

After intense months of rehearsals, coachings, meetings, performances and parties, not to mention seven-day weeks, the Blank Performing Arts Center became suddenly quiet on July 17. Just a few days later, Company members were scattered to disperse all over the globe. There were over 225 of us and now there are 10.  A dream season came to an end last July, but the memories will linger for years.

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Alexandra LoBianco as Turandot with Jonathan Burton as Calaf; PC: Duane Tinkey

Who could ever forget Puccini’s magnificent Turandot? One would have to travel far and wide to hear this opera sung with such a uniformly impressive cast – Alexandra LoBianco, Jonathan Burton and the debut of Vanessa Vasquez along with Maestro Neely leading the remarkable festival orchestra and Lisa Hasson’s magnificent chorus. I hope your pulse still quickens a bit at the memories of that overwhelming sound and that iconic music. Turandot is always an achievement and I’m so proud of this one.

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The cast of A Little Night Music at Madame Armfeldt’s dinner table; PC: Duane Tinkey

If you’re like me, you could have easily watched every performance of A Little Night Music and then some. With its gorgeous designs and myriad moving parts, this production is one I won’t soon forget. I’d always admired this musical, but this magnificent cast and production made me fall in love with Night Music the way I had always hoped I would someday when the circumstances were just right. Audience members remarked often to me that Kelly Kaduce’s beautiful “Send in the Clowns” had an unusual poignancy when placed in context of the story. And then there was Elise Quagliata’s Charlotte and Joyce Castle’s Madame Armfeldt leading this magnificent cast along with Kelly. I always left the theatre after performances of Night Music floating on air with a special kind of pride in our successful mounting of this work unique to our Company.

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The entire cast of Billy Budd during the battle scene in Act II; PC: Duane Tinkey

Billy Budd has been in the works for so many years and was really a dream come true for me. Mounting the challenges of this work have loomed on the horizon for so long that I admit life feels strange to be on the other side of it. But what an achievement it was. So many details to organize and each and every one turned out perfectly. Roger Honeywell and Craig Verm returned to give us the performances I knew they would. And then there was Zachary James in his debut as Claggart. I still get goose bumps when I think of his chilling soliloquy while standing on the grate in the playing circle. I hope you had as moving an experience with this monumental work as I did. And I hope you will tune in the for the Iowa Public Television broadcast on September 29. I’m so glad this work has been filmed and preserved. Won’t you join me in expressing your thanks to IPTV for their commitment to local arts programming.

Ticket sales couldn’t have been better for 2017. With 13 of 15 mainstage performances sold out and an 18% growth in overall attendance, we set records. I’m pleased to report that nearly 20% of attendees were first time ticket buyers!

Even though the theatre is dark now, we have wonderful memories and new friendships to keep until June 2018 when the opera house springs to life again with an entirely new and fresh experience awaiting all of us! I can’t wait to see you in the summer of 2018, if not before!

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David Neely, Frank R. Brownell, III., Michael Egel at the President’s Reception; PC: Devita Paschell

From David Neely, Marshall and Judy Flapan Music Director and Principal Conductor:

One of my favorite things is when, after a full day of voice auditions in New York, Michael and I go to dinner to discuss the talent we have heard and make plans for future seasons. These often take the form of mainstage titles written on cocktail napkins that are passed back and forth. Such was the genesis of DMMO’s 45th anniversary season. Like “Bartlet for President” scribbled on a napkin in that episode of The West Wing, Michael wrote the four titles that became the perfect celebration of Robert L. Larsen’s historic founding of Des Moines Metro Opera.

The pieces fell into place over course of the next year and half. Eventually we had casts, artistic teams, technical staff, orchestra members, and our apprentice artists. We were off and running toward May and the start of rehearsals. Today, three months on the other side of it, we are working diligently on season 46, but 45 sure was a good one–a winning combination of experiences in the theater that those of us who participated in it will never forget, and we sincerely hope it was the same for our dear patrons. Thank you, Michael!

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Maestro Neely leading the Festival Orchestra in the Turandot sitzprobe; PC: Scott Arens
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Maestro Neely with the cast of Turandot after the final performance on July 16; PC: Scott Arens
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The final bows for Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd on July 14, 2017; PC: Scott Arens

 

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