reviews

Fri July 21, 2017
World-class opera grows tall and proud in the Corn Belt by John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2017 As you leave Des Moines and head south for about 18 miles along U.S. Highway 65/69, past vast green fields of corn and soybeans baking in the summer sun, you arrive at this sleepy bedroom community of roughly 15,000. To call Indianola an unlikely environment for opera would be an understatement. But it is here, for the past 45 years, that the Des Moines Metro Opera...
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Fri July 21, 2017
Billy Budd Indomitable in Des Moines by James Sohre, Opera Today, July 13, 2017 It is hard to know where to begin to praise the peerless accomplishment that is Des Moines Metro Opera’s staggeringly powerful Billy Budd. In the intimate Blank Performing Arts Center space, we are not so much observing a wrenching drama as we are participating in it. Set Designer R. Keith Brumley has outdone himself (or anyone else) with a massive prow of a hulking wooden warship that...
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Tue July 11, 2017
Des Moines Answers Turandot’s Riddles by James Sohre, Opera Today With Turandot, Des Moines Metro Opera operated from the premise of prima la voce, and if the no-holds-barred singing and rhapsodic playing didn’t send shivers down your spine, well, you were at the wrong address. The leading roles were deluxe casting , the envy of any world opera house. There are few roles with more baggage than Turandot and Calaf. The legendary pairing of Nilsson and Corelli is s...
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Tue July 11, 2017
Maria Visits Des Moines by James Sohre, Opera Today With an atmospheric, crackling performance of Astor Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires, Des Moines Metro Opera once again set off creative sparks with its Second Stage concept. While its three main stage productions continue to be performed in Blank Performing Arts Center on the Simpson College campus, 30 minutes away in Indianola, DMMO systematically develops audiences by mounting innovative smaller productions ...
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Mon July 10, 2017
Des Moines: Nothing ‘Little’ About Night Music by James Sohre, Opera Today Des Moines Metro Opera’s richly detailed production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music left an appreciative audience to waltz home on air, and has prompted this viewer to search for adequate superlatives. When Israel Mizrahi’s set and costume designs debuted at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis a few years back, I opined: “At long last we have been treated to a multi-faceted production that n...
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Thu October 1, 2015
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, La Fanciulla del West, Jenůfa by Mark Thomas Ketterson, Opera News DES MOINES METRO OPERA fielded an interesting pastiche of musical styles in its forty-third season, encompassing the classicism of Mozart, some Italian verismo and a notable success with an initial foray into Czech repertory. Die Entführung aus dem Serail opened the weekend on July 3, featuring a cast of some of the most promising young singers around today. The big n...
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Sun July 19, 2015
Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph by James Sohre, Opera Today The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West)often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon. It may not have the crackling tension of Tosca, the profound sacrifice of , the appealing chinoiserie of Turandot, or the memorable tunes of La Boheme. But taken on its own colorful, often boisterous terms, Fanciulla can touch and delig...
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Sun July 19, 2015
Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO by James Sohre, Opera Today There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods. In the title role, Sara Gartland is serving notice with a star-making performance of the first magnitude. Ms. Gartland not only has an incisive thrust to her robust, soprano, but also she has a charismatic and persuasive dramatic delivery that commands our attention....
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Fri July 17, 2015
Seductive Abduction in Iowa by James Sohre, Opera Today Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands. That is largely attributable to a splendid cast of Mozarteans that can not only meet all the vocal challenges of this youthfully ambitious score, but make us laugh to boot. This is a perfect sized house for Mozart, and the orchestra provided strong support from the pit, playing with real distinction. Cond...
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Fri July 17, 2015
Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden by James Sohre, Opera Today With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights. This compact opera by Daniel Catán is composed to a text by Juan Tovar, that was gleaned from the Nathaniel Hawthorne story as well as a stage adaptation by Mexican Nobel Prize-winn...
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Fri July 10, 2015
Puccini: La fanciulla del West—Des Moines Metro Opera Why would information about an opera performed in Des Moines appeal to readers of a Denver-centric music publication? First, you have two major participants in the Iowa production—the director and the title character—taking on similar positions in an upcoming Opera Colorado offering, namely Aida in November 2015. Second, strong rumors abound that this operatic rarity may FINALLY grace a Front Range stage, possibly as ...
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Wed July 1, 2015
CityView: Taking Off Into a New Sky by John Domini The Abduction from the Seraglio, at Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO), opened its third act under moonlight. The noble Belmonte lurks in the dark, intending to free his beloved Konstanze from the Pasha’s seraglio: his harem. Mozart’s hero wears a neon-purple frockcoat, and this glows mystically under a sky full of stars. The moment is another triumph for the set designers and technical staff, bringing Disney to Mozart — especially s...
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Tue June 30, 2015
'Golden' Girl Hits Her Target by Michael Morain, Des Moines Register History seems to have forgotten whether John Wayne ever saw much opera, but if he did — and that's a big "if" — even he would have loved "The Girl of the Golden West" revival that Des Moines Metro Opera just opened in Indianola. It's the sort of gun-slinging, whiskey-swilling, hardscrabble drama the Duke would have appreciated. So hold up a sec: Go fetch you and your pardner a pair of tickets right now — no real...
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Tue June 30, 2015
Music rescues Mozart's Abduction by Michael Morain, Des Moines Register Maybe it's the pink and purple wigs, but the Des Moines Metro Opera's new revival of The Abduction from the Seraglio makes me think of cotton candy. It spins Mozart's sugar into an almost magical novelty — fun and fluffy, for sure, but not completely satisfying. So let's clear the air right up front: The show has some lovely songs in search of better characters and a more interesting plot. It follows a...
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Sun June 14, 2015
by Michael Morain At the end of Jenufa next month at the Des Moines Metro Opera, tiny blossoms are supposed to burst forth from the bare branches of a fake tree at center stage. The trick involves a puff of air through hidden pneumatic tubes and, maybe, a bit of luck. It's a rare breed, indeed. But the tree is just one of the exotic, literally far-fetched elements in the Indianola company's 43rd season, which opens June 26 and is even more cosmopolitan than usual. Along with J...
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Thu March 26, 2015
SPARC Event Review By Doris Welle, Performance Reviewer The performance of Cinderella by OPERA Iowa was beautiful and well received. The Spencer Art Coalition brought the educational program of the Des Moines Metro Opera to the Spencer Community Theatre for a performance on Friday night. The opera was written by Gioacchino Rossini in 1817. Unbelievable that something written nearly 200 years ago can still be entertaining to us today. In the audience were many ...
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Wed February 4, 2015
Guest conductor Neely scores high marks again with University Orchestra By Peter Jacobi It’s been a quick turn-around for guest conductor David Neely. In mid-October, he was here to lead the Indiana University Chamber Orchestra in a splendid concert featuring works of Beethoven, Wagner and Prokofiev. He was back Wednesday night, this time to conduct the University Orchestra, and he scored high marks again. We’re getting quite a few guest conductors these days, undou...
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Wed October 1, 2014
Opera News International Magazine La Traviata (7/4/14), Le Comte Ory (7/5/14), Dead Man Walking (7/6/14) Des Moines Metro Opera began the celebration of its forty-second season on July 4, with a worthy account of Verdi’s perennial La Traviata. Caitlin Lynch’s lovely Violetta was somewhat monochrome in Act I, perhaps, but it was deeply felt, with accurate coloratura. Her voice glowed luminously over the gambling scene ensemble, and “Addio del passato” was spl...
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Fri September 12, 2014
Count Ory, Dead Man Walking and La traviata in Des Moines If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks. The astonishing young tenor Taylor Stayton anchored the overall vocal excellence with an effortless traversal of the title role. Time was when th...
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Fri July 11, 2014
Hair-raising Outrage and Wailing Angels By John Domini for Des Moines Cityview When composer Jake Heggie first heard someone suggest an opera of “Dead Man Walking” back in 1996, he also began to hear the music. As he puts it, “the hair on the back of my neck stood up.” Heggie told this story before opening night at Des Moines Metro Opera, where I caught the talk and spoke with him privately. As for the production, the composer had nothing but praise: “wholly con...
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Wed July 9, 2014
Talented Cast Nails Bawdy Opera 'Le Comte Ory' By Michael Morain for the Des Moines Register If you can picture Paul Rudd donning a nun’s habit to sneak into a castle full of lonely young ladies, you can picture most of what you need to know about the Des Moines Metro Opera’s third and final production in its current main-stage rotation in Indianola. Gioachino Rossini’s rarely performed “Le Comte Ory” is a silly puff of a show, “a French pastry baked by an Ita...
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Wed July 2, 2014
Simple tale glitters in 'La Traviata' By Michael Morain for the Des Moines Register The night before, on Friday, "La Traviata" opened with a contrast almost as abrupt as in the "Dead Man" prologue but with a much more glamorous effect. A quartet of veiled ghosts hovers in slow-motion around their doomed target, Violetta Valery, who lounges in her room, struggling to catch her breath. But sometimes there's a fast turn between suffering and celebration. Her maid arrives ...
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Wed July 2, 2014
All-time and Timeless By John Domini for Cityview Off in faraway places, I’m always hearing about our city’s opera. The rising star Michael Mayes, en route from one big stage to another, even got in touch via Skype to share his “deep respect” for the Des Moines program. This season, the Metro Opera’s (D.M.M.O.) 42nd, singers and musicians again gather from all over. Caitlin Lynch, who sings Violetta — the lead in “La Traviata” — has performed at New York’...
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Tue July 1, 2014
"Dead Man Walking" opera is "surprisingly beautiful" by Michael Morain for the Des Moines Register Just moments after the murders in the prologue of "Dead Man Walking," even as the two naked bodies are sliding offstage on rolling platforms, the Catholic nun Helen Prejean appears in a stark spotlight and begins to sing: "He will gather us around, all around. He will gather us around. By and by, you and I, all around him, gather us around." And gather we did for the Iowa...
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Thu December 12, 2013
Des Moines Register Review: Beautiful Christmas story 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' told powerfully on stagea In music, a tremolo is a trembling effect created by the speedy repetition of a single note. When violins do it up high, it usually signals something suspenseful or miraculous. Who knows which composer decided that’s what a miracle sounds like, but nowhere does the trick work better than in “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” The rest of the orchestra drops out....
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Tue October 1, 2013
Opera News International Magazine Roméo et Juliette (6/28/13), Elektra(6/29/13), Peter Grimes (6/30/13) DES MOINES Des Moines Metro Opera Des Moines Metro Opera's forty-first season found the company taking some provocative risks and considerably upping the artistic ante from previous years. Roméo et Juliette (seen June 28) may not be anyone's first idea of a "light" offering, but in truth Gounod's adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy is a trifle sugary. There was an enga...
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Mon July 8, 2013
Opera Today Musical Fireworks in Iowa ‘Tis the season for aerial starbursts, and for my money more than a few rockets could be sent up to laud Des Moines Metro Opera. Long considered a jewel of the Midwest, the enterprising company seemed determined to break out of regional status with a world-class production of Elektra. Everything about this Strauss one-acter was first rate, starting and ending with the polished sweep of a firing-on-all-cylinders orchestra t...
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Mon July 1, 2013
Des Moines Register Opera review: ‘Elektra’ at the Des Moines Metro Opera In the Des Moines Metro Opera’s hair-raising take on “Elektra,” the orchestra doesn’t play from a pit so much as a volcanic crater. Turbulent sounds bubble up from below, erupting from time to time with terrifying force. The music by Richard Strauss sounds as savage under principal conductor David Neely’s baton as it must have at the 1909 premiere. And the harrowing story, adapted fro...
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Mon June 24, 2013
Des Moines Register Opera review: Des Moines Metro Opera’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Peter Grimes’ The Des Moines Metro Opera opened two cautionary tales last weekend — “Romeo and Juliet” and “Peter Grimes” — and their warnings are pretty clear. Don’t let ancient grudges get the best of you. Don’t be swayed by gossip. And if you can help it, don’t miss a chance to see either show before the season closes July 14 at the Blank Performing Arts Cent...
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Mon October 1, 2012
Opera News International Magazine Don Giovanni (6/29/12), Eugene Onegin (6/30/12), La Rondine (7/1/12) DES MOINES Des Moines Metro Opera Des Moines Metro Opera celebrated its ruby anniversary with a three-opera season that gathered a beloved Mozartdramma giocoso, the company’s intitial foray into Russian repertoire and an achingly romantic confection by Puccini. DMMO’s first-rate Don Giovanni (seen June 29) was graced by a powerful performance of the leading rol...
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Tue July 3, 2012
Des Moines Register Opera review: ‘Eugene Onegin’ By Bruce Carr Special to the Register The Des Moines Metro Opera scored a complete triumph Saturday night in Indianola with the company’s first-ever performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” And you could tell they knew it, too, when the cast let loose with the imperial Russian equivalent of loud high-fives from behind the final curtain. All the elements had come together to make this production a spec...
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Sat October 1, 2011
Opera News International Magazine La Bohème (7/1/11), Dialogues of the Carmelites (7/2/11), Don Pasquale(7/3/11) DES MOINES, IA Des Moines Metro Opera Des Moines Metro Opera's thirty-ninth season generated some extra-musical excitement with the unveiling of a 17,000-square-foot addition to the Blank Performing Arts Center that provides increased rehearsal space, as well as dining facilities, elevators and an impressive second-floor promenade. Matters onstage looked goo...
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Fri October 1, 2010
Opera News International Magazine Le Nozze di Figaro (7/2/10), Susannah(7/3/10), Macbeth (7/4/10) DES MOINES, IA Des Moines Metro Opera Des Moines Metro Opera's thirty-eighth season marked an important milestone, as company founder Robert L. Larsen, who has staged and conducted virtually all DMMO's offerings since 1973, passed baton and directorial duties over to his talented staff — an emotional transition for the house and its dedicated audience alike. Perhaps th...
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