Des Moines Metro Opera performs ‘Carmen’, ‘Bluebird’s Castle’ in 2023
Central Iowa opera fans might consider it a tragedy of lyrical proportions to have missed the final performance of world-renowned Iowa bass-baritone Simon Estes in “Porgy & Bess.” last summer.
The Centerville-born singer has a career spanning nearly 60 years during which he has performed before the Pope, Nelson Mandela and the United Nations, to name a few. Last summer, Estes appeared in his final fully staged opera performance in Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of “Porgy & Bess.” It also marked his first performance with the Des Moines Metro Opera.
Once Estes announced his retirement from performing, show tickets sold out quickly. Luckily, those who missed the sold-out performance over the summer will have the chance to hear not only Estes’ voice and the cast of “Porgy & Bess,” but also three other shows from the final season. ‘opera.
On Friday, the opera announced that IPR Classic Radio will broadcast recorded audio from last season’s performances.
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‘Porgy & Bess’
The show – for those unfamiliar – is an American English-language opera originally written in the 1930s telling the story of poor locals struggling to survive in the Charleston tenement at Catfish Row. Many consider it one of the most important operas in the American canon.
“I recommend everyone in Iowa see ‘Porgy & Bess,'” Estes told the Des Moines Register in June“not just to hear Simon Estes but to hear all these wonderful artists who will be performing.”
This adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play stars NBC’s “The Voice” runner-up John Holiday as King Oberon.
Although a work staged in partnership with Pyramid Theater Co., this show featured only a few scenes from the final production, which is set to take place during the opera’s 2024 season.
Composed by Damien Geter, “American Apollo” is about Thomas Eugene McKeller, a black man who modeled for many paintings by John Singer Sargent, a prominent portrait painter of the late 1800s.
“‘American Apollo’ is a play that delves into issues of race, class, and sexuality that were glossed over during McKeller’s lifetime,” said composer Damien Geter in a 2021 press release. “Given the climate and the conversations unfolding today, we hope we can give the characters in this opera the opportunity to consider these issues, even if only in spirit.”
Aired on IPR Classic in November, but has yet to announce an airdate.
The show is an original opera commissioned by Des Moines Metro Opera and had its world premiere on the Indianola stage last summer. The work is an adaptation of Jane Smiley’s 1991 novel, which features a female-centric retelling of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Novel and opera tell the story of the Cook family, whose patriarch, Larry, decides to give up his farm to his three daughters: Ginny, Rose and Caroline.
“We knew we wanted to write a new piece for the 50th anniversary,” said Michael Egel, general and artistic director of the opera, declared to the register in July. “We wanted to choose a story that would be our story to tell, but also have some recognizability.”
“I think it checks out one of the most important criteria of American opera,” show director Kristine McIntyre told The Register in July of the show’s setting and subject matter. “It shows the struggles of everyday people…and it’s set on a farm. There’s nothing more American I can do unless I have a cowboy on stage.
More information on these upcoming shows can be found through desmoinesmetroopera.org.
What new shows are coming to Des Moines Metro Opera in 2023?
Although this final season has come to an end, the Des Moines Metro Opera has more in store over the coming months, especially from June 30 to July 23.
Carmen by Georges Bizet according to Egel, is perhaps the most famous opera in the world.
“Certainly as measure for measure (piece with) familiar tunes you’ve heard throughout your life,” Egel said of the opera at a Des Moines Chapter Guild event on Sept. 15. .
The opera is where popular pieces such as “Habanera” and “Toreador Song” have their origins in this story of 19th century soldier Don José, who leaves behind the life he knows for love of the titular Carmen.
Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” is one of the darkest stories from the same canon of fairy tales that also includes “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel.”
“There are two characters and it’s a short opera, not a typical three-hour opera, which relies on a huge orchestra…and incredible visual demands,” Egel said, adding that local artist Oyoram will be working on the visual components.
“Love of Three Oranges”
In the same vein of fairy tale-inspired opera is Sergei Prokofiev’s satirical opera, “Love for Three Oranges.”
“I’ll tell you what the story is about, but I’m still trying to figure it out,” Egel joked of this absurd 20th-century comedy. “It’s not supposed to make much sense, but it’s very funny.”
The story is framed around a prince who falls under a curse and must go on a journey to find three oranges, each containing a woman inside.
For more information on these three operas and other items from the Des Moines Metro Opera’s 51st season lineup, please visit desmoinesmetroopera.org.