Des Moines Metro Opera
- By gentleguide
- On Mon 24 jun 2019
The summer season for the Des Moines Metro Opera starts this coming weekend. Known for world-class performances and an amazing outreach, the DMMO has been going strong for almost half a century, and this season is no exception. With three different shows running in repertory, there’s a variety for every opera fan, and for everyone who’s just curious and never had the experience.
As has become practice for the DM Metro Opera season, the three shows each show off the form in different ways. Their first, La Bohème, would be considered the most “classical” production this year. For the more musical theatre oriented, they offer Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (featuring the showtune favorite Glitter and Be Gay. And lastly, they offer the modern Polish opera Wozzeck, a dreamlike emotional story very unlike what most think of when they hear the word “opera”.
Opera is Everywhere
“As someone who is new to Des Moines Metro (and very new to the opera world itself), I've been surprised to learn how truly universal opera is.” says Emily Carey, who recently joined the DMMO staff. “Opera is everywhere. From film, to television, to commercials, you've probably heard a famous aria or a well-known piece from an opera without even realizing it. It's extremely relevant in popular culture. Take Puccini's La Bohème for example. This opera served as the inspiration behind Jonathan Larson's hit musical RENT, so if you're new to Bohème but familiar with RENT like I was, you can easily follow along with the story.”
“Opera is not as scary as you think! Most opera houses (including Des Moines Metro Opera) display supertitles in English during the performance so you can follow along and not worry about being lost in the Italian/German happening onstage. Not to mention our production of Bernstein's Candide is in English! Des Moines Metro Opera is great at figuring out how to breathe new life into the productions we take on.”
Opera is Local
The DM Metro Opera is based out of Indianola, and uses the Pote Theatre in Simpson’s Blank Center for the Performing Arts as its primary performance venue. And although their 2nd Stages program has done other shows in unique places before (a production of Galileo Galileo was done at the DM Science Center, and The Tender Land was presented outdoors at the Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton), their home base each summer is Pote.
“A strong business relationship is crucial especially when running a festival season. It works well to rent apartments and other facilities from Simpson College when a majority of our company are re-locating to Indianola for a short time. When the season kicks off and things get busy, it's nice to have the DMMO office, the theater, the living spaces, and other facilities within walking distance, and Simpson College is the perfect place for that.”
DM Metro Opera also has a great relationship with Iowa Public Television, with IPTV’s recording of the DMMO production of Billy Budd recently being rebroadcast. And there is more to come, reports Carey. “This season, Iowa Public Television is filming our production of Lee Hoiby's Bon Appétit!” Based on the work of the famous Julia Child and featuring a meal prepared and served as part of the show, the performances for Bon Appetit! are part of the 2nd Stages series, at the DMACC Culinary Institute, also happening later in July.
In addition, DM Metro Opera presents a traveling show to various schools across the state. Known as Opera Iowa, it’s just one of the many outreach programs the organization has to bring opera into as many lives as possible. Along with their OPERAtion Opera program working with many central Iowa social organizations, the DMMO is a leader in bringing the arts to local communities.
Opera is Unique
Carey is especially excited to note something special about the modern Polish opera Wozzeck this season. “Des Moines Metro Opera's production of Wozzeck is directed/designed by an all-female team. Wozzeck features Kristine McIntyre as director, Vita Tzykun as scenic/costume designer, Kate Ashton as lighting designer, Lisa A. Thurrell as choreographer, Gina Cerimele-Mechley as fight director, and Brittany Crinson as wig/makeup designer. To our knowledge, it's the first time a production of Wozzeck has been led by an all-female design team, ever! This is also one of the first all-female design teams in any major opera house in the United States. Especially on such a hyper-masculine show like Wozzeck, it is, unfortunately, a feat that isn't seen often. Hopefully this will lead to more opportunity for female designers and directors in opera.”
DM Metro Opera condenses their primary three-show season, and it’s an intense time for the opera fan but also a great opportunity for the newbie to sample all that’s out there. “One of my favorite things about Des Moines Metro Opera is how diverse of a season you get,” says Carey. “You have the chance to see a beloved classic, a colorful comedy, and a modern drama all in one place in a little over one month.”
The DM Metro Opera season of La Bohème, Candide, and Wozzeck run in repertory beginning this Friday, with all performances at the Pote Theatre in the Blank Performing Center for the Arts on the Simpson campus in Indianola. Specifics about shows and times/dates are listed on the Gentle Guide, and the DMMO website has both schedules and ticket options available. Plus, you can check out their other 2nd Stages offerings and additional events such as lectures about the shows and other special events. There’s even a shuttle service for select shows from Des Moines to Indianola!