“Great Scott” departs from the standard American-opera template in one significant way: this is not an adaptation of a well-known novel, play, or film but an original story. A noted American diva named Arden Scott has returned to the Midwestern city where she grew up, and where the local opera house, a struggling outfit called American Opera, is putting on a bel-canto rarity, “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei.” Needless to say, complications ensue: the company struggles to stage the eruption of Vesuvius; an ambitious younger singer moves in on Scott’s territory; and the city’s N.F.L. team, the Grizzlies, aims at winning the Super Bowl the same night.
“Great Scott” was designed as a vehicle for the lustrous mezzo Joyce DiDonato, whose career resembles that of the fictional Scott in more than a few respects.
Scott’s younger rival—a flighty, narcissistic singer named Tatyana Bakst—might remind viewers of one or two headline-grabbing Russian sopranos of the hour. There’s a gym-bunny baritone who removes his shirt at every opportunity—a sendup of the ongoing fad for “barihunks.” McNally’s libretto overflows with such insider jokes and jabs: we see the backstage maneuverings among singers, conductors, chorus members, stagehands, donors, and neglected spouses . . .
He invents plausible pseudo-Donizetti for the opera-within-the-opera, playing to DiDonato’s dual gifts for coloratura agility and lyric repose . . .
“Great Scott” had a shiny first night in the Winspear Opera House, the Dallas Opera’s handsome, resonant home. Jack O’Brien directed with comic flair; Patrick Summers gave the score much-needed forward momentum. DiDonato was in full, bright voice, turning on a dime from slapstick to pathos . . .”
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