Saturday, January 17, 2009

George Steel headed for NYC Opera

Source: Dallas Morning News.

Eyebrows rose last summer when the Dallas Opera named George Steel its new general director.

Oh, sure, the opera board was proud of landing a "star" from New York.

And there was boo-hooing in the New York media at the loss of one of the artsy crowd's darlings, acclaimed for 11 years of imaginative programming at Columbia University's Miller Theatre.

But with the Dallas Opera facing daunting financial challenges with its impending move to the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Winspear Opera House, savvy operaphiles wondered why Dallas was hiring someone who had never run an opera company. And it wasn't long after Steel's arrival here, in October, that whispers of discontent became a crescendo of complaint.

Then, on Wednesday, came confirmation of what had been rumored for the last month: Steel is leaving at the end of January to take over the New York City Opera.

Abuzz with gossip for weeks, opera blogs have gone nuclear over the news. (If you don't mind some adult language, check

Whatever his gifts, and the good intentions of the Dallas Opera board, George Steel was miscast here.

He was right to advocate more adventurous programming. For a company with a history of imaginative offerings in decades past, the Dallas Opera has gone bland in recent years. The 2008-09 season is about as daring as macaroni and cheese.

But, in a challenging economy, when audiences hesitate to take chances on anything but sure bets, Steel was making noises about booking really obscure French operas and Leonard Bernstein's generally dismissed A Quiet Place.