Exclusive: DMMO’s 50th Anniversary Lineup Dazzles

Singers interact with hand-drawn animated figures and scenery in a new projection-based production of “The Magic Flute,” which Des Moines Metro Opera will perform in Des Moines March 5-6 to launch its 50th anniversary season. Photo: Iko Freese

Writer: Christine Riccelli

Mark your 2022 calendar now, in ink, for Des Moines Metro Opera’s dynamic 50th anniversary season. Led by visionary general and artistic director Michael Egel, DMMO promises to once again exceed expectations, this time with artistic initiatives and a blockbuster lineup that not only will wow audiences but also undoubtedly draw international acclaim to the Indianola-based company.

What’s more, DMMO is kicking off the public phase of a $15 million endowment campaign, with $12.7 million already raised from the silent phase. Egel attributes the campaign’s impressive success so far to the fact that the pandemic has highlighted the need for arts organizations to be sustainable in the long term, as well as to the loyalty DMMO has built among its patrons and supporters over the past 50 years.

DMMO will launch the 50th anniversary celebration in Des Moines March 5-6 with a family-friendly, technicolor production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at the Civic Center. Accompanied by the Des Moines Symphony, the new production merges opera and animation, with silent film-style projections that interact with the singers. “The animation unfurls around the performers,” Egel told dsm, noting that Des Moines is the first market of its size to land the production. (It’s being performed in such cities as Chicago and Montreal.) “It brings a technological experience into a live storytelling format.”

The ambitious 50th anniversary season will continue with the Summer Festival July 1-24 at Blank Performing Arts Center in Indianola:

  • George and Ira Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” which Egel calls “the greatest American opera of all time,” will have its Iowa premiere July 1. Des Moines-based global superstar Simon Estes—who has performed in “Porgy and Bess” on four continents—will serve as the show’s producing adviser and will also sing the role of the lawyer Frazier. “We wanted to celebrate Simon’s career in a way that honors him,” Egel says, adding that next year marks the 40th anniversary of Estes’ historic debut at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” based on Shakespeare’s popular comedy, will open July 2 and star John Holiday, a renowned countertenor who previously performed with DMMO, and soprano Sydney Mancasola.
  • The world premiere of “A Thousand Acres,” a new $1 million production DMMO commissioned, will debut July 9. Based on the 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley, the work reimagines Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” with the setting in rural Iowa in the 1980s. Read more about the groundbreaking commission in this dsm story.

For its 2nd Stages Series, DMMO will present the new opera “American Apollo,” which explores the untold story of the personal relationship between famous portraitist John Singer Sargent and the artist’s Black model and muse, Thomas Eugene McKeller. Presented in collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center and Pyramid Theatre Company, the show will be performed July 20-23 at the Art Center.

Tickets for “The Magic Flute” go on sale Oct. 1; for the Summer Festival, tickets will be available starting in early 2022.

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