“A highway, a Walmart, and one of the most exciting Summer Opera Festivals in United States.” It is the line I often use when questioning friends marvel at my travel plans as we fill our modest backpacks with all essentials and head to Indianola, Iowa, to attend another season at Des Moines Metro Opera. While New York, Chicago, and San Francisco do feature prominently in our yearly operatic calendar, Des Moines is slowly beginning to attain similar importance to your friends at newoutpost, due solely for its fine musical profile and exciting programing. Traveling to Indianola is certainly not an experience one would suffer if not for DMMO. Following this fourth visit, we can honestly state with some authority that there’s truly not a lot going on in Indianola. The lodging options are minimal, and if you cannot withstand the offerings of what must be some of the saltiest Mexican food to be found in the Midwest, gas station pizza may end up being the next best thing. One imagines Indianola as a perfect location for a remake of Stephen King’s classic “Children of the Corn” after a casual morning stroll through the deserted town square, and for the standard city dweller it takes a bit to adjust. While a pilgrimage to DMMO may be low on glamour, it makes a special call to the operatic nomad not afraid to rough the conditions to experience some of the greatest opera one could hope for from a regional company in the United States, and this is exactly what DMMO manages to present. The brain child of Dr. Robert L. Larsen, the company has made a name for itself by featuring some of the most exciting singers in the country, and paired them with the most promising young talent via its excellent apprentice artist program. At a time when regional companies are either folding or compromising their programing, this courageous company is anything but thriving, all the while propelling each festival season through bold and exciting repertoire which more established companies would struggle to present. Now in its 43rd season, the company presented another crackling lineup: Puccini’s rare gem La Fanciulla del West, Mozart’s delightful Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, and Janacek’s searing Jenufa. Spoiler alert: This may rank as one of the company’s most solid seasons to date.
Projection upon the grounds of the Blank Performance Arts Center at night. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
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