Librettist Terence McNally has contended that Great Scott should not be classified as a comic opera, and indeed the issues of opera's place in American culture, and that of the arts more generally, are lurking about here. But there's no getting around the fact that the work is funny, belly-laugh funny, and not just you-know-you're-supposed-to-laugh-here funny, and composer Jake Heggie has set up the best lines with an exquisite touch. Moreover, the contrast with the pair's previous collaboration, Dead Man Walking (2000), is inescapable. Great Scott is mezzo soprano Ardis Scott, returning to perform with the American Opera company that helped launch her career. The company is struggling but is kept afloat by the opera-enthusiast wife of the owner of the local professional football team, giving rise to such risible details as showing the score of the game on the supertitles screen along with the text. Scott (Joyce DiDonato, in superb form, and her fans will want this release regardless of any other issues) has brought along a rediscovered bel canto opera called Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei, and the story follows the opera's premier production. This sets up all kinds of lively scenes, allowing Heggie to allude to actual bel canto, McNally to build delightful romantic triangles, and both of the pair to evoke the backstage atmosphere they know better than almost anyone else. You might sample the opening overture, something which is rare enough in contemporary opera. All the principals are delightful, especially Frederica von Stade as the patron of the arts, and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Dallas Opera under Patrick Summers keep things moving. This recording was made during four live performances in the opera's initial run; you could probably find cleaner live recordings, but few that convey the audience's evident enjoyment of the music. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2