The Diving Bell

The Diving Bell

The Dallas Opera is back! It’s about to become the first company in America to be on stage again,

with the topflight troupe that brought us Everest—composer Joby Talbot, librettist Gene Scheer, and director Leonard Foglia—in a new work called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

“This is the team I love to dance with,” says Elaine McCarthy, a genius of projections who makes all things new, exciting, and every inch today.

 There’s not a whiff of yesteryear about McCarthy, unless BY LEE CULLUM The Diving Bell and the Butterfly emerges this spring at The Dallas Opera.

it’s the 1790 house in Norwalk, CT she and her family have been restoring for 17 years.

Indeed, McCarthy’s astonishing augmentation of the set did much to make Everest

and Moby Dick such breakthrough successes, performed many times after their premiere in Dallas— unusual for new operas.

 “They trust me,” she confides in a telephone interview. I suspect that means she can pretty much do what she wants.

Though not entirely, not this time, Foglia tells me, also by phone, from his Virginia home in the Shenandoah mountains, west of Washington.

“I wanted to create it at this moment as a teaser, a preview of what the production would be” without the constraints of COVID.

Ever and above all else theatrical, Foglia has fantastic material to work with in Diving Bell.

Like Everest, Talbot explains, speaking from London where he spends the part of the year he’s not at his place in Oregon,

this latest venture “is about big things…that can happen: life, death, love, happiness.”

“The story has music in it,” Scheer averred after they both saw the movie by Julian Schnabel and then read the book by JeanDominique Bauby.

That is where Foglia’s flair for drama comes in.

Jean-Do, played by baritone Lucas Meachem, is bedridden or in a wheelchair when we meet him, felled by a stroke at 44,

when he was riding high as a celebrated journalist editing Elle magazine in Paris.

Deprived of speech and movement except for his left eyelid, Jean-Do uses that eyelid to dictate the book on which this opera is based,

blinking at each letter he wants to use so Claude, a ghostwriter, can take down the text.

This they do—or, actually, did—four hours a day for ten months.

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