Opera may be making inroads in Las Vegas

Dominick Sabatino made it clear during his recent University of Las Vegas, Nevada Forum Series presentation that he thinks Sin City has a dismal opera scene. He’s hoping to start a company here, but he’s not sure he can get the backing.

The Forum show suggested a Sabatino company might be a good idea. The 90-minute "A Night at the Italian Opera" at Doc Rando Hall was an exhilarating experience: nine singers (some out-of-towners), four onstage musicians and a sampling of some of the most beautiful music ever written. Opera may be the one art that sounds the most "different" when heard live. Being in the same room while someone such as tenor Dante Fiore injects such fire into Puccini is an experience that can’t be matched by any recording.

As master-of-ceremonies, Sabatino made sure the music was easy to follow. He gave short, amusing histories of each selection (popular things such as "La Tosca," "Il Trovatore" and "Girl of the Golden West") and provided some written lyric translations.

The man’s in-between song patter made it plain that the four-year local resident (and former New Yorker) doesn’t back away from controversy. He was very descriptive in his denunciation of the local opera scene ("I have been insulted by the performance level") and issued a strong challenge to Andrew Lloyd Webber. After claiming that Webber stole "Phantom of the Opera" from Puccini, Sabatino noted, "I’ve been saying that for years, and he hasn’t sued me yet."

Sabatino is entertainingly arrogant. He helps make opera feel grounded.

"I love this art form," he says. "It is the only one that truly gives me satisfaction." Look for him to do more here. …

Charles O’Connor, the chair and executive director of UNLV’s theater department and the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, has announced he’s leaving at the end of the academic year. He’s accepted the position of dean of the College of Visual Performing Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. …

American Theatre magazine reports that playhouses across the country are coming up with ingenious ways to sell tickets. San Diego’s The Sledgehammer, for instance, is offering as many repeat viewings as a customer likes for the price of one admission. Chicago’s Neo-Futurists is featuring a $7 tab plus the roll of a single six-sided die. Chicago’s Theater Oobleck is a champion of the pay-what-you-can policy. A spokesman there said it’s curious how many people wind up donating more than what would be the standard admission price. Yet, the policy allows those who truly can’t afford it to experience theater anyway.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.


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