In the wake of her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, soprano Ruth Ann Swenson has had to cancel her appearance in the opera's title role. In her place, Irish soprano Majella Cullagh will portray the ill-fated Scottish queen in her first performance on a US opera stage.
Cullagh has been widely praised for her many concert appearances in the British Isles and North America, and her operatic career has taken her from Denmark (as Adina in L'elisir d'amore) to New Zealand (as Massenet's Manon) to the Canary Islands (as Mozart's Fiordiligi) to London's Royal Albert Hall (Musetta in Francesca Zambello's staging of La Bohme). In England, she is especially known for her performances with the highly-regarded Opera North and Grange Park Opera.
A different sort of illness — a "virulent and persistent" respiratory infection — has led tenor Michael Colvin to withdraw from his planned house debut in Dallas as the Earl of Leicester. Replacing him will be Stephen Costello, a young singer performing the role for the first time.
A native of Philadelphia, where he is currently a fourth-year graduate student at the Academy of Vocal Arts, Costello gave his first London recital this past summer at the Wigmore Hall and opened the season at the Op_ra National de Bordeaux this fall as Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore. In 2006 alone, he has won a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and the top prize in the George London Foundation for Singers Competition; in 2007 he'll be making debuts at both New York City Opera (as the Duke in Rigoletto) and the Metropolitan Opera.
Other principals in Dallas Opera's Maria Stuarda — or Mary Queen of Scots, as the company is calling it — include soprano Adina Nitescu (Queen Elizabeth I), baritone James Westman (Talbot) and bass Daniel Borowski (Cecil). The new staging is directed by Stephen Lawless; company music director Graeme Jenkins conducts. The production opens on Friday, January 5, 2007 in the Music Hall at Fair Park; there will be additional performances on January 7 (matinee), 10 and 13. For more information, visit www.dallasopera.org.