The Austin Lyric Opera kicked off its season in its usual grand style last Saturday with an ambitious and successful staging of Don Carlo, the Verdi composition about star-crossed lovers set in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition. The opera is notoriously difficult to put on; in a Facebook post wishing ALO General Director Joseph Specter and company “In bocca al lupo” (basically “good luck”), Metropolitan Opera Radio host Will Berger likened opening the season with it to “beginning your exercise routine by running the Marathon.”
But run the marathon they did, starting with a red carpet procession outside the Long Center. ALO stars and patrons, including Anastasia and Bryan Bourgeois, Hardy and Susan Thompson, Van and Jeanne Hoisington, Brian Kushner and Wendi Kushner, Scott Ballew and Graydon Parrish, entered to the sounds of Margot — An Operatic Quintet and passed champagne for a season-opening cocktail reception and toast upstairs.
Guests then enjoyed a predinner with more toasting, a few words from Specter and conductor Richard Buckley (celebrating his 10th year leading the ALO orchestra) and great conversation from devoted ALO supporters and fans, including Larry Steinman, Cass Haecker, Marilyn McGaffin and Nell and Dean Sanders.
It was a tough act to follow, but ALO’s presentation of the massive spectacle that is Don Carlo — featuring principals James Valenti, Keri Alkema, Michale Chioldi and Peter Volpe — was up to the task. Transitioning from the spectacular performance, guests were treated to an afterparty with the cast before departing back to the everyday world.