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January 2007
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March 2007

Simon Boccanegra at the Met

Simon Boccanegra* Notes *
Giancarlo del Monaco's current production of Simon Boccanegra at the Met is traditional, the set and costumes, by Michael Scott, are lavish and exceedingly beautiful. The one weakness was the scene changes, some took a long time and people would start chattering and momentum was lost. Even still, Fabio Luisi had a fine handle on the music, the tempi were good. Angela Gheorghiu cut a fine figure as Amelia, her voice is precise, her tones silvery. Tenor Marcello Giordani strained somewhat as Gabriele, but was not bad. Thomas Hampson was convincing in the title role, his voice is warm and pleasing, but most impressive was bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco. The acting was all splendid, everyone fit their parts and nothing was out of place.

* Tattling *
There was some chatter but it subsided by the second half, except during the aforementioned scene changes. There were some cellular phone rings and watch alarms that went off as well.

The Passionate Violin

Victoria_mullova* Notes *
Viktoria Mullova played Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra from February 8-11, 2007. The Saturday performance in Berkeley sold-out. Mullova's playing was fast and raw, at times she seemed out of tune. As for the orchestra, they could have been slightly more legato. I must admit, the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable, but the audience adored Mullova.

PBO also played Weber's Symphony No. 2 in C major and Haydn's Symphony No. 104 in D major. Both were tuneful and very pretty, I felt they were played better than the Beethoven.

* Tattling *
There was a terrible mishap with seating, one ticket was sold twice, which was rather annoying.

There also was a small child behind me who moved and made noises with her jacket zipper. Both her parents talked during the music, perhaps in an effort to make her sit still. At the end of the performance, an usher congratulated her parents on the child's good behavior. She did not talk, nor did she fall asleep.


* Notes *
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! was at Cal Performances for two nights on February 8 and 9, 2007. Both performances sold-out. The panelists were Sue Ellicott, Adam Felber, and Paula Poundstone. I attended the second show, which isn't the regular news quiz, but is on history, and will be aired when the show goes on hiatus.

Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell were both as charming as they are on the air. The special guest was Linda Ronstadt, and she was funnier than one might expect, though she did ramble on a few times.

* Tattling *
No cellular phones rang, as we were implored to turn them off before the taping began. There was no intermission, and it was very interesting to hear the differences from this live performance versus the edited 50 minute broadcast.

Pocket Opera's Martha

Martha* Notes *
Pocket Opera's 30th season opened yesterday with Friedrich von Flotow's Martha. This company presents opera in English translation with a narrator, a small cast, and a refreshing unpretentiousness. Donald Pippin, the founder and artistic director of Pocket Opera, does all the translations, narrations, and plays piano accompaniment. For Martha, he lead the 8 others in the ensemble of strings and woodwinds.

There were only 13 singers, all of whom were competent. As the Florence Gould Theater is rather small, with only 316 seats, volume was not an issue. Marcelle Dronkers wasn't terribly impressive in the title role, but she did have her moments. Tenor Brian Thorsett sang Lionel sweetly, though his diction could be improved. His voice is lovely, but he doesn't seem grounded in his body somehow. Julia Ulehla made a pretty Nancy, and her voice was nice despite some of her unclear arpeggios.

Perhaps the weakest part of the production was Willa Anderson's costuming, especially in the very first scene. The dresses the ladies wore looked like random prom gowns from the 1980's. Also, the hairstyling could have been improved. Dronkers' bangs and side-ponytail were not becoming to the role.

* Tattling *
The photographer's camera was somewhat loud as he took pictures, but this was nothing compared to the cellular phone that rang at least 10 times during Act IV.