* Notes *
Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) had its first performance at San Francisco Opera last night. The co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Royal Opera, Convent Garden is rather sparse, not unlike the music itself. The action takes place in a black box and the costumes likewise black, all quite simple. The unadorned staging was suitable, and might have been highly effective were it not for Philippe Giraudeau's exaggerated choreography. The chorus was consigned to the orchestra pit as dancers pantomimed of what had happened thus far to the House of Atreus.
The production is bizarre in other ways as well, the dancers ran around and wrote the names on the walls and floor, only to erase them later with water. The walls poured water, the resulting puddles on the black floor looked more urinous than bloody. The deus ex machina was not represented on stage, but Diane sang in the Grand Tier, which could work for those in the orchestra and boxes, but must have been strange for those around and above her.
The only weak singer was Mark S. Doss as the villain Thoas. He sounded as if he was being strangled. The rest of the singing was incredible, especially Susan Graham in the title role and Bo Skovhus as Oreste. The latter was slightly awkward in his carriage, but dealt well with being tossed around by dancers, he was lifted and made to walk on the walls. Paul Groves (Pylade) sang beautifully as well, though at points the orchestra overwhelmed him.
* Tattling *
The audience was well-behaved, perhaps because it was the opening of an opera not in the standard repertory. Some concupiscent gazes were noted and there was late seating in the boxes, but nothing disruptive. It was rather strange when people craned their necks to see Diane in the audience.