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November 2008
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January 2009

Three Decembers

3-decembers   * Notes *
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers was presented by Cal Performances and San Francisco Opera last night. This chamber opera involves just three singers and less than a dozen musicians, including two pianos played by the composer himself and the conductor, Patrick Summers. The work is unchallenging, the arias sound not unlike numbers in a musical. The evening went well, though there were synchronization issues between singers and musicians near the beginning. Interestingly, the orchestra was upstage, behind the singers.

The singing and acting was all quite fine. Soprano Kristin Clayton (Beatrice) had a lovely iciness to her voice, in contrast to baritone Keith Phares (Charlie), whose tones were smooth and warm. Their duet at the end of Act I was lovely. Frederica von Stade embodied her part as the actress and absent mother Madeline. Her voice, though shaky at times, was very effective.

The pacing of this work was good, not utterly glacial and boring as some new operas can be. Gene Scheer's libretto could have been entirely sappy, but somehow managed not to be. The staging, directed by Leonard Foglia, was artful and simple for the most part. The years projected on the scrim to set the various scenes seemed unnecessary.

* Tattling * 
Zellerbach Hall was not at all full, and there were only a few latecomers. There was some talking during the first half, but otherwise the audience was quite silent.

I must have been looking particularly characteristic of the Opera Tattler, for I was recognized and greeted by both the Chronicle's classical music critic and the General Director of San Francisco Opera.

Adler Fellows Gala Concert 2008

  * Notes *
The Adler Fellows Gala Concert last night was rather Germanic, there were no arias from Verdi or Puccini at all, though the evening started with the overture from Les vêpres siciliennes. Andrew Bidlack was drowned out by the orchestra during Capriccio's "Verraten hab ich meine Gefühle," though Tamara Wapinsky sang well and was perfectly audible. Bidlack was better in "Now you have seen her" from Gordon Getty's Usher House, the sweetness of his voice came through. Kenneth Kellogg sounded fine as well, as usual.

Heidi Melton and Daveda Karanas both have stunning voices, though I found the choice of "Weh, ach wehe, dies zu dulden" from Tristan und Isolde a bit boring. Melton has good volume and a lovely creaminess, she did have a bit of strain in her higher register, especially for the first high note. The pleasantly metallic sound of Karanas was a good foil for Melton. Katharine Tier did not hit the high note in "Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse," though her low notes were beautiful. Likewise, "D'Oreste, d'Ajace" seemed inappropriate for Tamara Wapinsky, the role did not sit well in her voice.

The second half of the concert was better. Ji Young Yang twittered prettily through Act III, Scenes 4 and 5 of Semele with Alek Shrader. Though he was not perfectly with the orchestra, Shrader's voice is strong. Daniela Mack sounded wonderful as Cendrillon when she sang "Ma pauvre enfant chérie!" with Kenneth Kellogg. The evening ended with "Mein Gott! Es war nicht mehr als ein Farce" from Der Rosenkavalier. Heidi Melton was a dignifed Marschallin, Katharine Tier was a bit difficult to hear at times as Octavian. Ji Young Yang (Sophie) and Kenneth Kellogg (Faninal) were perfectly delightful.

* Tattling * 
There was a fair amount of talking and rustling of programs. Many people arrived late.

2nd Cast of La Bohème at SF Opera

  * Notes *
This second cast of San Francisco Opera's current production of La Bohème is impressive. For one thing, the youthfulness of the singers certainly was fitting for the roles, no one looked out of place in that regard. Brian Leerhuber was the only one of the Bohemians in both casts, and he seemed comfortable with this new set of singers Leerhuber has good comic timing, and he was particularly good in the Act IV quartet. Kenneth Kellogg (Colline) was just a bit more stiff, but he sang well, especially in "Vecchia zimarra." Tamara Wapinsky was rather loud as Musetta, something about her vibrato pains me. Her acting was strong, and her voice is better than Norah Amsellem's, with whom she shared this role. As Marcello, Brian Mulligan played off of Tamara nicely. He has a fine voice, very pleasant. Marius Brenciu was completely convincing as Rodolfo. His bright voice had volume without sounding strained. Maija Kovalevska also turned out a lovely performance, her Mimì was very flirtatious and a touch too robust in the beginning. Kovalevska sounded less pretty and less delicate than either Angela Gheorghiu or Melody Moore, but her voice had better volume and resonance than Gheorghiu, and her acting was superior to Moore's.
Conductor Giuseppe Finzi's tempi were fairly speedy, and there were a few moments in the first half when the singers and orchestra were not together.

* Tattling * 
The house looked completely full, even standing room looked crowded. People talked quite a bit. A woman in Box U spoke loudly during Musetta's Act II waltz, "Quando me n'vò," possibly alerting her companion to the importance the aria. Either that or she was noting that it was an important aria for Ms. Wapinsky.

The usual watch alarms were heard, in addition to some humming.

Melody Moore in La Bohème

Melody-moore   * Notes *
The eighth performance of San Francisco Opera's La Bohème starred Melody Moore instead of Angela Gheorghiu as Mimì. Ms. Moore sounded lovely, her voice is warmer than Gheorghiu's, and louder, but also has the necessary delicacy. Her voice blended beautifully with Piotr Beczala's, especially during "Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!" However, Moore seems somewhat uncomfortable in her own skin, her acting was less than convincing

The balance between singers was improved, no one stuck out as being underpowered. OperaVision was actually pretty compelling, I did like being able to see details that would have been otherwise lost from so far away.

* Tattling * 
The young couple in L 5 and 7 of the balcony were particularly ill-behaved. Not only did they cough, sneeze, and talk, they also shared some messages on a Blackberry, which they need to discuss 5 minutes before the end of Act III. Thank goodness we were in standing room and could just move to the north side of the building, where it was quieter.