* Notes *
Die Walküre had a stunning opening last night at San Francisco Opera. There was never a dull moment from the orchestra pit, and Donald Runnicles kept the tempi apace, and rarely overwhelmed the singers. There were some notes that were out of tune or not perfectly clear from the brass, but for the most part, the sound was warm and full. The singing was intensely beautiful. The Walküren included many current and former Adlers and Merolini: Maya Lahyani (Siegrune), Tamara Wapinsky (Helmwige), Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gerhilde), Daveda Karanas (Waltraute), Suzanne Hendrix (Schwertleite). Joined by Priti Gandhi (Rossweise), Pamela Dillard (Grimgerde), and Molly Fillmore (Ortlinde), they sounded hearty.
Raymond Aceto was a mean little bully as Hunding, perfectly appropriate for the role, he did not sound heroic at all and was very believable. Janina Baechle likewise filled the role of Fricka rather perfectly. Mark Delavan did well as Wotan, his voice is pretty, though perhaps slightly light. Christopher Ventris sang Siegmund with conviction, and sounded lovely with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. Ventris sounded somewhat ragged by the end of Act I, but sang Act II gorgeously. Westbroek had a lot of power, and very little strain. Nina Stemme was also incredible, she has a wonderful control of her voice, and her timbre is pleasing.
Francesca Zambello's production, on the other hand, was at best inoffensive. The projections, designed by Jan Hartley, started off with a watery screen saver and then took a turn toward The Blair Witch Project. The repeated use of lightning was painfully cliché. The sets, from Michael Yeargan, are serviceable enough. The first scene was exceedingly predictable, one could see right away that the front of the house would lift up and the sides would come apart. The second half of Act II looked very familiar, I believe Bayreuth's current Ring has a freeway scene as well. The third act was a crowd pleaser, and while I enjoyed the absurdity and theatrics of parachuting Walküren, it did not seem appropriate to distract from the orchestra at this point in the music.
* Tattling *
The audience was fairly attentive, though the women in Row T Seats 5 and 7 of the Orchestra Level spoke at two points during Act II, both times when the orchestra was playing. They did not return for Act III. There were some watch alarms at each hour, but they were not close to me, and I could barely hear them. There was an electronic sound, either a phone, watch, or hearing aid, that intoned a noise as Siegmund sang about the circumstances of how he lost his weapons. There were also shrill noises during when Siegmund sings about Sieglinde ("Ist es der Blick der blühenden Frau"). I could not tell if they were coming from the stage or behind it.
John Marcher was kind enough to take me to this performance, and we happened to sit next to Lisa Hirsch, who has, charmingly enough, tattled on herself. SFMike was seen at the intermissions, as were many others.