* Notes *
The 27th season of Opera San José opened with the West Coast premiere of David Carlson's Anna Karenina yesterday evening. The libretto, written by Colin Graham, packed a lot of narrative into less than three hours. It felt a bit like hearing the Cliff Notes to Tolstoy's novel set to music as we moved through key plot points at breakneck speed. Perhaps the librettist and composer wanted to stay so true to Tolstoy's story they may have lost sight of the dramatic aspects of the operatic form. The music itself was pretty, constantly in motion, evoking waves or other watery imagery and textures. There was much repetition, and the music was consistent regardless of the text, with the exception of Anna's death. The orchestra, under the baton of Stewart Robertson, played with clarity and never overwhelmed the singers.
The singing was uniformly fine. Kindra Scharich stood out in the small role of Countess Lydia Ivanova, her voice is warm and lovely. Christopher Bengochea (Stiva Oblonsky) and Michael Dailey (Konstantin Levin) also offered strong performances. Krassen Karagiozov was not quite dashing enough as Vronsky, but he did sing nicely. Jasmina Halimic made a pretty Anna, and she did sound very sweet. There were a few times when she gasped or cracked slightly. Karenin seemed the most fleshed out character, his motivations were clear, and Kirk Eichelberger portrayed him beautifully.
Brad Dalton's production is impressive. Everything came together perfectly, and without looking overworked or effortful. The choreography, from Lise La Cour, was smooth and looked natural on all the singers, dancers, and supernumeraries. Steven C. Kemp's sets are sleek, simple, but still descriptive, and were lit elegantly by Kent Dorsey. Some of the painted backdrops were particularly gorgeous. Elizabeth Pointdexter's costumes looked in keeping with the novel, as did the wigs and makeup from Jeanna Parham.
* Tattling *
On the whole, the patrons of Opera San José were excited and supportive. There was some light talking, and some quiet snoring. Both were easy to overlook. The opera received a standing ovation.