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Opera San José's Anna Karenina

SF Opera's Aida (September/October Cast)

Dolora Zajick as Amneris, photo by Cory Weaver * Notes *
The 88th season of San Francisco Opera opened in gaudy splendor with Aida last night. The ostentatious production, designed by Zandra Rhodes and directed by Jo Davies, did not fail to delight. The backstage noise of moving the sets was audible to the audience, and the flow of the masses of people was not always well-motivated. However, the dancing children in the first scene of Act II, and the gymnasts and cloth elephant in the scene that followed were absolutely wonderful. Nicola Luisotti conducted with passion. The low strings had some beautiful moments, specifically, the cello solo in "Ritorna vincitor," the violas during the ballet, and the basses near the end of the opera. The woodwinds were pretty, and the trumpets sounded clear. There were a few synchronization problems with the orchestra and singers, especially in the ensembles. Unsurprisingly, the chorus held together best when they did not have to move and sing at the same time. Adlers David Lomelí and Leah Crocetto both made fine contributions as the Messenger and Priestess, respectively. Crocetto's creamy yet metallic voice cut through from backstage with an eerie effectiveness.

Christian Van Horn (King of Egypt), Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis), and Marco Vratogna (Amonasro) all were appropriate for their roles, both in acting and singing. Vratogna was almost beast-like, his voice is sturdy and he certainly seemed dangerous. On the other hand, Micaela Carosi was rather wooden in the title role. Her voice, while warm and resonant in her lower register, is not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard when she pushes too hard for the top notes. Marcello Giordani was infuriating in the same way, his "Celeste Aida" began ravishingly, but the higher, sustained notes, while powerful, lacked beauty. He also showed fatigue during his duet with Aida in Act III, but pulled it together for the very end, which was lovely. Dolora Zajick dominated the second half of the show, her Amneris was incandescent in Act IV.

* Tattling * 
The opening night crowd was ill-behaved. Three young women in ZZ 112-116 would not stop talking, or posting photographs to Facebook on their mobile devices. Three Francophones behind me in standing room also felt it necessary to talk during the first half of the opera, though managed to be silent for the second half. Rather annoyingly enough, my hairdo disrupted Act II Scene 1, somehow I did not secure it properly and a cascade of flowers fell from my head. I could not stop myself from laughing, out of embarrassment, one imagines.