* Notes *
Francesca Zambello's production of Siegfried (pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) opened today at San Francisco Opera. Though this opera is nearly 4 hours of music, it breezed by this afternoon. The orchestra was luminious under Donald Runnicles. The brass was warm with only a bit of haziness, and most of the horn calls were clear and lovely. The woodwinds sounded gorgeous, especially the clarinet. The orchestra did seem to overwhelm the singing at times, but it was hard to care too much about this since the playing was so pretty.
The singing was solid. David Cangelosi was perfect for Mime. His voice is bright, and he was both slippery and sniveling. He was able to cartwheel, somersault, and dance. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) has a rich voice with a good deal of vibrato. Daniel Sumegi was a grave Fafner. He was gravelly at times, but it worked for the role. Stacey Tappan was charming as the Woodbird, her movements were bird-like, as is her voice. Ronnita Miller was a determined Erda, the top of her voice shines, and the bottom has an attractive warmth.
Mark Delavan was fine as the Wanderer, though perhaps light. He was more detached than in Die Walküre, as is suitable. He was funny in the first act, somewhat mocking in the second, and even menacing in the third. Nina Stemme was brilliant as Brünnhilde, her first lines in Act III were particularly evocative. In the title role, Jay Hunter Morris paced himself carefully. There were times when he seemed somewhat quiet, but he never came off as harsh. His Siegfried was youthful but not childish.
At the very least, the innocuous production did not get in the way of the music. Jan Hartley's heavy-handed projections lacked aesthetic cohesion, and the ones used during the Act III overture were ridiculous. Michael Yeargan's sets were quiet and benign. At times the approach was brutal, as with the Woodbird. She simply appeared as a studious young lady who used a lot of hand gestures, even after Siegfried could understand her language. Zambello handled the dragon amusingly, using a huge trash compactor robot to good effect. In general, the humor of Siegfried came through, and one could not fault Zambello for being boring.
* Tattling *
The audience in the balcony seemed silent enough. There was some whispering, but no electronic noise. Axel Feldheim was, as usual, an ideal opera companion. During the ovation, we saw that SF Mike had joined us, and together we met Patrick Vaz at the stage door.
I helped the SF Opera Guild with tea and coffee service for the musicians, and did standing room in balcony. This meant I ran up and down the stairs of the War Memorial 4 times.