* Notes *
Another Summer of the Merola Opera Program ended with this year's Grand Finale last night at the War Memorial Opera House. Ragnar Conde's staging for the performance was ornate, and the set used was one from Turandot, designed by David Hockney. The costumes were the usual tuxedos and evening gowns, the latter often in a palette of jewel tones ranging from sapphire to pink tourmaline. The dresses were all flattering, which was a nice change from some costume choices at other Merola performances this year. Johannes Debus conducted the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, occasionally the volume of the musicians in the pit overwhelmed the singers. There were also a few synchronization problems. It was nice to hear the overture to Rossini's Semiramide, and the brass was particularly lovely.
"Andiam, fidi, al consiglio...Invida sorte avara" from Ariodante was beautifully sung by Philippe Sly as Il Rè and Daniel Curran as Odoardo. Robert Mollicone's harpsichord playing was pretty here as well. The excerpt from Lucrezia Borgia sung by Renée Rapier (Orsini) and Heath Huberg (Gennaro) that followed was more awkward. Maybe part of the problem was the fussy stage direction, which involved nervous packing and fringed scarves. The first half of the performance did end on a high point, with Jonathan Michie singing "Batter my heart" from Dr. Atomic. Michie was completely convincing, his diction clear, and his voice has warmth and heft.
Ragnar Conde's humor worked well for the staging of "Ich gehe doch rate ich dir" from Entführung, Suzanne Rigden was spunky as Blonde and Peixin Chen a loveable buffoon as Osmin. Another highlight of the evening was "Das war sehr gut Mandryka" from Arabella, with Marina Boudart Harris (Arabella) and John Maynard (Mandryka). Boudart Harris sang imposingly, and without strain. Maynard gamely supported her with his pleasant sound. The last piece of the evening, "O che muso" from L'Italiana in Algeri, was very funny. Everyone eventually came out on stage, including the apprentice coaches, who all seemed to be singing in the chorus. The staging included much choreography, and many parasols were opened and closed. At times it seemed like chaos, but considering the text, it was not inappropriate. Philippe Sly was hilarious as Mustafà, as was Cooper Nolan as Lindoro. Suzanne Rigden managed to be a mousy Elvira, never upstaging Renée Rapier's sassy Isabella. Rapier's full, round sound was marvelous, her timbre is even throughout the ranges of her voice.
* Tattling *
Some light talking was heard when no one was singing on stage. The person in Row O Seat 105 chose to unwrap something during most of "Bel raggio lusinghier" from Semiramide.