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February 2012

Salome at San Diego Opera


* Notes * 
Yesterday evening's opening performance of the 2012 season at San Diego Opera was Salome. Seán Curran's production (pictured left with Irina Mishura as Herodias and Lise Lindstrom as Salome, photograph by Ken Howard) was seen in San Francisco two years ago, with the same sets and costumes designed by Bruno Schwengl, and elegant lighting by Christopher Maravich. There were some differences from the earlier performances in 2009, most notably in Salome's dance. The San Diego version sounded strong, the orchestra seemed restrained under Steuart Bedford, the brass only a bit ragged.

The principals were all impressive. Sean Panikkar sang Narraboth with a painful loveliness. Greer Grimsley gave a powerful performance as Jochanaan. Allan Glassman acted and sang the role of Herodes with complete conviction. As Herodias, Irina Mishura was both visually and vocally complementary to Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Lindstrom was viscerally disturbing, with devastatingly gorgeous high notes. Her movements were rather girlish, and her dancing, aside from a slight awkwardness with her second veil, was graceful.

* Tattling * 
There was some limited whispering from the audience. Two chirps were heard when Salome was singing without much accompanying orchestration.

Richard Egarr conducts PBO


* Notes *
Harpsichordist Richard Egarr (pictured left, photograph by Marco Borggreve) is currently conducting Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in a program entitled "Masters of the English Baroque." The performance last night in San Francisco started with Händel's Symphony from Saul. The concertmaster and the first oboe played well together in the Larghetto. The oboe solo in the Allegro seemed quite difficult. Egarr addressed the audience a good deal after the opening work, happily claiming Händel as English and introducing the second piece, Locke's Music from The Tempest. We were told the music had a "touch of the Monty Pythons" and was like "Stravinsky gone wrong." The music was rather descriptive, being rather stormy at beginning and end, more lilting in the middle. The dynamics employed were dramatic. Before intermission came Purcell's Suite from The Fairy Queen, which Egarr described as his "favorite bits from the show." The playing was utterly delightful, the dances especially vivid without being overly springy. The oboe duet was charming and remincent of birdsong.

The second half of the program started with Arne's Concerto for Harpsichord No. 5 in G minor. Egarr's playing was deft and it is always interesting to watch a soloist both play and conduct. As the harpsichord was placed perpendicular to the stage for Lawes' Consort Sett in Six Parts No. VII in C major, Egarr admitted the piece was for 6 gambas rather than violins, violas, and celli. The playing was together and clear. We ended with Händel's Concerto Grosso Op. 3, No. 5 in D minor, HWV 316 followed by "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Solomon.

* Tattling *
PBO's new executive director, Michael Costa, appeared on stage before the performance to inform us someone's wallet had been found and requested that all electronic devices be silenced. The audience was more or less quiet, only a few murmurs were heard.

Casting Change for the Met's Enchanted Island


Anthony Roth Costanzo (pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard), who has been singing Ferdinand in the Metropolitan Opera's The Enchanted Island this season, will replace David Daniels as Prospero in tomorrow's performance of that opera. Jeffrey Mandelbaum will in turn replace Costanzo as Ferdinand. Daniels, who is ill, was also replaced for part of the January 12 performance, and all of the January 14 performance.

Ensemble Parallèle's Great Gatsby Preview


* Notes *
A sneak preview of Ensemble Parallèle's next production, The Great Gatsby, was held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music last week. Conductor Nicole Paiement took us through several musical examples with pianist Keisuke Nakogoshi and six of the cast members. Susannah Biller (pictured above as Daisy Buchanan, photograph by Rapt), Jason Detwiler (Nick Carraway), Marco Panuccio (Jay Gatsby), Erin Neff (Myrtle Wilson), Daniel Snyder (Tom Buchannan), and Julienne Walker (Jordan Baker) looked and sounded utterly comfortable, despite the fact that rehearsals had only started the day before.

Jacques Desjardins, who has re-orchestrated John Harbison's work for chamber orchestra, was on hand to speak about the challenges of this undertaking. The number of musicians has been taken from 120 down to 30. The music is brass heavy, and Desjardins has had to use woodwinds to make up for this in the chamber version. The harp part also presented an interesting problem, as the sound of the instrument is so particular.

Director Brian Staufenbiel also gave us a glimpse of the set design and the concepts behind some of the stage elements. His style seems to be stylized rather than descriptive. One does look forward to seeing and hearing the piece. Three performances are presented between Friday, February 10 to Sunday, February 12 at the Novellus Theatre, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

* Tattling *
There was light talking and some electronic noise.

Enchanted Island Live in HD Met Simulcast


 * Notes *
The Metropolatian Opera's new Baroque pastiche, The Enchanted Island, was shown as a simulcast yesterday. The English libretto, created by Jeremy Sams, uses characters from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Tempest. "Arise, ye subterranean winds" from The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island, which has been attributed to Purcell, was the only piece from this work. The score starts off with the overture from Alcina, and employs 26 other pieces by Händel, the majority of these from his operas and oratorios. The rest of the music is mostly Vivaldi and Rameau. Arias from André Campra's Idoménée and Jean-Marie Leclair's Scylla et Glaucus were included, along with dance music from Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Éléments, and a cantata from Giovanni Battista Ferrandini. It was a rather entertaining spectacle, and the music held together fairly well. I was disoriented at times by pieces I knew, as they had such different texts, but it was not unpleasant as much as vaguely dizzying.

Phelim McDermott's production has a lot of charm, in no small part because of the detailed set by Julian Crouch. The proscenium reminded me of H. R. Giger or Steampunk, and some of the projections used were rather ornate. Though some of the trees and roots looked inelegantly bulbous, overall, the aesthetic sense was consistent and attractive.

The orchestra sounded clean and speedy under William Christie. There were times when the singers were slightly behind. The quartet "Days of pleasure, nights of love" in Act I sounded somewhat chaotic, though all the singers had lovely voices. Luca Pisaroni made for a light, reedy Caliban, his lightly accented English was perfectly comprehensible. Plácido Domingo made two stunning entrances as Neptune, but his diction was less than clear. Anthony Roth Costanzo's Ferdinand sounded bright and winsome. Lisette Oropesa's Miranda was likewise pretty and mincing. Danielle de Niese acted Ariel with utter conviction, sprightly and breathy. David Daniels was strong as Prospero, and seemed as robust as ever. Joyce DiDonato (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard) was splendid as Sycorax, her voice nimble, but she seemed unafraid to create ugly sounds when necessary.

* Tattling *
The placement of one of the microphones picked up the sound of objects striking the stage all too clearly on at least three occasions.

Dallas Opera's 2012-2013 Season

October 26- November 11 2012: Aïda
April 5-21 2013: Turandot
April 12-28 2013: The Aspern Papers

Only 3 operas next season, down from 6 in 2011-2012. Latonia Moore sings the title role of Aïda, Lise Lindstrom the title role of Turandot, and Susan Graham has her Dallas Opera debut opposite Carol Vaness in Dominick Argento's The Aspern Papers.

2012-2013 Season | Official Site

Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2012-2013 Season

October 6-30 2012: Elektra
October 15 - November 9 2012: Simon Boccanegra
November 11-26 2012: Werther
November 25- December 15 2012: Don Pasquale
December 7 2012-January 19 2013: Hansel and Gretel
January 21- March 28 2013: La bohème
February 8- March 3 2013: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
February 25- March 30 2013: Rigoletto
March 26- April 6 2013: A Streetcar Named Desire

Anthony Freud announced Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2012-2013 season yesterday.

Press Release | Official Site

SF Opera's 2012-2013 Season

September 7-30 2012: Rigoletto
September 29- October 19 2012 I Capuleti e i Montecchi
October 10- November 2 2012: Moby-Dick
October 20- November 9 2012: Lohengrin
November 15- December 2 2012: Tosca
March 1-10 2013: The Secret Garden
June 5- July 6 2013: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
June 9- July 1 2013: Così fan tutte
June 19- July 7 2013: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

San Francisco Opera's 2012-2013 season includes three contemporary American operas in English. Former Adler Fellow David Lomelí sings the Duke in Rigoletto, Albina Shagimuratova sings Gilda. Joyce DiDonato sings Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Nicole Cabell as Giulietta. Ben Heppner and Jay Hunter Morris share the role of Ahab in Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick. Brandon Jovanovich is Lohengrin. Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette share the title role in Tosca. Natalie Dessay stars in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Nathan Gunn, William Burden, and Sasha Cooke create roles in Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

2012-2013 Season Official Site | Press Release

Susan Graham at Cal Performances

Susan_Graham_Credit_Dario_Acosta * Notes * 
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham (pictured left, photograph by Dario Acosta) is in the midst of a recital tour through 8 North American cities, starting in Quebec and ending in Washington, DC. The recitals are accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau and program is thematic, "inspired by iconic female characters." Her Berkeley performance last night, presented by Cal Performances, was winsome. The evening began with Purcell's "Tell me, some pitying angel" (The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation). Graham's breathing was rather audible, but her singing was never breathy, and her high notes had a bell-like quality. In the Berlioz that came next, La mort d'Ophélie, her dynamics were clear, her singing smooth. Martineau's accomplished playing was supportive and never overwhemlming. Before the intermission we heard 6 songs based on Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, each from a different composer. One was able to compare Liszt's setting of "Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn" with Wolf's. Perhaps most beautiful was "Нет, только тот, кто знал" ("None but the Lonely Heart") by Tchaikovsky. The piece is set to Lev Aleksandrovich Mei's "Песнь Арфиста" ("Harpist's Song"), based on Goethe's "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt."

The second half of the show started again with a song in English, Joseph Horowitz's Lady Macbeth, with a text adapted from Shakespeare. Hearing the familiar words sung was chilling, and Graham delivered the words clearly. Poulenc's Fiançailles pour rire, 6 songs based on poems by Louise de Vilmorin, were similarly dark, but, at times, more humorous. The last three songs of the program were announced from the stage, the "spontaneous" part of the recital, as Graham explained. She went on to say that the first songs had been about good girls, and the second set about bad ones, "ladies of a questionable moral compass." She sang Messager's "J'ai deux amants," first asking the audience for a translation of the title, and noting it was "I have two lovers, not I have two almonds." Graham followed this with Cole Porter's "The Physician" from Nymph Errant, which was jaunty and rather funny. Even more amusing was the Ben Moore song written for Graham, "Sexy Lady," in which she pokes fun at her repertoire, including her many trouser roles. There was much merriment, and Martineau played the Mozart, Strauss, and Händel references with exuberance.

The three encores were "Connais-tu le pays" by Thomas, "The Boy from..." by Sondheim, and "À Chloris" by Hahn. Graham made the most of the tongue twisting place names in the Sondheim, whether fictional or otherwise.

* Tattling * 
The audience was fairly quiet, some light murmuring was noted, but no electronic noise. The woman in Row L Seat 11 whispered a few times to her companion in Seat 13. After intermission they moved over toward the center. A man in Row K, who happened to be in front of this couple after they switched seats, put on his sweater during the last encore. This incited the woman to complain fiercely (but at least quietly and only for a moment), as he was blocking her view.

Washington National Opera's New Wave of Artistic Initiatives

Kennedy-centerToday Washington National Opera announced a plethora of new initiatives, including the presentation of WNO Artistic Advisor Francesca Zambello's "American Ring" in 2016, a New American Works Project to promote young American composers and librettists, a holiday opera each season, performances at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, a new production each season, and one production per season directed by Zambello.

Press Release | Official Site