* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's co-production of Attila (Act II Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened last night. The orchestra sounded cheerful and lively under Maestro Nicola Luisotti. The woodwinds, harp, and cello made notable contributions. The off-stage brass sounded clear. There were a few synchronization problems with the orchestra, chorus, and principals. This was obvious because Verdi's music, at least in this opera, keeps such predictable tempi.
Samuel Ramey sounded shaky in the small role of Pope Leo I, but looked dignified. Diego Torre's voice is bright, audible over the orchestra, but has a compressed quality to it. His Foresto was a bit wooden. Similarly, Lucrecia Garcia's Odabella was stiff. Her soprano has lovely resonances to it, but her control is imperfect, most noticeably in her upper register.
In contrast, Quinn Kelsey (Ezio) has a strong, warm-toned sound. His aria in Act II, "E' gettata la mia sorte," was the high point of the evening. In the title role, Ferruccio Furlanetto was commanding. He has some grit to his beautiful voice, and as ruler of the Huns, it is hardly inappropriate.
The action on stage, directed by Gabriele Lavia, was disappointing. No one looked particularly comfortable, and having child supernumeraries stand in the middle of the stage, as at the end of Act I, was ill-advised at best. Alessandro Camera's enormous set did not help. The carefully-wrought details made the staging inflexible. Scenes were meant to be transformed by the addition of a ship or a tree bough, but we are clearly in the same set, despite whatever projections happened to show up in the background.
The most convincing of these changes occurred in the last scene, which is set in a decrepit movie theater, complete with screen and strewn plush seats. While it was entertaining that Douglas Sirk's 1954 film about Attila the Hun, Sign of the Pagan, was played, it could be distracting. Despite my best efforts, I found myself staring more at Jack Palance and Ludmilla Tchérina than the singers.
* Tattling *
The length of Furlanetto's coat knocked over a chair in Act I, and nearly tripped the singer.
The woman in Row R Seat 7 on the orchestra level talked at full-volume several times during the performance to her companion in Seat 5. My glares at her had almost no effect.
Chorus Director Ian Robertson marks his twenty-fifth year with the San Francisco Opera this year. He received the San Francisco Opera Medal after last night's performance.