* Notes *
Last night's Merola Grand Finale featured many fine tenors. Casey Candebat sang a sweet "Pourquoi me réveiller?" in the first half of the program, and applause interrupted his scene with Sarah Mesko as Charlotte. Theo Lebow sang a pretty "O blonde Cérès" (from Les Troyens) but some of his high notes were a little raveled. AJ Gluekert was strong in Samuel Barber's "At last I've found you." Chuanyue Wang may have lacked a certain ease with "Povero Ernesto... Cercherò lontana terra," but has a lovely voice.
There were a few standouts among the sopranos also. Suzanne Rigden had a beautiful lucidity as a rebuffed ghost in Lully's Alceste (pictured above, photograph by Kristen Loken) and sang Zdenka in "Ich danke Fräulein...Aber der Richtige" with characteristic flexibility. Jennifer Cherest had a charming duet with Andrew Stenson from Die lustige Witwe, both had fairly clear diction and sang with appeal. The audience loved Elizabeth Baldwin's selection from Il corsaro.
Many of the singers are impressively adept at acting. This was especially on display in "Orsù, la tua nipote...Pappataci! Che mai sento!" with Joshua Baum as Lindoro, Seth Mease Carico as Mustafà, and Gordon Bintner as Taddeo. Rose Sawvel and Joseph Lattanzi had everyone laughing with "Il m'a semblé sur mon épaule" from Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers.
It is always of interest to hear how the singers have improved over the course of the summer. Andrew Kroes had a rich sound in "Volontiers, un vieil air Huguenots...Piff, paff" and was suitably sinister. Erin Johnson's voice seemed more anchored as Juno in "Somnus awake!" than in her Schwabacher Concert.
Stage director Jennifer Williams used the set for Moby-Dick as her backdrop, with a few pieces of furniture strewn about. There was much throwing of flowers and dragging of cloth over the course of the evening. Williams seemed concerned with storytelling, and at times this worked, and at other times it felt a bit stilted.
Nicholas McGegan conducted the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in his particular jaunty style. The orchestra did occasionally get ahead of the singers in the first half of the program. Despite being a Baroque specialist, Maestro McGegan was convincing in most all of the different periods of music represented.
* Tattling *
A person in Row L Seat 6 texted for much of the overture from Béatrice et Bénédict that began the performance. She continued to look at her phone, but finally left after the fourth vocal selection.