* Notes *
A new production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera on Saturday. Conductor Riccardo Frizza had the orchestra sounding rather jaunty. The horn, clarinet, harp, and cello all gave solid performances. There were moments when the orchestra was much louder than the singers, but it seems that the stage direction is more at fault than the conductor or musicians.
This co-production with Bavarian State Opera, directed by Vincent Boussard, features a spare, stylish set designed by Vincent Lemaire. Unfortunately, the opera calls for three different scenes in each of its two acts, and the set had to be inelegantly rearranged simply bringing the curtain down in-between each change. This gives audience members a chance to chat or check their electronic devices, and this inevitably bleeds into the actual performance.
As for the set itself, the gleaming black floor is sleek, but often squeaks as people move across it. The metal stairs of Act I Scene 3 and Act II Scene 1 keep certain singers too far upstage to be heard well. Having supernumeraries parade in stilettos up and down these stairs is also noisy. Christian Lacroix's gowns are bold, often bright, confections. The lighting design, by Guido Levi, is stark and dramatic, and works nicely with the abstract images on the various walls. The surrealistic details of the production involving saddles, flowers, sculptures, and even a sink were confusing to the audience.
Eric Owens made for an authoritative Capellio. Ao Li made the most of the small part of Lorenzo. The role of Tebaldo seemed quite difficult, and Saimir Pirgu sounded powerful but choppy. He did clearly portray anger in his early scenes and sorrow in Act II Scene 2.
The stars of the show were clearly Joyce DiDonato (Romeo) and Nicole Cabell (Giulietta). DiDonato has a warm, resonant voice, and sang with a beautiful fluidity and a notable ease. Cabell's voice is brilliant and flexible, but seemed anchored and precise. The final duet between the two leads was both devastating and stunning.
* Tattling *
A couple of women and their daughters in the balcony, Row J Seats 106 to 112, were the picture of bad-behavior. Not only did they take photographs of the performance, they talked, posted to Instagram and Facebook, and texted all evening long.