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September 2012
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November 2012

Pina Bausch's "...como el musguito..."

Como-el-musguito* Notes * 
Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal returned to Brooklyn Academy of Music to present Bausch's last work "...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si..." in a run of eight performances. I caught the last one on Saturday night. The piece is based on the company's experiences in Santiago, Chile and involves Bausch's characteristic delightful, yet disturbing style of juxtaposing images, movement, and text. The stage was rather sparse, with a shape made in black tape across the floor. Occasionally a chair was brought in, or ropes, or branches. There was much about love and time. The sixteen dancers (pictured above) were in evening dress, including many bright gowns and dark suits.

Women did backbends and dropped stones. Potatoes were thrown, as were corks. Water was poured, people were slapped, Clémentine Deluy carried a tree in a backpack. Fernando Suels Mendoza got a lot of laughs as he greeted each of the female dancers as they walked diagonally across the stage. Tsai-Chin Yu fearlessly struggled to break free of a rope tied around her waist. Ditta Miranda Jasjfi was spun in a most impressive manner. In short, the two hours and forty minutes was packed with beautiful, elusive, and often staggering imagery.

* Tattling *
There was some whispering and talking from the audience. At two moments someone's iPhone had Siri activated, and she responded once with "I did not catch that" to the sounds of the performers.

Einstein on the Beach

Einstein-on-the-beach-cristina-caccone* Notes * 
Cal Performances presented the West Coast premiere of Einstein on the Beach (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cristina Caccone) last night in Berkeley. This collaboration between director Robert Wilson and composer Philip Glass, first performed on July 25, 1976 at the Festival d'Avignon, feels like a product of its time. This is noticeable in the cut of the costumes and certain aspects of the scenic design. Nonetheless, the monumental opera, which clocks in just under four and a half hours, has a timeless quality as well, and is rather mesmerizing.

There is never a dull moment, each second seems packed with some combination of tones, words, light, or movement. The surreal humor of the piece keeps the proceedings from dreary pretension. The endurance of all the performers is striking. The Philip Glass Ensemble and the chorus held together under the direction of Michael Riesman. The singing was hauntingly beautiful. Jennifer Koh likewise impressed as Einstein, her violin playing never flagged. The choreography, from Lucinda Childs, fits the music perfectly. The two dance scenes are a riveting visualization of the vocal and instrumental lines.

* Tattling * 
Though Wilson and Glass insist that the audience members may come and go as they please, it was difficult to decide where a good stopping point might be, and several people never left their seats. Somehow the lack of formal intermission made others feel that they could speak whenever they wished.

SF Opera's Lohengrin

Sfopera-lohengrin-act-1-2012* Notes *
Lohengrin opened at San Francisco Opera last night. The production is new to the house, and has been seen in Geneva and Houston. Inspired by the Hungary of 1956, the action takes place within what looks to be a library. Designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, the set (Act I pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) makes for clear transformation of scenes, especially with the lighting from Simon Mills. The costumes, also by Hopkins, are sharp. Director Daniel Slater fills in the narrative nicely, and Act II is especially thoughtful.

In contrast, Maestro Luisottti had a more painterly style with the music. The orchestra had a vivid sound, but could have had slightly more focus. The tempi of the musicians in the pit did not always match those on stage. The chorus sang with full-blooded vigor, making up for the moments of asynchronicity.

It seems that San Francisco Opera is on a roll with casting this season. Brian Mulligan made for a rich-toned King's Herald. Kristinn Sigmundsson sang Heinrich der Volger with strength, and the quality of his vibrato works better for Wagner than the Mozart we heard on the War Memorial stage last summer. Gerd Grochowski convinced as the conflicted Friedrich von Telramund, though his voice has no small beauty to it.

Petra Lang seemed pitchy, but this did not detract from her Ortrud. Her voice has a certain voluptuousness to it, her carriage and movements are impeccable. Camilla Nylund sounded rather sweet and ethereal as Elsa. Her highest notes did not sound as pretty as the rest of her voice, reminding me of something in-between tinsel and glass. However, this made her fall all the more believable. Brandon Jovanovich had a triumphant role debut as Lohengrin. His voice is vibrant with a good deal of volume. He did sound the most sublime when singing softly.

* Tattling * 
The audience was quiet and attentive, at least on the orchestra level. There was surprisingly little audience attrition between acts. There were also very few people in standing room.

Opera Parallèle's 2012-2013 Season

Ainadamar-2013Ensemble Parallèle has formally changed its name to Opera Parallèle. The opera company presents the Bay Area premiere of Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar on February 15, 16 and 17, 2013 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Marnie Breckenridge will sing Margarita Xirgu and Lisa Chavez stars as Federico García Lorca (both pictured left, photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo). On April 26, 27 and 28, Opera Parallèle presents a re-orchestration of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti in a double bill with Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge at ZSpace. The season closes on June 7, 2013 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, when the company presents a public workshop reading of the newly commissioned Dante De Silva's Gesualdo, Prince of Madness.

SF Opera's Moby-Dick

Sf-opera-moby-dick* Notes * 
Moby-Dick (Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, and Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg pictured left; photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera on Wednesday evening. The opera premiered at Dallas Opera, and the production has traveled to the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide, Calgary Opera, and San Diego Opera. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Sheer managed to distill the sprawling source material into a compelling theatrical work. The music has much appeal, and the production provides spectacle. Some of the staging is not visible in the upper balcony, and some of the voices are not heard to their best advantage from certain parts of the set. However, most of the visual effects are striking, and even beautiful.

Maestro Patrick Summers conducted a fluid orchestra. The performance seemed clean and brilliant, though at times the singers were somewhat muffled by the orchestration. The chorus sounded wonderfully in unison in the scene where the whale boats are lowered to give chase to Moby Dick. The principal cast is formidable. Joo Won Kang's diction was rather good and his Captain Gardiner was sympathetic. Robert Orth (Stubb) and Matthew O'Neill (Flask) were comical. Talise Trevigne's Pip sounded eerie and angelic. Jonathan Lemalu seemed rather creaky as Queequeg at first, but has a robust voice. Morgan Smith was a tormented but tender Starbuck, while Stephen Costello made for a sweet, vulnerable Greenhorn. Jay Hunter Morris triumphed as Ahab, sounding authoritative and full. The baritonal qualities of his voice came out in last night's performance. He was also utterly frightening and commanding in the role.

* Tattling * 
There was light talking during Act I, but the chief offenders near me all cleared out by Act II.