* Notes *
Robert Carsen's 1989 production of Mefistofele (Act II pictured left with Ildar Abdrazakov as Mefistofele and the San Francisco Opera Chorus, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened the 91st season of San Francisco Opera last night. The opera is rather droll, and Carsen's treatment is bursting with color and activity. The scenes do not flow nicely into each other, and the curtain is brought down for several uncomfortable pauses as the set is rearranged. This encourages restlessness, and Music Director Nicola Luisotti was visibly and vocally annoyed at one point, as the audience was not quiet enough to begin Act III.
Luisotti conducted a bright and vibrant orchestra. The brass was clear save for perhaps one stray note in Act I Scene 1. The two harps were played beautifully. In the beginning the chorus was occasionally off from the orchestra, but sounded more cohesive as the performance progressed.
Patricia Racette sounded as robust as ever as Margherita and Elena. At times her wobbling is pronounced, but this is effective in Act III, when the imprisoned Margherita dies. Her duet as Elena with Pantalis (Renée Rapier) was lovely. In contrast, Ramón Vargas (Faust) was sounding particularly thin and reedy. This was especially noticeable in his first scene with Chuanyue Wang as Wagner, as Wang has a fresh, rich sound. Ildar Abdrazakov is a convincing Mefistofele, his physicality is appropriate for the role. His singing is perfectly fine with some warmth and good volume, but his voice is not exceptionally impressive.
* Tattling *
As is customary for Opening Night, the proceedings started a bit late and began with a slightly less awkward than usual welcome from the General Director, President, and Chairman of the Board. Photographs were taken during the performance, and there were the usual talking and electronic disturbances.