* Notes *
The 93rd season of San Francisco Opera opened Friday with Luisa Miller, a Verdi rarity only seen on the War Memorial stage a dozen times before. The opera has a quintessentially Verdian plot: a protective father, an innocent daughter, a secret identity, and a love triangle that ends in a protracted death scene. Part of Verdi's middle period, Luisa Miller does not have the lively tunes of Rigoletto, La Traviata, or Il Trovatore that followed soon after. But there was some beautiful singing in last night's performance.
The two leads (pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver) were clearly strongest. Local favorite Leah Crocetto sang the title role without a hint of strain. Her pianissimi were gorgeous. Tenor Michael Fabiano is a dashing Rodolfo, and his voice is similarly attractive, very bright and pretty.
As Luisa's father, baritone Vitaliy Bilyy had a fine San Francisco Opera debut. Bilyy's voice has a pleasant weight, the right mixture of heft and lightness. Mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk (Federica) also had a good first performance on the War Memorial stage, her dark tones contrasting nicely with Crocetto.
Daniel Sumegi wobbled as Count Walter, while Andrea Silvestrelli was a powerfully evil Wurm.
Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducted the orchestra with grace and as usual the woodwinds sounded great. The members of the chorus pulled together well.
Francesca Zambello's production, directed here by Laurie Feldman, involves background panels that make up a dreamy forest scene. The panels can move vertically and help change scenes. There is also a very weird beam crosswise above the stage that holds a large panel depicting various images, including a cottage and a hunting tapestry. This was less successful than the background panels, often it seemed awkward and in the way.
Ungainliness might have been inevitable for this opera, the plot is truly absurd and the final death scene was not convincing, despite the lovely singing.
* Tattling *
I was shocked to be the first person in the standing room line when I arrived after 8am with my 1.5 year old in tow.
The remarks by San Francisco Opera's General Director, President, and Chairman of the Board were uncharacteristically brief and articulate. The audience was mild this year, and most of the extraneous noise heard during the performance came from the lobby after intermission.