Cyrano de Bergerac
* Notes *
Sunday's matinée of San Francisco Opera's Cyrano de Bergerac opened a run of seven performances. Petrika Ionesco's production, from Théâtre du Châtelet, is attractive, but does not make for the most elegant set changes. There was much delightful spectacle, and the staging was not entirely old-fashioned either, despite looking fairly traditional.
The orchestra sounded lushly chaotic under Patrick Fournillier, it was unclear if this was because of Alfano's music or because of the playing. In fact, I had a fairly difficult time getting a grasp on the music, it seemed all over the place. Some of it sounded like Debussy, and some rather more like Puccini.
The chorus did a respectable job, and the singing overall was wonderful. Even in their small roles, Martin Rojas-Dietrich (Montfleury) and Bojan Knežević (Lignière) shone. As did the three Adler Fellows participating in this opera, Austin Kness, Maya Lahyani, and Leah Crocetto. All sang more than one role. Kness was most striking as Vicomte de Valvert, sounding strong and warm. Lahyani's acting was impressive, she was convincing the Duenna and Sister Marta. Crocetto was an alluring Lisa, the wayward wife of pastry chef Ragueneau. As Ragueneau, Brian Mulligan was wonderful as ever, his rich voice has such a lovely bloom to it. Lester Lynch (Carbon) sang well and with power.
Thiago Arancam seemed the embodiment of Christian de Neuveville, singing with forcefulness. Likewise Ainhoa Arteta was absolutely gorgeous as Roxane. Arteta pierced through the orchestra without the least bit of effort and could float notes beautifully. She had moments of harshness, but these were few and far between. In the title role, Plácido Domingo was ill, and General Director David Gockley made an announcement begging our indulgence in the second half of Act II. Domingo was somewhat gravelly, some of his lower notes were less than perfect, and he did cough a few times. However, his timbre is so pleasing and still had such an ease, our indulgence was hardly necessary. Domingo sang the last aria superbly, communicating the text with such a directness, rendering the supertitles superfluous.
* Tattling *
On Sunday morning I awoke before dawn as I was so excited for this performance. I dragged Opernphrenologe out of bed and we made our way to the opera house 1 hour before anyone else arrived. Perhaps because of the rain, even by 10 am the standing room line was not much greater than usual. The opera was kind enough to provide us with both coffee and donuts, and by the time we were allowed in a great crowd had developed.
The throng of Domingo aficionados was intimidating. There was some light talking but not a great deal of electronic noise. I did hear a staff member's walkie talkie in orchestra standing room during Act II. At the end of the opera, someone went through his two plastic grocery bags, and someone gave him a talking to as she seemed irritated by all the noise.
* Notes *
Today the Communications Department of San Francisco Opera hosted an event with Plácido Domingo in conversation with David Gockley. Domingo will be singing the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, which opens Sunday, and Gockley spoke a bit about how this was arranged, why we are getting a production from Théâtre du Châtelet, and asked Domingo to tell us more about this opera. We heard about Alfano and how he was the contemporary of Janáček, Berg, and Schoenberg. It was pointed out that Domingo is singing two poets this season back to back, since he just finished as Neruda in Los Angeles Opera's Il Postino. The famous story of how Domingo flew in for the opening of the 1983-1984 season to fill in for an ailing Otello was recounted and he joked that 25,000 people claimed to have been there even though the opera house only seats 3,200.
Gockley had Domingo speak about taking on baritone roles, and made fun of his own voice, since he is a baritone. The music director, Maestro Nicola Luisotti, was also in attendance, and Domingo complimented Luisotti's fine baritone. As for Domingo himself, he said he does not pretend to be a baritone, but likes doing these interesting roles and has to color his voice very differently for them. At one point he had imagined that Simon Boccanegra would be his last role, and has done 28 performances. His voice is still in good condition, so he wants to sing everyday that he can, but to not sing one more day once he cannot. His next new baritone role is Athanaël in Thaïs, which he will perform in Paris and Valencia soon. He quipped that it was appropriate for his age, since Athanaël is a monk. Charmingly, he also said that Cyrano was likewise good for him in this way, since Cyrano is a "loser," and can be any age. On this more human side, we heard about what Domingo does in his downtime, and he apparently recharges by the results of his work. He is a Real Madrid fan and also watches telenovelas with his wife Marta, who was in attendance.
During the question and answer period Domingo was asked how he takes care of his voice, since he still sounds so youthful and fresh. One should not drink terribly cold water, and one cannot drink warm beer. Domingo finds it better to eat lunch late, around 2pm and then have dinner after his performance. Ideally as a tenor one should rest 3 or 4 days if possible. Questions were asked bout San Francisco's charm, and Domingo praised San Francisco Opera as one of the most important companies in the world. He did tease us about how there were some bad years before Gockley's tenure that were good for his company, Los Angeles Opera. The challenges of behing the general director out on the West Coast were discussed. It is difficult to get artists out here, in Europe a singer can get to different houses more easily and the euro is so strong.
Domingo was questioned about the recent Ring at Los Angeles Opera, and he conceded that perhaps two cycles would have been sufficient. That production was to have gone to Mannheim and Seville, but will not. It may still be produced in Korea or Argentina. He was asked about the recent simulcast of Rigoletto in Mantua that he participated in, and he told us he did not feel that opera in cinemas would steal the audience from the opera house.
* Tattling *
The audience was quiet but a cellular phone rang during the aforementioned question about San Francisco as a city. David Gockley was kind enough to call on me for a question, and Nicola Luisotti was gracious enough to introduce me to Plácido Domingo. I encouraged the delightful North American editor of MusicalCriticism.com to have our photograph taken together with Domingo.