Tenor David Lomelí has withdrawn from San Francisco Opera's Rigoletto for personal reasons. Francesco Demuro, already scheduled to sing the Duke of Mantua on six dates, will now perform the role twice more on September 23 and 30. Arturo Chacón-Cruz sings on September 8, 12, 16, and 19.
* Notes *
The Adler Fellows Gala Concert at Herbst Theatre last night involved much repertoire in the French language, there were no arias from Wagner or Strauss. It was refreshing to see the orchestra on the stage as they started the concert with the overture from Ruslan and Lyudmila. Maya Lahyani was the consummate singer/actress as she performed "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila. Her dark, husky tones suited the role. When she went on to sing Carmen opposite of Brian Jagde in "C'est toi! C'est moi!" in the second half, she was also incredible, the fatalism of the character was apparent. Jagde sounded bright and reedy here, as he did for "E lucevan le stele."
Austin Kness sang "È sogno? o realtà," Ford's lyric baritone aria from Falstaff, heartily. On the other hand, Sara Gartland labored to sing "Ah rendetemi la speme...Qui la voce" from Il Puritani. Her voice is distinctive, and she sounded better in her duet with Kness, "Étranger, te voilà, comme tu l'avais dit!" I am not familiar with the Massenet opera this piece is from, Thaïs, but from this excerpt it seemed rather absurd.
Ryan Belongie and Susannah Biller sang "Io t'abbraccio" from Rodelinda with great beauty. There were a few bars in which they did not sound perfectly in tune with each other, but they recovered quickly. The harpsichord, played by Allen Perriello, was lovely. After the intermission Belongie sang "Venga pur, minacci e frema" from Mitridate, Re di Ponto. He sounded pretty, but at times he was hard to hear. Susannah Biller, on the other hand, was clear and strong in Ophelia's mad scene in Thomas' Hamlet.
The most impressive singers were Leah Crocetto and David Lomelí. Crocetto sang "È strano...Ah, fors'è lui...Sempre libera" admirably and Lomelí sounded incredibly robust from off stage. Their duet from Guillaume Tell was likewise fine. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the concert was the end, when Lomelí sang "Nessun dorma," with Tamara Sanikidze playing the celeste. It was especially moving when the other Adlers came in as the chorus.
* Tattling *
There was some talking during the music. I was seated by a person who was so large that she could not put her arms inside the armrests of the seat. Her left elbow would have easily been touching me if I were less petite. I felt quite grateful to be small, but I did have to stay still in order not to disturb the established equilibrium.
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's 37th Opera in the Park event was Nicola Luisotti's second as music director. The performance is entertaining every year, and this was no exception. The afternoon began with the overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, and gave us a preview of how this will sound when the latest revival opens on Tuesday September 21st. In keeping with this, Michèle Losier sang Cherubino's "Non so più," followed by Luca Pisaroni in "Non più andrai," and Danielle de Niese in "Giunse alfin il momento...Deh, vieni, non tardar." Dolora Zajick sang "La luce langue" from Macbeth stridently and Brian Mulligan sang "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Faust sweetly. Marco Vratogna sang the Act III aria "Nemico della Patria" from Andrea Chénier, which David Gockley says we will hear soon enough at the War Memorial. "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Werther was sung by Ramón Vargas, and this opera opens for the first time in perhaps 25 years at SF Opera on Wednesday. The first half closed with David Lomelí, Leah Crocetto, Heidi Stober, and Brian Mulligan singing the famous quartet from Rigoletto, "Un di se ben rammentomi...Bella figlia dell'amore."
I had to leave at intermission, but I did hear the rehearsal of this performance earlier in the day. The second half started with the overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia, followed by Lucas Meachem in the famous "Largo al factotum." One does look forward to his Count in Le Nozze di Figaro and his fellow cast members Luca Pisaroni and Danielle de Niese, who sang "Là ci darem la mano." David Lomelí performed "La donna è mobile." Then there was much Puccini with Micaela Carosi singing "Vissi d'Arte," Leah Crocetto and Brian Jadge "Bimba, dagli occhi pieni," and Marcello Giordani in "Nessun Dorma." The performance ended with the usual "Libiamo ne'lieti calici" from La Traviata. I believe the encore must have been "O Sole Mio," sung by David Lomelí, Brian Jadge, Ramón Vargas, and Marcello Giordani.
* Tattling *
The day started off rather foggy and cold, and the Maestro wore his white sweater instead of having it draped in his normal fashion. The Maestro sang a respectable "Non più andrai," whilst rehearsing the orchestra. The sun did come out, and I was able to convince Axel Feldheim to come to the park and sing the National Anthem with me for the second time in 24 hours.
General Director David Gockley was in his usual spot on stage much of the time and introduced groups of pieces. He inadvertently skipped over the two Mozart pieces after Cherubino's aria, and Luisotti teasingly said that Gockley "didn't know the season."
Tenor David Lomelí (pictured left) is finishing up as an Adler at San Francisco Opera this Fall by covering the title role of Werther and singing the Messenger in Aida. He sings Edgardo in Pittsburgh Opera's Lucia die Lammermoor this November, Alfredo at Deutsche Oper Berlin in December, Nemorino at New York City Opera in March and April, Macduff in Lille next May, and finishes the season in Santa Fe with La Bohème. The Opera Tattler caught up with Lomelí after singing his last Werther rehearsal.
How is your class at Merola doing?
We all are working, as you know, Renée Tatum is at the Met and Leah Crocetto is here as an Adler. As far as everyone that was in Don Giovanni with me: Austin Kness is also here, Rena Harms sang at Wolftrap this Summer, Amanda Majeski is at Lyric and sings at Santa Fe next year, Carlos Monzón sang at Wolf Trap and Florida Grand Opera, Ben Wager sang at Los Angeles Opera, Adam Cioffari just finished at Houston, and Joélle Harvey was at Glimmerglass.
Tell me about covering a role and what that involves.
Covering a role is bittersweet. The sweet part is that it can be beautiful, you get to work with a professional team, the conductor gives you notes, and the music preparation here is great. You get to learn the role, be in the house, and be ready to go on. You definitely learn a lot. The bitter part is that as a performer, you want to go on. Like for Werther, I've had a month of pretty much singing it every day, because I just performed it in Tel Aviv with Maya Layhani and Austin Kness. Today was my last rehearsal before Ramón Vargas comes, so it will be hard to be back on the bench, not singing. Though I am looking forward to meeting Ramón Vargas and asking him how he preserves his voice. He is so amazing!
Do you generally read the source texts concerning a role? Have you read The Sorrows of Young Werther?
We are basically required to read the source texts for the roles we sing as Adlers. They really make us prepare.
What do think of Herr Werther?
The part is beautiful, a dream tenor role. There are 5 arias, and you get to be a drama queen. There is a huge range of emotions explored: happiness, sadness, insanity, delusion, and then you get to kill yourself and sing about it for 30 more minutes. I really hope to sing it again really soon, but don't have it scheduled in the next 4 years.
So you were the first-prize winner in Plácido Domingo's 2006 Operalia and the first singer ever to win both the opera and zarzuela divisions. Tell me about zarzuela.
Zarzuela is pretty much only championed by Plácido and some companies in Spain. For the baritone you need a big range, for the tenor a beefy middle. The sopranos need to be chirpy and the mezzos need a lot of color. It is a bit like the musical. Everything is rubato. I love singing this music, but not that many conductors have experience with it. If I even become a fourth as famous as Plácido, I would love to do zarzuela. It is the music I have known all my life.
When were you in the Los Angeles Opera's Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program? How did you get in?
I was in the first year of the program, in starting in August of 2006 until May of 2008. My voice teacher, César Ulloa, sent me and Eleazar Rodríguez to audition for Plácido in New York.
How was singing at the Verdi Requiem in LA and Berlin?
I got the LA Phil performance because Villazón canceled Hoffman at the Met, and Calleja canceled on LA Phil to replace him. I was supposed to sing Cantata Criolla as my LA Phil premiere, but instead canceled this to sing the Verdi Requiem. It was the first time I had sung an oratorio since Messiah, which was a long time ago. It was scary, but I know Gustavo Dudamel from when I did a gala concert in my hometown. I have a youtube video of myself singing "Nessun Dorma" with Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra! The LA performance prepared me for Berlin, which was a success. That orchestra is incredible. When I heard the bassoon part in rehearsal, I couldn't come in because I was weeping.
What was your first opera?
Mozart's Bastien and Bastienne, though I did sing a Verdi Requiem before that, when I was 19. It was not good.
Well, I have done 65 performances of Bohème. I do love Werther. I am pretty weird, I also love Pelléas et Mélisande and Albert Herring.
I hope someday to do all the big Verdi roles, I especially love Ballo en Maschera and Otello. One day I would love to sing Walther in Meistersinger, I love that opera. If I could have Bryn Terfel or James Morris as Hans Sachs, I could just die, the next day, happy.
Who do you look up to?
Plácido. He's so successful, perhaps the best tenor that has ever lived, but he is still so kind and has discovered so many great singers.
Tell me about your stage fight incident in Fanciulla.
In Act I of the final dress rehearsal there is a fight, and I was supposed to be hit on the head with a sugar bottle. Except it wasn't a sugar bottle, I was knocked out for real. I saw stars and woke up 2 bars before I was to enter. I had a huge bump on my head and Matthew Shilvock sent me to the hospital. I had the fastest MRI ever, to make sure I would be okay. Then I rushed back for Act III, because there aren't covers for small roles like Happy!
Did you really have a coaching for Werther in the middle of a performance of Fanciulla? How does that work?
Yes, it was the last time I would be able to work with Allen Perriello before my Werther in Tel Aviv, so I called him and I had a coaching with him for an hour. I owe him a lot, and everyone in the music administration is great.
Sweet or savory?
Both. I love both sweet and sour. Mole for example. Or orange chicken.
Do you have a favorite pastry?
Tres leches. The only place I can get it is actually at Espetus, the Brazilian restaurant close to Zuni Cafe. The different kinds of milk have to be in the right quantities, the cake has to be soaked and soft. I hate it when they put strawberries on tres leches, it is just not the way it is supposed to be.
What is your secret superpower?
I vocalize as a countertenor everyday and it has helped my voice to do so. I have a high G in my head voice and can sing the Queen of the Night with Susanna Biller (not as pretty of course). Obviously my voice up there isn't nearly as pretty as Ryan Belongie's either!
How are you at soccer?
I am a huge fan of soccer, but I am so bad it. I am an FC Barcelona shareholder. (Breaks out his FC Barcelona card, complete with photograph.) It doesn't make Plácido very happy though, since he's a Madrid fan. I studied in Barcelona.
Why is football commentary so much better in Spanish?
Everyone gets a nickname, more poetic phrases are used, and it is much louder.
How similar are the circus and the opera?
They are becoming more and more alike, just as far as entertainment. For example, Cirque de Soleil's O has a theme, but not a story. But Robert LePage's Ka definitely has a story. As far as opera, it is not just park and bark anymore. In this summer's Walküre, from Zambello, everyone had to move, and they did so well.
What's your favorite Beatles song?
That's so hard, I love the Beatles, every song is good. But I would have to say "Eleanor Rigby" is my favorite.
What do you miss most about everyday life back home?
My ladies. My dad travelled a lot in the first years of my life. So I basically grew up surrounded by 13 women: my mom, sister, grandma, aunts, and cousins.
Can you recommend a place to eat relatively close to the opera house?
There is a really good taco truck next to the Best Buy on Van Ness. If you want sour cream and beans, you should go to the Mission, but the best burrito is at this truck.
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's latest production of La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) opened last night. The production, directed by Lorenzo Mariani and with sets from Maurizio Balò, is cute without being busy or cluttered. The male chorus sounded fine and the ensemble cast did well. The waltz in Act I was particularly lovely. Current Adlers Brian Jagde (Joe), David Lomelí (Harry), Austin Kness (Handsome), and Maya Lahyani (Wowkle) all had respectable appearances. Nicola Luisotti held the orchestra together, creating a luxuriant sound.
Timothy Mix was tender and vunerable as Sonora and Roberto Frontali threatening as Sheriff Jack Rance. Salvatore Licitra's voice was very sweet and warm as Ramerrez. A few of his highest, loudest notes showed some strain, but for the most part he had a nice ease. Deborah Voigt's Minnie was spunky and full of spirit. She has a bit of a tinselly quality, lacking the warm creaminess she had in former years, but overall she was quite winsome.
* Tattling *
The press department did end up giving me tickets for this performance. The volunteer usher in front of us in Row L Seat 23 used her cellular phone as a flashlight to read the program during Act I. After the first intermission, an audience member was sitting in that seat, and the usher insisted on seeing the ticket. The audience member could not produce it and stormed off. It was not clear exactly what transpired, but the usher did not return to L 23, and the audience member sat in K 17 with her friends instead.
Though not constant, there was too much talking during the music and the singing.
* Notes *
Adler Fellows tenor David Lomelí, soprano Sara Gartland, and pianist Allen Perriello performed at San Francisco Opera's Orpheus luncheon yesterday. Lomelí is covering Faust this summer, and he sang "Salut! demeure chaste et pure" very impressively. Gartland followed by singing "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante," Micaëla's aria from Carmen, with strength. Together they sang the Act I duet between Gilda and the Duke from Rigoletto. This was gorgeous. Perriello played beautifully as usual.
* Tattling *
The rather young audience was silent and attentive. It was well worth the effort to make this event, I was very pleased to have arrived on time, since I was in Houston the night before and had to fly in rather early in the morning.
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Opera in the Park performance this year was rather charming. Incoming Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducted with great enthusiasm, and to begin he faced the audience for the National Anthem and conducted us. Both the overture to La Forza del Destino and the intermezzo to Manon Lescaut sounded grand and sweeping. He also We heard quite a lot from the current Trovatore at SF Opera: Sondra Radvanovsky sang "Tacea la notte...Di tale amor," Marco Berti sang "Ah, si, ben mio...Di quella pira," Quinn Kelsey sang "Il balen del suo sorriso," and the three of them sang "Deserto sulla terra...Di geloso amor" together.
The Adlers sang several selections starting with Daniela Mack's "Non più mesta." Mack was a bit choppy and did sing "Voi che sapete" with greater fluidity. Leah Crocetto did well with both Donizetti and Puccini. David Lomelí sounded very fine as well, singing "Che gelida manina" and then "O Mimì, tu più non torni" with Quinn Kelsey. The afternoon also saw a lovely performance from Ewa Podleś of "Cruda sorte" from La Italiana in Algeri. Her low notes are richly secure, but those higher up in her tessitura are not exactly in tune. Continuing with Rossini, Andrea Silvestrelli gave an amusing rendition of "La calunnia." Brandon Jovanovich closed the afternoon with a beautiful "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca.
* Tattling *
There was some talking, including a woman on her cell phone as Crocetto sang from Lucia.
The rehearsal earlier in the day was exceedingly entertaining, Luisotti sang in place of the singers for the first half. Podleś did not rehearse, nor did she sing in the encore "O sole mio." The encore was hilarious, and the women held their notes longer than the men. Luisotti danced around the stage during the ovation.
* Notes *
The B cast of San Francisco Opera's La Traviata performed last night. Elizabeth Futral and David Lomelí were a good match vocally as the leads, neither overwhelmed the other as far as volume was concerned. Futral's pianissimo was exquisite, the coldness of her voice could come off as crystalline. However, she did have some shaky shrillness too, she shrieked her last note in Act I and her vibrato was out of control at the end of "Addio, del passato." Lomelí fared better, his voice always sounded clean and lovely. Stephen Powell was fine as Germont, though his shifts in dynamics were not terribly distinct in "Di Provenza il mar." Leann Sandel-Pantaleo was a very brash but charming Flora, she gasped a few times, but she and the rest of the supporting cast were singing back-to-back performances. The chorus sounded together, and did particularly well in Act II. The orchestra also did well, there was only a brief moment where the horns sounded strange at the beginning of "Ah, fors' è lui."
* Tattling *
There was so much electronic noise in the balcony that I had to move down to orchestra standing room to read the score in peace. Someone's watch alarm rang at least thirty times, at different intervals, and made noise for practically every number. Downstairs, someone in standing room also had a watch alarm, but it only rang at each hour.
Many Merolini and Adlers were in attendance. I must have been quite exhausted, for I inadvertently greeted Heidi Melton as we walked in opposite directions through the box level lobby.
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Medallion Society Luncheon was held yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton. George Hume, Sheri Greenawald, and David Gockley addressed the 660 people in attendance. Barbara K. Jackson was given the Spirit of the Opera Award.
Adler Fellows Andrew Bidlack, Leah Crocetto, Dennis Doubin, Kenneth Kellogg, Austin Kness, David Lomelí, Heidi Melton, and Allen Perriello performed works from Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Il Trovatore, Pagliacci, and La Traviata.
* Tattling *
The audience fairly good, though one's expecations were not particularly high, given that it was a luncheon. Mr. Feldheim of Not For Fun Only made a fine date to this event. He tolerated costume-like attire and all manner of opera-related chatter. Our table had a thank you note from SF Opera's Head of Music Staff, John Parr.
* Notes *
This year's Merola Opera Program ended twelve weeks of training with a Grand Finale last night at the War Memorial Opera House. The performance was staged simply, using a set that included a couple of steps to a rickety parquet floor and a pair of stage right doors. The costumes were standard recital fare, tuxedos for the men and evening gowns for the women. Joel Revzen conducted the San Francisco Opera Orchestra to good effect, everyone sounded in tune and there were only a few moments when the singers were overwhelmed. There were also some synchronization issues during the trio "Una bella serenata" from Così fan tutte and "Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm" from Die Zauberflöte. The singers and orchestra were just slightly off in these cases, in the former it was probably just nerves as it was the first number, and in the latter perhaps it was because of the stage directions were somewhat complicated. Mozart provoked the strangest staging of the evening, for Così, Barbie dolls were abused and for Die Zauberflöte, a pistol was produced as the flute, and a bag of cocaine stood for the bells. The most laughter, however, erupted from tenor David Lomelí's disrobing during "Un dì se ben rammentomi."
The young singers have improved noticeably since the Auditions for the General Director in June. There were only a handful of problems. Adam Cioffari was slightly quiet as Guglielmo, but was audible. Ellen Wieser was shrill as Inés, though as Gilda, her voice blended very nicely with YoungJoo An's in "Un dì se ben rammentomi." Rena Harms, who was so incredible as Donna Elvira in the Merola production of Don Giovanni, did not sing the First Lady as gorgeously. She cracked, perhaps because of the fake (I imagine, anyway) cigarette she was smoking. Ben Wager was a bit difficult to hear at one point during Luisa Miller's "Tu puniscimi, O Signore," though he was extremely menacing as Wurm. Wager was overwhelmed by the orchestra, and Leah Crocetto's voice was, at times, a good deal louder than his. However, Wager sang Golaud well during "Mes longs cheveux descendent" from Pelléas et Mélisande. Both Joélle Harvey (Mélisande) and Eugene Chan (Pelléas) sounded wonderful during this piece as well, Harvey's flexible voice is clear and light, Chan's high baritone is sweet.
In the first half, standouts included the duets "Ah, mon courage m'abandonne" from Werther and "Nedda! Silvio! A quest' ora" from Pagliacci. Renée Tatum and Nathaniel Peake were well-matched as Charlotte and Werther in the former. Amanda Majeski was had a lovely pure tone as Nedda, and Austin Kness was heartbreaking as Silvio. In the second half, Majeski was haunting as Vanessa in "At last I've found you," and James Benjamin Rodgers was a very fine Anatol. David Lomelí was an outstanding Duke of Mantua in the aforementioned "Un dì se ben rammentomi" from Rigoletto. Though, as mentioned before, quite loud, I was most impressed by the versatile voice of Leah Crocetto, hers is one that is already a force of nature. Her Luisa was strong and resonant, and her performance earned her the longest ovation of the evening.
* Tattling *
The audience was ill-behaved in the Grand Tier, everyone around me spoke during the music, assuring each other about the quality of the singers. Watch alarms and various electronic noises were noted. After the intermission I made my way to the top of the balcony and listened to the rest of the performance in peace, as there was absolutely no one near me.
My foray into the world of the press involved some antics. I appeared at the appointed Grove Street entrance and waited a good long time only to be told my tickets were at the box office. Then I waited in that enormous line for several minutes and was told I should go to the Grove Street entrance as my name was not with the box office. I had to make a fuss, something I do not enjoy, especially since I know all the people at the box office by sight and would rather be on good terms with them. But I did get in without having to wait in any more lines and milled around the press room. Not knowing exactly what to do with myself there, I was advised to eat cheese, and it certainly was pleasant enough.
* Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's Don Giovanni opened with the first of two performances last night. Director Catherine Malfitano's production is a bit busy, bursting at the seams with movement. For example, from the very beginning, the overture had an elaborate pantomime, showing us many of the principal characters and detracting from the music. At other times the choreography was effective, as in the first fight scene between the Don and the Commendatore or the hilarious interaction between lovers during "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto." The sets, by Wilson Chin, consisted of four walls meant to look like arcades, and could be arranged in different ways for the various scenes. Mark Gilmore's lighting went well with this set, as did Ulises Alcala's period costumes.
Conductor Gary Thor Wedow's tempi seemed a little erratic, at times uncomfortably slow and at other times somewhat fast, so the contrasts of speed were strong, but possibly arbitrary. There were many timing issues when the orchestra was not with the singers, or not exactly with each other, though one imagines tomorrow's performance will be better. It may be that the space for the orchestra is not ideal, the musicians did look awkwardly crowded in the shallow, narrow pit. There were some pitch problems as well, from the violins and horn especially. Nonetheless, there were absolutely gorgeous moments, and the finale was splendid.
The young singers were entirely impressive. Joélle Harvey (Zerlina) and Adam Cioffari (Masetto) did start off a bit quietly at first, perhaps because they were upstage, but sang nicely. Both of Joélle's arias were lovely, as she has a sweet, flexible voice, though she did have a few rather audible breaths. Carlos Monzón hammed it up as Leporello, and sang "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" to great effect, not overly loud and with a fair amount of ease. The audience loved him, and even clapped in the middle of the aforementioned aria. Ben Wager was cast well as the Commendatore, though his voice is a bit light, he was convincing. The Donna Elvira, Rena Harms, was outstanding. She did start off with much rasping, and was able to seem completely mad, but was able to turn it all around during the quartet "Non ti fidar, o misera." Rena's Act II aria "Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata" was moving. David Lomelí was a most sympathetic Don Ottavio, his Act I aria was a little rushed at times, but he was wonderful in Act II. The radiant Amanda Majeski sang Donna Anna beautifully, though she had an awful lot of vibrato at the beginning and was at times too loud for the small theater. Austin Kness was lovable enough in the title role, he did seem slightly nervous. His timing for "Fin ch'han dal vino" was good, and his voice is certainly pleasant.
* Tattling *
The audience was well-behaved, only one watch alarm was heard, and only scattered whispers near the beginning. Of course Don Giovanni has many funny parts, but the woman next to me laughed a lot by herself during the first act, and I did wonder if she was trying to signal to her date that she was having a marvelous time. This was only a minor distraction, what really got me off track was listening too hard to the violins, as I was only a few feet from them. This is the trade off for sitting closer to the front at Cowell, the audience is better, but the orchestra is just more prominent than it should be, as it is on the same level as the seating. Also, seagulls were very clearly heard at least on three occasions during Act I, after the quartet and before the party scene.