Heidi Melton

SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 3

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-prologue2 * Notes * 
Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera came to a spectacular conclusion with Götterdämmerung (Prologue pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) today. The orchestra played beautifully for Maestro Donald Runnicles. There were only two or three sour moments, and even these were fleeting and did not detract from the overall brilliance of the performance. The horn and harp were striking. The music of Siegfried's funeral march was incredibly moving, as was the very end of the opera. The chorus sounded strong and the greeting of Gunther and Brünnhilde was gorgeous.

The principal singers gave performances consistent with their previous ones, only with greater focus and intensity. Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum may have looked like they had seen better days as the Rhinemaidens, but they sounded great. They held it together for the wild part of the music that starts with "So weise und stark verwähnt sich der Held." Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton were memorable as the Norns, each voice distinctive, but singing together. Daveda Karanas also made the Waltraute/Brünnhilde scene in Act I very human and believable. Andrea Silvestrelli was menancing as Hagen, singing with force and richness. Ian Storey was only overwhelmed a few times as Siegfried, his voice has warmth and was particularly effective in Act III. Nina Stemme was truly a wonder as Brünnhilde, going from strength to strength.

* Tattling * 
Every seat was sold, and even standing room was at capacity. I heard there were altercations in the balcony over places at the rail. It was noted that the person seated in the balcony with the service dog was late today, and her dog was allowed to roam freely around the standing area.

As for the orchestra level, there was the usual talking, laughing, clapping, and electronic noise. People were all too amused by the remote control used in the first scene of Act II.

SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 3

Sfopera-walkuere-act-2 * Notes * 
Cycle 3's Die Walküre (Act II, Scene 1 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) at San Francisco Opera was performed yesterday with Heidi Melton debuting the role of Sieglinde. Melton has a warmth to her voice, but also conveys the fragility of the character. She did sound a bit rough early on in Act I, Scene 3, but she recovered well. Her last notes of the opera, in Act III, Scene 1, were lovely.

Brandon Jovanovich's Siegmund was better than ever, sounding stronger and more legato. Mark Delavan (Wotan) sounded especially poignant in Act II, and his interaction with Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka) were profoundly human. Nina Stemme consistently is arresting as Brünnhilde. The orchestra, conducted by Donald Runnicles, is resplendent.

* Tattling * 
The house was full. A seeing-eye dog barked once in Act I. There was talking and laughing during the music, and the woman in P 8 of the Orchestra Level even finished a Facebook comment during the Act III Prelude. There was also lots of clapping over the music, first for the piggyback ride Wotan gave Brünnhilde in Act II, then for the entrance of the Walküren, and finally when the Walkürenritt ended.

Heidi Melton Interview

Melton_heidi_2011 Soprano Heidi Melton (pictured left, photograph by Kristin Hoebermann) sings Third Norn in Götterdämmerung and Sieglinde in Cycle Three's Die Walküre this summer at San Francisco Opera. She sings Third Norn in the Met's upcoming Ring cycle next year. The Opera Tattler caught up with Melton at the War Memorial before rehearsal a few weeks ago.

When did you first start singing?
When I was about 15 or 16, I wanted to be a soccer player. I didn't make it into the premier league, and I felt absolutely terrible. I locked myself in the bathroom at home and cried, and my sister, she picked the lock and talked some sense into me. She challenged me to find what was next. I started taking singing lessons, and it clicked right away.

What was your first Ring?
My first Ring was the one at Deutsche Oper Berlin by Götz Friedrich. It is from the 80s and set in the DC subway. I sang Third Norn, Helmwige, and Gutrune. For Gutrune, I didn't know I was singing the role until a week before, so it was pretty surreal. They had told me that I should look at the role, and thankfully I'm slightly OCD, so I did have the part memorized. I had about two days of rehearsal.

How do you like Berlin?
It is amazing, there is so much history.

What do you miss about the States?
Let me be honest, I really miss American Diet Coke. It is my biggest vice!

Welcome back! You spent three years here as an Adler. Is there a role that sticks out for you?
The funniest story is when I sang Diane in Iphigénie en Tauride. I had to sing from the second balcony, and I was standing up before I was to come in, watching Maestro Stewart carefully. An audience member was absolutely incensed that I was standing up, and kept hissing "Sit down, you sit down!" Once I started singing it was all fine, but I had to have an usher escort me for the rest of the performances.

You are singing Sieglinde soon. How do you relate to this character?
I've fallen in love with Sieglinde. I think you have to, in order to really do your job. Sieglinde is such a woman, not a girl. You do have to get past the incest, of course, in order to relate to the character. She has a serious case of arrested development. But I admire her cunning, and I feel this really comes out in Francesca Zambello's direction.

How have rehearsals been?
Great! I have been doing all the rehearsals for Die Walküre before Anja Kampe arrives. It is also Brandon Jovanovich's first Siegmund, so doing this together has been very rewarding. The most challenging scene has been the beginning of Götterdämmerung, though it doesn't look hard. We are on a pile of rubble, with the scrim down. We are wearing goggles and they had been fogging up, so it was difficult to see!

I hear your nickname is "Pippi." Why?
That's right! My mother named me "Heidi" because she just liked the book by Johanna Spyri. Once my colleagues heard of this, I got the nickname "Pippi," from the Pippi Longstocking books, of course.

SF Opera's Ring Panel Discussion

Das-rheingold-sfopera2011 Yesterday evening Kip Cranna moderated a panel discussion on Der Ring des Nibelungen (Das Rheingold Scene 1 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) which opens next today at San Francisco Opera. The panelists were mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka), baritone Mark Delavan (Wotan, Wanderer), baritone Gordon Hawkins (Alberich), tenor Brandon Jovanovich (Siegmund), soprano Heidi Melton (Sieglinde in Cycle 3, Third Norn), and tenor Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried in Siegfried).

The panelists were asked how they became Wagnerian singers, what other repertoire they sang, and the character development of their particular roles in the Ring. The tone was lively and amusing, clearly the cast members were having a lot of fun. Elizabeth Bishop defended Fricka. Gordon Hawkins asked the audience members if they thought Alberich really was the bad guy in the Ring, and even asked us why. Jay Hunter Morris told us he had no idea if he would have a voice left by the end of the Siegfried opening and was "tickled" that he did.

Since Bishop and Hawkins were in the Washington National Opera version of this production, they were asked about the differences from the present incarnation in San Francisco. Bishop mentioned the opening scene had a jungle gym, and Hawkins corrected her, saying it was a sluice. The costumes have evolved, as have the projections.

It was slightly surprising that neither director Francesca Zambello nor conductor Donald Runnicles were present. Zambello was out of town doing one of her many other jobs. Runnicles had gotten married earlier in the day, and was thus understandably unavailable.

Heidi Melton's Salon at the Rex

Melton_heidi_second_photo * Notes *
Soprano Heidi Melton gave a recital with pianist John Churchwell for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. The first half of Melton's performance consisted of art songs by Sibelius and Korngold. As far as the pieces of the former, "Tuol Laulaa Neitonen" was rather dreamy, while "Hiljainen Kaupunki" had an otherworldly quality. One was impressed by how Churchwell used his breath to play, the phrasing was clear, and he absolutely attacked "Hjertats." Korngold's Lieder des Abschieds, Opus 14 were moving. Melton's voice is creamy and strong, and she was never overwhelmingly loud. The second half of the evening consisted of cabaret and torch songs, which Melton sang with verve. The Kurt Weill and Irving Berlin were especially great, but Melton was engaging in every single number.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, even though Adler Concert was programed for the same night. The audience was well-behaved, there was only the slightest bit of talking during the last piece. Melton was very aware of the time-constraint she was under, and at one point asked how we were doing on time. I believe it was jumping clapping man that exclaimed "We've got all night!"

Heidi Melton at Lieder Alive!

Melton * Notes * 
Last night Lieder Alive! presented a recital featuring soprano Heidi Melton and tenor Eleazar Rodríguez accompanied by John Parr at SFCM. Rodríguez started the evening with Beethoven's Adelaide, which he sang with great enthusiasm. This was followed by a technically clean and very sweet rendition of Schumann's Dichterliebe. He only had the slightest bit of strain singing one top note and a couple of low notes that did not project as well as the middle of his voice. Otherwise, his voice is lovely and his breathing very much under control.

Heidi Melton sang Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, and An die Nachtigall from Brahms. These were quite pretty, but the Wagner's Wesendonck-Lieder that followed were incredible. Melton's creamy but powerful voice suits Wagner and one cannot help but look forward to hearing her as Sieglinde in a few years. The emotional content of each song was perfectly apparent, and she never sounded constricted anywhere in her range.

* Tattling * 
There was some coughing, but almost no talking, and no electronic noise.