The audience was very enthusiastic about the performance. On the other hand, my opera companion insists that he won't go to another Mozart opera at West Bay.
Le Nozze di Figaro
* Tattling *
The audience seemed genuinely amused by all the antics on stage. This run should do well, even if I myself did not particularly enjoy the performance.
San Francisco Opera was clearly less well-rehearsed for Le Nozze di Figaro (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) than for Troyens and Ciociara, but turned out a sparkling performance nonetheless.
* Tattling *
Since this performance was in the afternoon, there were even more watch alarms at each hour than usual. An excited older couple sat next to me in Row T Seats 5 and 7. They loved the piece and there was extended commentary after nearly every aria.
* Notes *
The last three performances of San Francisco Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro this season features four new cast members. In the back of the balcony for the second performance on Saturday everyone could be heard, unlike during matinée I attended a week before in the side balcony. Dale Travis was perfectly funny as Doctor Bartolo. Trevor Scheunemann certainly seemed jealous and tyranical as the Count, and sang well, though his vibrato was rather prominent at the end of the opera. Kostas Smoriginas had a lot of energy as Figaro. His voice is not as reedy as Luca Pisaroni's, but is also not as pretty. Smoriginas did have a warmer, more baritone-like sound. The star of the show was Heidi Stober (Susanna). She sounded full and strong, yet very beautiful. Her acting and movement may not have been quite as sassy as Danielle de Niese's, but it was fascinating to compare the two sopranos.
* Tattling *
There was much talking from a pair of young women around Row L Seats 115 and 117. One of them even used her mobile device during the second half of the opera. Otherwise, it was the usual parade of latecomers milling around in standing room before the first 4 minute pause between the first two acts.
At intermission I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few friends, one of whom was at the opera for the very first time.
* Tattling *
Yesterday's matinée performance Le Nozze di Figaro at San Francisco Opera started late and was rather chaotic. There was much traffic coming into the city, perhaps because of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the annual free music festival held in Golden Gate Park. Several latecomers were sent to the back of the balcony to stand, and most were not very happy about it. One person in the balcony, I could not tell if he was in standing room or in the last row, lost his temper. He practically yelled "Stop talking, shut up" at the offending people. Just before Act I ended, a member of the house staff came by and repeatedly announced that they should go to the appropriate level of the War Memorial to that their seats.
I accidentally arrived half an hour before my volunteer shift and ended up making the coffee for the SF Opera Guild Coffee Service for the first time. I did not get it done quite in time for an Adler Fellow mezzo-soprano, but I hope she got some later. During intermission I had a very quick conversation with the principal trumpet player, and an even speedier one with Bojan Kneževiċ. I wandered up to watch John F. Martin take photographs of Danielle de Niese and Ellie Dehn, he may have even convinced the Opera Tattler to have her portrait taken too.
* Notes *
This time I paid special attention to just what Maestro Luisotti was interpolating into Figaro. Besides Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in Act I Scene 6, there was a tiny bit of "Treulich geführt" from Lohengrin two scenes later. The beginning of the third entr'acte of Carmen in Act III, before Scene 13 showed up briefly. Might have also heard Mozart's Sonata Facile in the eighth scene of the last act.
* Notes *
The fourth of nine performances in San Francisco Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro revival this season was last night. From the back of the balcony everyone sounded robust. Maestro Luisotti's conducting highlighted the subtitle of this opera, ossia la folle giornata, and his playing of the fortepiano was filled with vim. I was better able to appreciate all the interpolated bits and pieces whilst reading the score. Much deserved praise has been given to the new principal oboe and clarinet, but the bassoons also sound lovely. The chorus sounded clear and pretty, except for in the Act III contadinelle, which seemed slightly off from the orchestra.
I was surprised how much of the humor comes through the voices and playing without the visual aspect of the performance. Luca Pisaroni (Figaro) was particularly funny, and all the character roles were very strong. I still did not care for Michèle Losier's "Non so più" and noticed the horns were not perfectly in tune in her second aria. Danielle de Niese's breathing was evident at times, especially in Act II's "Venite, inginocchiatevi!" and Ellie Dehn occasionally gasped in Act III. All these quibbles aside, I throughly enjoyed learning more about this piece by listening to this performance.
* Tattling *
As I was volunteering in the gift shop, I only made it up to the balcony just before curtain. Thankfully, SFMike was saving me a spot on the bench beneath the light. No one bothered me during the music, though I had to explain more than once that I was not a singer and was only looking at the score for fun.
The supertitles were timed well, and all the laughter happened just at the right time. I believe there was applause for the Act IV set, or else something delightful happened onstage before Barbarina's aria that I missed.
At intermission the Last Chinese Unicorn was kind enough to bring me a beverage and afterward she waited patiently for me with tiny strawberry cupcakes. By the time we left they had locked most of the doors, and it was commented that we might as well be locked in, since we are at the War Memorial all the time.
* Notes *
A revival of Le Nozze di Figaro at LA Opera opened this afternoon. Plácido Domingo kept the orchestra at a good clip, though not exactly brisk, the tempi were comfortable. There were many synchronization problems with singers and the orchestra. The bridesmaid duet in Act III went especially awry, either the singers were out of tune, or the brass was. The chorus held together, however, and the character roles were all perfectly fine. Daniel Montenegro was all but unrecognizable as an elderly Don Curzio, Philip Cokorinos seemed suitably confused as Antonio. Valentina Fleer made for a girlish Barbarina, and her "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was lovely and mournful. Christopher Gillett (Don Basilio) was reedy and unctous, Alessandro Guerzoni (Doctor Bartolo) was stuffy and silly, and Ronnita Nicole Miller (Marcellina) was sassy and a touch too youthful.
Renata Pokupic was winsome as Cherubino, breathlessly enamored. Her "Non so più cosa son" was slightly quiet, but her "Voi che sapete" was clear. In contrast, Martina Serafin sounded loud and full as the Countess and her "Dove sono i bei momenti" lacked a sense of yearning. She could overpower the other singers, but did rein in her volume in "Sull'aria...Che soave zeffiretto." Bo Skovhus was delightful as the Count, his voice is warm but not too heavy. Marlis Petersen was sweet and airy as Susanna, but always audible and her Figaro, Daniel Okulitch, sounded robust and facile.
The production was odd, Ian Judge's direction involved a lot of pacing and reclining. The big dance number in Act III was a hybrid of flamenco and lindy hop that was funny and well-excuted, but it did not really tie together with the rest of the choreography. Some of the costumes were Rococo and some of them looked very fifties. Tim Goodchild's set made for seamless set changes, and looked clean and pretty until the last act. For some reason, this last scene has a wide open stage, so that timing for the ensembles was compromised, as there is nowhere to stand without being seen. Then there was a haunted house in the background with a giant moon, completely at odds with the sleek elegance of the other scenery. At least the spectacle ended with onstage fireworks.
* Tattling *
The audience talked, but at least people were quiet when hushed. Watch alarms were heard at each hour. A cellular phone rang three times during Act I starting from when Figaro says "Chi suona? La Contessa."
The production garnered much laughter at inappropriate moments, sometimes simply because of the timing of the supertitles. I, for one, laughed very hard at the fireworks.
I had the good fortune to be invited backstage after the performance, and was able to deliver a commissioned cupcake pirate painting.
* Notes *
The most recent revival of Le Nozze di Figaro opened last night at San Francisco Opera. Zack Brown's Goya-inspired set is nearly thirty years old, but is perfectly serviceable. Though the scene changes are awkward between acts, everything does look quite nice. The direction from John Copley is thoughtful, he handled the chorus especially deftly. The motivation for every movement was apparent.
Maestro Luisotti conducted the 42 musicians of the reduced orchestra, and played the fortepiano. The sound was verdant. The strings and woodwinds sparkled, and the brass was pleasant but hazy. The tempi were fast, and there was never a dull moment.
The cast was uniformly impressive, both in singing and acting. The chorus sounded particularly pure and clear in Acts I and IV. Adler Sara Gartland had a promising debut as Barbarina, her aria that starts Act IV went well. Robert MacNeil made the most of Don Curzio and was funny. Likewise, Bojan Kneževiċ sounded great as a rather wild-eyed Antonio. John Del Carlo (Doctor Bartolo), Greg Fedderly (Don Basilio), and Catherine Cook (Marcellina) were spirited and had perfect comic timing.
Michèle Losier (Cherubino) did not win me over in her first aria, her voice had a hysterical edge to it instead of sounding breathlessly youthful. Her "Voi che sapete" was pretty, and she does look convincingly boyish. In the title role, Luca Pisaroni started off slowly and lacked punch. By "Non più andrai" he did sound lovely, and looked comfortable on stage. Pisaroni's voice has taken more weight since we last heard him as Masetto in 2007. Danielle de Niese made for a sweet but sassy Susanna. Her "Deh, vieni, non tardar" seemed effortless. Lucas Meachem and Ellie Dehn were both strong as the Count and Countess. Meachem was warm and vibrant. Dehn can sound perfectly brilliant, and there was only the slightest roughness in "Dove sono i bei momenti."
* Tattling *
Before the performance I had the pleasure introducing Axel Feldheim to Adler Leah Crocetto, the cover for the Countess, in the press room. We found we were seated in the same row as Adler David Lomelí, who got an introduction as well.
There was light talking during the music. Some audience members did not heed the request to remain seated during the brief pauses between acts. At least one person even made a telephone call during the first one. A watch alarm was heard during "L'ho perduta, me meschina."
John Copley was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal by David Gockley after the performance. Copley told an anecdote about Marilyn Horne being picked up at SFO. He also expressed his pleasure of being placed on the "diva list," as many renowned divas have received the aforementioned award.
* Notes *
The Saturday performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was utterly delightful. The production was simple, but cunning, and the scene changes happened fluidly. Herbert Kapplmüller's set was descriptive without being too elaborate, and Yoshi'o Yabara's costumes were in keeping with it.
The orchestra sounded pleasant under Frank Beermann, though there were some synchronization problems between the playing and singing. There were more than a few horn mistakes, but most of these were drowned out by the strings. The cast was very even, and the singing lovely. The weakest was Ulrike Helzel (Cherubino), who looked the role, but lacked sweetness, especially in her higher range. Alexander Vinogradov was funny and sympathetic as Figaro, and Sylvia Schwartz (Susanna) was likewise. Arttu Kataja was a brash, swaggering Count, and Anna Samuil also did well as the Countess, her intonation was fine and she had some very pretty moments.
* Tattling *
The audience spoke during much of the performance, and watch alarms rang at each hour. I was overwhelmed by the heavily perfumed woman who sat next to me in Tier 3, Right Middle Row 4 Seat 19. After the intermission, her date switched seats with her, and perhaps he did not enjoy her fragrance either, as he angled himself toward me.
After the show, we were convinced to go on a tour of the opera house with our Belgian friends. The hour-long tour gave us a bit of history about the opera house and took us from the Königsloge, past the dressing rooms, back stage, into the Dienstloge, and all the way back to the Apollo-Saal. It was impressive to be able to stand on the stage and to preview the set for Agrippina, which we saw the next day.
October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo
Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.
September 13 2008- July 2 2009: Turandot
September 14 2008- March 22 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
September 15-27 2008: Rigoletto
September 20 2008: L'Amico Fritz
September 21 2008- May 2 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 30- October 8 2008: Pique Dame
October 1-5 2008: The Nose
October 2-7 2008: Chowanschtschina
October 3 2008 - February 15 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
October 22-31 2008: Manon Lescaut
October 30- November 6 2008: Lohengrin
November 20 2008- May 8 2009: La Traviata
November 28 2008- April 12 2009: Aida
November 30 2008- May 31 2009: Tannhäuser
December 8 2008- February 12 2009: Daphne
December 13 2008- March 11 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
December 14-28 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- January 9 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
December 18 2008- January 4 2009: La Bohème
January 7- June 24 2009: Tosca
January 18- February 14 2009: Die Ägyptische Helena
January 25- February 10 2009: Salome
January 28- February 13 2009: Cassandra / Elektra
February 8-27 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 8- July 3 2009: Carmen
March 13- April 25 2009: Un Ballo in Maschera
March 26- April 4 2009: Andrea Chenier
April 9-24 2009: Marie Victoire
April 30- May 9 2009: Eugene Onegin
May 20- June 2 2009: La Cenerentola
May 26- June 18 2009: Der Freischütz
May 27- June 6 2009: Madama Butterfly
June 10-21 2009: Tristan und Isolde
June 17-25 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 26- July 4 2009: Tiefland
Valery Gergiev conducts Pique Dame, The Nose, Chowanschtschina. Bo Skovhus sings the title role of Eugene Onegin. Roberto Alagna sings Fritz in L'Amico Fritz, with Angela Gheorghiu as Suzel. Gheorghiu returns in May for La Traviata, and in June for Tosca. Angelika Kirchschlager sings the title role of Carmen and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Nancy Gustafson sings the Feldmarschallin in the latter, but only in December. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the March performances of Lucia, opposite of Burcu Uyar and Elena Mosuc, who share the title role with Ruth Ann Swenson.
October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot
Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.
November 14-22 2008: Le Nozze Di Figaro
December 5-13 2008: Die Fledermaus
January 23-21 2009: Roberto Devereux
February 13-21 2009: La Bohème
March 6-14 2009: L'Italiana in Algeri
James Valenti is having his Dallas Opera debut as Rodolfo. William Burden is singing Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri, in the production San Francisco Opera audiences saw in 2005, directed by Chris Alexander. The Fledermaus production from Seattle Opera, last performed there in 2006, was also produced by Alexander.
The 2009-2010 season was announced today:
October 2009: Otello
February 2010: Così fan tutte
February/March 2010: Don Pasquale
Late April 2010: Moby-Dick
May 2010: Madama Butterfly
The new Winspear Opera House will be open by then. Most interesting in this inaugural season is the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick, conducted by Patrick Summers and starring Ben Heppner. The work is a co-commission and co-production with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, and Calgary Opera.
Press Release [PDF]