Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Lucrezia Borgia (Act I pictured left with Elizabeth DeShong as Maffio Orsini, Michael Fabiano as Gennaro, Renée Fleming as Lucrezia Borgia; photograph by Cory Weaver) are coming in.
* Notes *
Washington National Opera's production of Lucrezia Borgia opened yesterday evening at San Francisco Opera. The performances mark the return of Renée Fleming, who has not sung in an opera at the War Memorial for more than a decade. John Pascoe's designs for Lucrezia are rather puzzling. The set is oppressive and the different scenes do not always look distinct from one another. The fanciful costumes have often been executed in shiny fabrics. The attire for the diva herself is indeed whimsical, her Act III outfit (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) seems more suitable for a super hero than a Renaissance duchess. Pascoe's direction is consistent with his design aesthetic. The choreography, though synchronized, seemed contrived. The final scene was utterly baffling. The entrance of the chorus was awkward. The motivation for dragging the corpses back onstage was unclear. Why were the five singers carried out through the upstage doors only to be pulled back from the downstage wings?
The orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Frizza, played fleetly, and was often ahead of the singers. The volume had a tendency to overwhelm the singing. However, the harp had a beautiful lucidity in Act I, and the brass was clear in Act III. Many of the young cast members showed much promise. In the smaller roles, Brian Jagde (Oloferno Vitellozzo) and Daniel Montenegro (Rustighello) stood out. Jadge's voice has brightened and opened during his Adler Fellowship, and he could be heard in Act I over the orchestra. Though a bit light, Montenegro's voice has a mournful sweetness.
Vitalij Kowaljow made for a fittingly brutal Duke Alfonso, his voice has strength and depth. Also strong was Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini), who has a gorgeous sound. Her singing was clean, but she dropped out near the end of Act III's "Minacciata è la mia vita" with Michael Fabiano (Gennaro). Fabiano looked visibly confused by this, and also stopped singing until they could both get back on track for the final notes of the duet. Other than this misstep, Fabiano sounded very good. His voice has heft and beauty. In contrast, Renée Fleming was disappointing. She does have a lovely ease and pleasing timbre. However, she seemed a bit tepid. Her relatively minor intonation errors were more glaring than they would have been if she had projected more confidence. She was engaging in the final act, and her soaring high notes were effective. Oddly enough though, at the end, the orchestra seemed to just swallow up her voice.
* Tattling *
There was whispering and unwrapping of cough drops during the music, but no discernible electronic noise, at least on the orchestra level of the opera house.
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- October 5 2008: La Traviata
September 20- October 7 2008: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
November 1-17 2008: Lucrezia Borgia
November 8-19 2008: Carmen
November 21- 22 2008: Petite Messe Solennelle
March 21- April 6 2009: Peter Grimes
May 2-17 2009: Siegfried
May 16- June 4 2009: Turandot
Renée Fleming has her WNO debut in Lucrezia Borgia. Denyce Graves sings the title role of Carmen, in the Zambello production from ROH. The Zandra Rhodes production of Les Pêcheurs de Perles is the one we had here in San Francisco in 2005.