Mariusz Kwiecien

SF Opera's Don Carlo

_B5A5263* Notes *
The latest Don Carlo (Valentina Simi as Countess of Aremberg, Ana María Martínez as Elisabetta, Nadia Krasteva as Princess Eboli, René Pape as King Philip II, and Mariusz Kwiecień as Rodrigo in Act II Scene 2; photograph by Cory Weaver) that opened at San Francisco Opera this afternoon is impeccably cast from top to bottom. Michael Fabiano is a brilliant Don Carlo, with powerful high notes. Ana María Martínez sings Elisabetta with icy purity and strength. Her formidable vibrato is controlled.

René Pape is completely believable as King Philip II, his rich tones sounded mature if not slightly weathered. Mariusz Kwiecień made for a warm, sympathetic Rodrigo, his famous duet with Fabiano in Act II Scene 1 ("Dio, che nell'alma infondere") was beautiful, as was his death scene aria "Io morrò, ma lieto in core." Nadia Krasteva (Princess Eboli) has a darkness and a hard edge that works well for the role. Her "O don fatale" in Act IV Scene 1 was surprisingly lovely.

Even the smallest roles had fine singing, including Andrea Silvestrelli as the Grand Inquistor, Pene Pati as Count Lerma, and Toni Marie Palmertree as a Heavenly Voice.

The orchestra members also acquitted themselves well under the direction of Maestro Nicola Luisotti. There were moments that were fuzzy, but for the most part the music flowed nicely and was phrased skillfully.

The sets are spare and costumes lavish. Everything was very pretty to look at but a bit dull. The scene changes require a lot of pauses and this dampens the dramatic import of the proceedings.

* Tattling *
I arrived 30 minutes late as I did not realize the curtain time was 1pm rather than the normal 2pm because of the length of this opera, so I missed the first scene. Terrible!

Sadly there was much misbehavior other than my own in balcony standing room. Lots of talking and fidgeting, and at least one cellular phone. Someone exclaimed very loudly to himself during Act IV when the Grand Inquisitor tells the King that God sacrificed His own son for mankind, so he can surely kill Don Carlo without a bad conscience.

Król Roger at Santa Fe Opera

Krol-roger-santa-fe-opera* Notes *
Szymanowski's Król Roger (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) opened last weekend at Santa Fe Opera. The second performance on Wednesday sounded strong, the orchestra held together under Maestro Evan Rogister. At times the volume obscured the singer's voices, but not often.

The production, directed by Stephen Wadsworth and with sets from Thomas Lynch, is clear and elegant. Shifts in the background and with the light (designed by Duane Schuler) are enough to change the scenes. The silence before the music started was engaging, as the characters quietly found their places on stage. Peggy Hickey's choreography looked comfortable on both the singers and dancers. The costumes, from Ann Hould-Ward, looked suitably grand.

The cast is even. Raymond Aceto is perfectly appropriate for the Archbishop, as is Dennis Petersen as Edrisi. Erin Morley (Roxana) has a cold, brilliant sound. William Burden impressed as the Shepard, his appealing tenor well-suited to the role. Mariusz Kwiecien was robust in the title role.

* Tattling * 
Only one person in the middle of the balcony talked during the performance, and was audible from Row D Seat 113 at least twice.

Don Giovanni Cast Changes (SF/NY)

Don_Giovanni_Playbill_Vienna_Premiere_1788Shawn Mathey will replace Topi Lehtipuu as Don Ottavio in San Francisco Opera's new production of Don Giovanni, opening this Saturday. Lehtipuu has withdrawn due to illness. Shawn Mathey makes his San Francisco Opera debut with these performances.

In other Don Giovanni news, Peter Mattei replaces Mariusz Kwiecien in the first three performances of Met's new production, on October 13, 17, and 22. Kwiecien herniated a disc in his back during rehearsal. He will return to the role starting October 25. Rodion Pogossov takes over Mattei's performances of Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia on October 14 and 22.

SF Opera Press Release | SF Opera's Official Site | The Met's Official Site

Don Pasquale at the Met

Netrebko-kwiecien-don-pasquale * Notes * 
Don Pasquale had its 133rd performance at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday night. From what I could see at Score Desk 2, the sets and costumes, designed by Rolf Langenfass, were entirely traditional. One can only imagine Otto Schenk's 2006 production was likewise.

The orchestra sounded lucid under James Levine. The trumpet solo at the beginning of Act II was especially fine. The chorus was also fine. Anna Netrebko, while not possessing a particularly apt voice for bel canto, otherwise acquitted herself in the role of Norina convincingly. Her voice remains robust and dark, her gasps rather audible. Matthew Polenzani sounded sweet and disarmingly vulnerable as Ernesto.

Mariusz Kwiecien (Malatesta) started off with a slight wooliness, but sounded strong otherwise. His acting skills were apparent through his voice. In the title role, John Del Carlo was similarly shaky at first, but again, his consummate acting came through vocally. The Act III duet, "Cheti, cheti, immatinente," was particularly charming, and we were even favored with an encore of this as the finale scene was set.

* Tattling * 
Though I did not receive my score desk ticket in the mail as I expected, the Met Opera Guild's Community Programs Fellow made sure it was waiting for me at the box office. During the performance itself, a family of three seemed completely confused about where they were sitting in the Family Circle. In any case, they were not together, and felt fit to wander over to one another and speak aloud as the performance occurred. Mercifully, they went elsewhere after the intermission.

Don Giovanni at Bayerische Staatsoper

Don-giovanni-bso2009 Our correspondent in Germany, Opernphrenologe, was recently in Munich. What follows is a lightly edited review of the new Don Giovanni production that recently opened at Bayerische Staatsoper.

   * Notes *
The premiere of Don Giovanni, directed by Stephan Kimmig, in München started out badly enough. The curtain opened to reveal a naked old man with saggy boobs, shivering. From that point on, the production continued to get steadily worse. Behind him were a bunch of shipping containers that moved around and opened throughout the opera. One of the worst scenes was the wedding party, which was a rave with two 3-foot high penguin statues that people danced with. The masks were snorkeling masks, and there were half-naked lesbian snow bunnies humping each other here and there. Even worse was the send-Giovanni-to-Hell scene. Heaven was a shipping container, this time filled with people dressed like priests and army soldiers. Giovanni was cooking dinner in his modern kitchen (located in a shipping container that also contained around 20 mannequins), and he was sent to Hell by shaking hands with a chain of hand-holding army dudes and priests. When they let go, Giovanni fell to the ground next to his modern food processor. Profound. There was also a film screen that added absolutely nothing to the production, except to perhaps make it worse, as if it needed help in that department. At the end, everyone danced around, and old-naked-man came out again with his old-man-boobs to blow on some pinwheels.

Mariusz Kwiecien (Don Giovanni) did not sing as well as I remember him singing before. He sounded like he was mumbling and there was not much dynamic range in his voice. Perhaps he had a cold? Then again, he was definitely slimy, and an especially bad moment was when he pretended to give a doll a horseback ride on his knee. Maija Kovalevska (Donna Elvira) was a hippy backpacker chick in this particular production. Her voice was sweet and lovely, and she was incredibly fit. She must work out a lot. My favorite singer was Pavol Breslik (Don Ottavio), and I guess others agreed since he received loud applause at the end. His interpretation of the music was wonderful, with lots of dynamics and a sugary tone. However, even he could not make up for the flat, off-tune, and downright ugly singing of Ellie Dehn (Donna Anna). Her famous aria was like nails on a chalkboard. Fortunately for her, most people do not have perfect pitch and she received lukewarm applause at the end (with only a few buh's). The orchestra was also lightly buh'd. It is true that they were a bit sloppy, but they were not bad. They were like a player piano that had played the same tune one too many times. Some of the horn section looked angry when they were buh'd, which I suppose is understandable. After all, it is the conductor's (in this case, Kent Nagano's) job to interpret the music and not allow them to be sloppy.

The producers were heartily buh'd at the end. Some people responded to the buh'ing with loud applause, as if they somehow "got" the profundity of the production while the buh'ers did not. Or perhaps they just found the old-man-boobs incredibly sexy. I might guess the latter.

* Tattling * 
We did not have tickets for this production, since it sold out and I tried to buy tickets too late. Instead, we bought tickets from vicious female ticket scalpers who fought amongst themselves to unload their overpriced tickets on us. It was fearsome to watch them in action, and we both needed to tipple afterwards. My companion was an Opera Virgin, and we acquired her ticket from the only nice scalper in the bunch. I suspect that my companion will never willingly attend opera again -- the production was that bad. The audience was unusually engaged compared to the average performance (but perhaps not for a premiere). They seemed extremely pleased with themselves during the hearty buh'ing at the end.

ROH's 2009-2010 Season

September 7-14 2009: Linda di Chamounix
September 15- October 1 2009: Don Carlo
September 19- October 18 2009: Tristan und Isolde
October 3 2009- June 26 2010: Carmen
October 17-28 2009: L'Heure Espagnole /Gianni Schicchi
October 30- November 14 2009: Artaxerxes
November 20- December 8 2009: The Tsarina's Slippers
December 7-22 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
December 19 2009- January 11 2010: La Bohème
January 22- February 3 2010: The Rake's Progress
January 29- February 17 2010: Così fan tutte
February 11-27 2010: The Gambler
March 5-20 2010: Tamerlano
March 19- April 1 2010: The Cunning Little Vixen
April 3-19 2010: Il Turco in Italia
April 26- May 12 2010: Powder Her Face
April 27- May 16 2010: Aida
May 11- July 17 2010: La Traviata
May 17- June 4 2010: La Fille du Régiment
May 31- June 30 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 22- July 10 2010: Manon
June 29- July 15 2010: Simon Boccanegra
July 3-16 2010: Salome

Covent Garden just announced their season this week. Eglise Gutiérrez stars in Linda di Chamounix. Stephanie Blythe sings Baba the Turk in the revival of The Rake's Progress. Kurt Streit shares the role of Bajazet in Tamerlano with Plácido Domingo. Streit also sings in The Gambler, and Domingo sings the title role in Boccanegra. Dmitri Hvorostovsky returns as Germont for the May performances of La Traviata. Natalie Dessay stars opposite of Juan Diego Flórez in La Fille. Erwin Schrott sings the title role in Le Nozze, with Mariusz Kwiecien and Jacques Imbrailo sharing the role of the Count.

Press Release [PDF]| Official Site

Lyric Opera's 2009-2010 Season

September 26 2009- January 29 2010: Tosca
October 5- November 7 2009: Faust
October 27- November 23 2009: Ernani
November 22- Deceumber 12 2009: Katya Kabanova
December 5 2009- January 16 2010: The Merry Widow
January 23- February 22 2010: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 20- March 17 2010: La Damnation de Faust
February 28- March 27 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro

René Pape and Kyle Ketelsen share the role of Mephistopheles in Faust. Salvatore Licitra sings opposite of Sondra Radvanovsky in Ernani. Karita Mattila will sing the title-role of Katya Kabanova. Susan Graham, Paul Groves and John Relyea star in La Damnation. Le Nozze features Joyce DiDonato and Mariusz Kwiecien.

Tribune Article | Official Site

Seattle Opera's I Puritani

Ipuritanicast1_4  * Notes *
Bellini's last opera, I Puritani, had its Seattle Opera premiere at the beginning of the month, and Linda Brovsky's production is magnificent. The sets, the work of Robert A. Dahlstrom, look inspired by the Getty Center, as there are many steel staircases and landings. This kept the action in the vertical plane rather than the horizontal, so though the set was static, it was not dull. This also kept the staging simple and made the singers visible from different parts of the house. Peter Hall's sumptuous costumes were from the Met, though he modified them to work with the staging. The lighting designer, Thomas C. Hase, was tasteful in his approach, never harsh or overwhelming.

The horns were flat at first in the overture, and one note in the horn solo of Act II was sour, but they all managed to be in tune by the end. Otherwise the playing was good, the orchestra was usually with the singers and was not too loud. Also out of tune was Norah Amsellem (Elvira), from the very beginning I cringed at her voice during the off stage quartet (La luna, il sol, le stelle) in Act I. The arpeggios in first duet were poor, and the last note was quite unpleasant. Amsellem's voice is lucid and beautiful when she isn't flat, even resplendent, but she was often a half or quarter tone off. This was especially evident in Act III, when she sang "A una fonte afflitto e solo" and the tenor repeats these lines in "La mia canzon d'amore." She was most in tune for Act II, perhaps madness, at least at first, becomes her. Amsellem did look beautiful as Elvira and her acting was not bad.

On the other hand, Mariusz Kwiecien was wonderful in "Ah!, per sempre," his legato was gorgeous, and his singing as Riccardo was clearly distinct from his Don Giovanni of last season. In fact, I barely recognized him, his manner was so different and someone has finally figured out what to do with his hair. Kwiecien did rush during "Bel sogno beato" and was not with the orchestra, but sang beautifully in the rest of the opera. His singing in Act II with John Relyea was the highlight of the evening. Relyea was instantly recognizable from his gait and posture. His characterization of Giorgio wasn't terribly dissimilar from his Banquo or Garibaldo, as far as coloring, but he did sing well. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee did not have a convincing wig, but he was not disappointing as Arturo. His voice is bright and flexible, with a bit of strain at the top, but still lovely.

* Tattling *
The orchestra level was nearly all full, but before the performance began an usher kindly offered the standees seats as he explained that the opera was very long. Seattle Opera put two intermissions into this opera, which made for one 75 minute block, followed by 45 minutes and 35 minutes blocks that could have easily been combined.

There were no mobile phone rings, but there was one watch alarm with many beeps in succession during the Act II overture. Someone was making vocalizations on the orchestra level, I could not tell if they were singing along or just snoring. Plenty of talking, whispering, and coughing was observed, and a woman in Section 2 of the orchestra level, in Row BB Seat 6 both spoke and coughed a fair amount. I tried to look at her disdainfully when she stared at me during the Act III overture. I'm not sure why she was staring, given that she had to turn her head around to do this, and the light reflecting off her glasses made it very obvious that she was doing so. 

Deutsche Oper Berlin's 2008-2009 Season

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.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site

ROH's 2008-2009 Season

September 8- October 4 2008: Don Giovanni
September 16-29 2008: La fanciulla del West
September 23- October 10 2008: La Calisto
October 11-18 2008: La Bohème
October 23- November 11 2008: Matilde di Shabran
November 9-24 2008: Elektra
November 25- December 13 2008: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
December 9 2008- January 1 2009: Hänsel und Gretel
December 22- January 23 2008: Turandot
January 20-31 2009: The Beggar's Opera
January 27- February 17 2009: Die Tote Stadt
February 10 -25 2009: Rigoletto
February 23- March 10 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
March 2- April 11 2009: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
March 31- April 20 2009: Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea
April 13- May 7 2009: Il trovatore
April 27- May 16 2009: Lohengrin
May 12-25 2009: L'elisir d'Amore
June 4-20 2009: Lulu
June 19- July 6 2009: La Traviata
June 26- July 18 2009: Un Ballo en Maschera
July 7-18 2009: Il barbiere di Siviglia
July 9-18 2009: Tosca

Simon Keenlyside and Mariusz Kwiecien share the role of Don Giovanni, and Keenlyside also sings Figaro in Il barbiere. David Alden has his ROH debut directing a production of La Calisto from Bayerische Staatsoper. Bryn Terfel is singing in Holländer and Tosca, while Deborah Voigt sings the title role of the latter. Renée Fleming is singing opposite Joseph Calleja in La Traviata and Thomas Hampson sings Germont. Die Tote Stadt has its UK premiere, Ingo Metzmacher will conduct. The production is from Salzburg and is the one that will be at San Francisco Opera this September. Lucas Meachem will be singing Aeneas in his ROH debut.

Bloomberg Article | Press Release [PDF] |Official Site

Seattle Opera's 2008-2009 Season

August 2-23 2008: Aida
August 16 2008: International Wagner Competition
October 18- November 1 2008: Elektra
January 10-24 2009: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
February 21- March 7 2009: Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung
May 2-16 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro

I may avoid Aida, as Andrea Gruber is in the title role, and her vibrato is overwhelming. I am not terribly fond of Les Pêcheurs de Perles, but William Burden will sing Nadir, so I might just go, considering it is also during the San Francisco Opera hiatus. I am most interested in hearing Bluebeard's Castle, as I missed this in Los Angeles. John Relyea is singing the title role in Seattle. Mariusz Kwiecien is singing the Count in Figaro, but the rest of the cast may not be up to his level.

Seattle PI Article

Santa Fe Opera's 2008 Season

June 27- August 23 2008: Falstaff
June 28- August 22 2008: Le Nozze di Figaro
July 12- August 21 2008: Billy Budd
July 19- August 20 2008: Radamisto
July 26- August 12 2008: Adriana Mater

The next season at Santa Fe Opera includes the US premiere of Kaija Saariaho's newest opera. Naturally the production of Händel is from David Alden, whose work I am all too familiar with from Munich. David Daniels will be singing the title role of Radamisto. William Burden is singing Starry Vere in Billy Budd. Mariusz Kwiecien will be singing Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Press Release | Season Overview

Opening of Don Giovanni

Dongiovannibrussels_2* Notes *
Don Giovanni opened the summer half of the 2006-2007 season in San Francisco last Saturday. The co-production with Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie premiered in 2003, and has been also been performed at the Grand Théâtre de la ville de Luxembourg and Opéra de Lille. David McVicar's production was designed by John Macfarlane and directed by Leah Hausman. The staging was rather dark, from the black raked stage to most of the costuming. Jennifer Tipton's lighting was not as minimal as we had been lead to believe, as one could recognize the faces of the singers from the back of the orchestra section without much effort. The choreography was demanding, at times there were a great many dancers on stage along with the singers. For the ball scene in Act I, the singers held their own and looked very good among the dancers. Some of the choreography was overwrought, especially at the end of Act I, when Donna Elvira, Don Ottavio and Donna Anna unmask. A few of the dancers were flailing in the background at this point. The acting was strong and the characterizations energetic. This is the only production I have seen in which Don Ottavio is not completely boring. He has a tendency to fade into the background or to be utterly insipid, yet here it was not the case. However, overall, the production tends towards humorlessness, especially at the end with the descent of Don Giovanni into Hell. The enormous death chicken wielding a sword was hilarious, but probably unintentionally so.

Musically the performance was a bit shaky. The orchestra and singers were not always quite together, I noticed this especially with two of the basses, Oren Gradus and Luca Pisaroni. Both sang very beautifully, but were a bit ahead of the music a few times. Mezzo-soprano Claudia Mahnke was much better suited for Zerlina than Cherubino, which she sang last summer here. Her voice is breathy, but not unpleasant. Charles Castronovo played and sang Don Ottavio well, though when he was singing with others, one can hear that his voice is slightly underpowered. Former Adler Twyla Robinson was a charming Donna Elvira, but vocally she was harsh and her intonation was imperfect, especially when she first took the stage. That said, she was sublime at certain points in Act II when her voice was warmed up and she was singing more quietly. Elza van den Heever did a commendable job of stepping into the role of Donna Anna at the last moment, she did sound hesitant at first, but sang well. Her voice is awfully cold and sounds a bit like it is stuck in her head somewhere, but her volume is adequate. Mariusz Kwiecien was excellent in the title role, but in this production he was not quite as domineering as he was in the Chris Alexander one at Seattle Opera earlier this year.

* Tattling *
The performance was sold-out several days in advance, but the standing room line was not as hectic as it can be. After coercing several young people to agree to attend this opera, the line situation was anticlimactic, we very easily got tickets 2-11. The box office opened a few minutes after 10, and the tickets were not yet printed, making the whole ordeal take longer than usual. Standing room itself was moderately full, and there was no late seating. The ushers spoke during the overture, and a man in seat ZZ 117 started unwrapping candies at that point as well. He left during the beginning of Act II with the 3 people he was with, it was unclear as to why. During the beginning Act II, a woman in standing room walked back and forth with a plastic shopping bag, until a man in standing room (not an usher) finally asked her to "Silence her bag." A baseball capped man in row ZZ (only for Act II) fell asleep in the middle of Act II.

During Act I, the photographer for Elza van den Heever was a bit loud, one could hear the clicking sounds as he worked pretty clearly. These performance photographs are usually taken during the final dress rehearsal, but in her case this was not possible. There was also an alarming amount of applause for Ms. van den Heever at every opportunity, for each aria and also at the end of the performance. If one was unaware about her minute replacement of Hope Briggs in the role of Donna Anna, it would have made no sense. It makes one curious, if Ms. Briggs was so unsuited for this role, should that not have been clear before the final dress rehearsal?

Opening of Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera


* Notes *
Chris Alexander's new production of Don Giovanni premiered last Saturday at Seattle Opera. The set, designed by Robert A. Dahlstrom, was rather flat and limiting. Basically, it consisted of a large wall with many partitions, which did make the scene changes seamless, but was rather domineering and monolithic. Marie-Therese Cramer's costumes were a mix of contemporary and Rococo. The choreography was similarly confused, cast members would randomly put themselves into doorways or oddly bobble to a minuet.

The most painful and hilarious moment of the performance was when Don Giovanni descends into Hell. For one thing, it is obvious just where this will take place, as this part of the stage is lowered to be a pool in Scenes IV and V of Act I. In Scene V, Act II, the Commendatore inexplicably enters Giovanni's house by a gigantic crack in the aforementioned monolithic wall. Then he proceeds to the table that has been artfully raised from the ground at the beginning of the scene and casts down his admonitions. Clearly, vengeful statue ghosts wish to cast down their admonitions from tabletops! When Don Giovanni takes the Commendatore's hand, he must also jump atop the table, which is slowly sinking. Instead of plunging all the way to Hell in one go, Don Giovanni flings himself away and has to slither around the floor for a good long time before he finally makes his way back, then the lighting changes and a huge white sheet descends to cover the wall. Naturally the sheet does manage to get caught on one of the chairs.

Mariusz Kwiecien was the strongest singer, and being in the title role, this did cause an imbalance for the production as a whole. His acting was also good, he was an unctuous fop. Pamela Armstrong showed potential as Donna Anna, though she lacked control. Her high notes had too much vibrato, which lead to being off key. She was also rather loud. Though her voice needs to be reined in, it is warm and resonant. Marie Plette sang Donna Elvira as if she were a Puccini heroine. Richard Croft's Don Ottavio was simpering, he did have good volume, though he did seem strained at times. Eduardo Chama was a mocking and very funny Leporello. He has a pretty voice, but his diction was sloppy. Ailish Tynan (Zerlina) has a girlish sweet voice, but looked absurd in short skirts with her skinny legs. Kevin Burdette (Masetto) started off too fast, but his acting had a strong physicality and he was convincing in his role.

* Tattling *
This was definitely the most badly-behaved audience I have observed at Seattle Opera, even worse than the Sunday matinee Die Fledermaus I attended last year that convinced me to not subscribe again. The evening started off badly, when I got to my standing room place, the person in the adjacent seat had placed her coat over my spot. My companion asked her to move it, and it was only grudgingly done. The person in question must have not enjoyed the opera, for she left after the intermission.

There was a noisy altercation between some people in the center section of the orchestra level during the overture. There were two rounds of hushing before this settled down. Profanities and invectives were employed.

All of the couples in front of us spoke during the performance, but the people on Aisle F Row BB Seats 1 and 2 were loudest. Among the erudite comments were "He's the guy!" when Masetto appeared onstage, "Nice control!" after one of Donna Anna's arias, and "That was Modigliani" in response to the many female nudes flashed upon a screen during "Fin Ch'han Dal Vino."

A watch alarm went off during Act II, and it beeped at least 8 times before silenced. This was followed by an angry but whispered argument between two men on the right side of the orchestra level. Another man decided he could no longer take Donna Anna, and left in the middle of her aria, despite his being in the middle of the row. About half a dozen people had to stand up to let him leave, and one of them had a bit of trouble and toppled over.


GheorghiumastromarinoThe current Los Angeles Opera production of Pagliacci is surprisingly good, especially when one considers the opera company is a mere 20 years old. Franco Zeffirelli brought the staging into the 20th century, the set was urban, the costumes were fit for a disco, but there was also a roller blader, so a bit of a mix. There were a bunch of acrobats, a person on stilts, a live donkey, drag queens, and confetti.

Tenor Roberto Alagna seemed somewhat hesitant at first as Canio. His voice is light with a slightly reedy nasality. But his voice came through for Recitar...Vesti la giubba at the end of Act I, and he sang well in Act II. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu also has a fresh light voice without much heft, but still has sufficient volume. She also is extremely attractive, and thus quite believable as Nedda.

Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien held his own as Silvio, this part is to be sung by Rodney Gilfry in the last two performances this season, but for now Gilfry is only singing in The Grand Duchess. Kwiecien was very good in La Bohème at San Francisco Opera a few seasons ago, and this time around I was impressed by how warm and rich his voice is compared to the two leads. On the other hand, though baritone Alberto Mastromarino acted well in the part of Tonio, he lacked control and was off key at times.

The choreography and costumes both came off well. The most lovely costume was Columbina's, a frothy pink skirt with black polka dots and swallows paired with a tight high-collared black blouse with pink-sequined trim.

The patrons of LA opera are terribly noisy, whispering a great deal, and applauding at every little thing. After the Act II overture there was so much clapping that the conductor had the orchestra rise to be acknowledged further. The opera also started with the Star-Spangled Banner, for Patriot Day, one imagines, but this was not stated.