Melody Moore

Der fliegende Holländer at Hawai'i Opera Theatre

Hot-dutchman-2015 * Notes *
Der fliegende Holländer opened at Hawai'i Opera Theatre last night. Francesca Zambello's production, directed here by Sara Widzer, involves a lot of ropes. The set is simple and remains essentially the same the entire time, despite the intermission placed in the middle of Act II. Scenes are changed using light and a few props, including the aforementioned ropes and some furniture. The choreography is elaborate, singers dance and climb up metal scaffolding or rope netting. Though the stage direction seems somewhat fussy, the main plot points are well-motivated and the end is definitely effective.

The youthful cast is strong. Melody Moore is radiant as Senta, and has a lovely vulnerability. Ryan McKinny is powerful in the title role, and conveys a certain dangerousness in his growling, bold voice. Jay Hunter Morris sounds bright and plaintive as Erik. Paul Whelan (Daland) is cheerful and Nathan Munson (Steuermann) sweet. It was difficult, at least at yesterday's performance, to hear Maya Hoover as Mary, but her physicality is spot on for the role.

The orchestra, conducted by John Keenan, played the overture with spirit. There were times when the musicians could have sounded more cohesive, and this was also the case with the chorus. However, this does not detract much from the sturdiness of the piece itself or the fine soloists.

* Tattling *
It was helpful to sit in the first row for this performance, as it made it easy to ignore the scattered talking from my neighbors (Row A Seats 25 and 27) on the left. They were engaged by the experience but perhaps a bit noisy in their enthusiasm. The couple on my right (Seats 21 and 19) was completely rapt and silent.

Melody Moore as Tosca at SF Opera

Tosca-sfopera-moore-2012* Notes * 
Last night's opening of Tosca at San Francisco Opera was rather more exciting than expected, given that the 1997 production has been revived three times before. As Tosca, Angela Gheorghiu sang Act I a bit quietly, and was often not with the orchestra. Before Act II, General Director David Gockley announced that Gheorghiu had a bout of intestinal distress and nausea at intermission and was going to the hospital. The cover, Melody Moore (pictured above in Act II, photograph by Kristen Loken), was getting into costume, and Gockley begged our indulgence. All things considered, Moore did an excellent job. Her voice sounds icier in this role than others, which is not inappropriate. Her lower register has a lovely vibrancy, in stark contrast to Gheorghiu.

As for the rest of the cast, Massimo Giordano (Cavaradossi) has warm plaintiveness, but did not always sound secure. His portrayal did not have much nuance, but he certainly did project well. Roberto Frontali sang a threatening Scarpia with grit and power. Christian van Horn sounded robust as Angelotti and Dale Travis delivered a comic Sacristan. Joel Sorensen was completely committed to his role of Spoletta, and the spill he took trying to catch up with Moore at the end looked very realistic.

Maestro Luisotti had the orchestra sounding strong, and there was never a lax moment. The clarinet solo that introduces "E lucevan le stelle" was particularly beautiful. The strings also sounded lovely.

* Tattling * 
Cellular phone alarm went off twice during Act I, once toward the end of the duet between Tosca and Cavaradossi and once near the end of the act. A latecomer brusquely yelled "excuse me" into my ear and pushed herself between me and another standee, right at the end of Act I, just before the alarm went off. Her arm was touching mine, so I gently rested against her. I figured she wanted so very much to be near someone else, I might as well oblige her.

According to a statement issued by San Francisco Opera today, Gheorghiu was feeling ill during Act I. Tests at the hospital revealed that she was severely dehydrated. Gheorghiu is now resting up and feeling better. She expects to perform on Sunday, November 18, as scheduled.

Dawn Harms conducts Symphony Parnassus

Timthumb* Notes *
The amateur musicians of Symphony Parnassus barely all fit on the stage of San Francisco Conservatory of Music's Concert Hall yesterday afternoon. The performance began with Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The playing was not entirely clear but was quite hearty. Before the Der Rosenkavalier Suite and excerpts from that opera, conductor Dawn Harms announced that Frederica von Stade would not being singing, due to a medical emergency in the family. Soprano Melody Moore (Marschallin) had gamely offered to sing von Stade's part in "Ist ein Traum / Spür' nur dich" with Nadine Sierra (Sophie). Both have lovely voices, and Moore did pretty well with Octavian. Concertmaster Robin Mayforth and the rest of the orchestra sounded robust and flowed nicely.

There was much to sort out before Clarice Assad's "SCATTERED," a concerto for scat singing, piano, and orchestra. A piano had to be brought on stage, as did an extensive drum set. The microphone set up for Assad was not operational, so another was used. Unfortunately this new one did not fit in the given stand, and someone had to simply hold it for Assad, since her hands were not free for most of the first movement. The piece did have a lot of appeal, Assad's playing and singing were strong, as was Keita Ogawa's percussion. The orchestra played with spirit.

The second half of the program consisted of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 (1930), known as quite appropriately as "Romantic." The playing was very pretty. Harms accidently threw her baton in between the violas and celli at one point in the second movement, but recovered quickly. Despite not going as expected, the performance was endearing.

* Tattling *
The audience was occasionally restless, and there was light talking at certain moments.

Heart of a Soldier World Premiere

Heart-of-a-soldier-act-ii * Notes * 
The world premiere of Heart of a Soldier (Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) given by San Francisco Opera last night. The opera is about the life of Rick Rescorla, the director of security of Morgan Stanley who lost his life as the in the September 11th attacks after evacuating 2,700 people from the World Trade Center. The first half of this ambitious work covers 28 years of Rescorla's story, with five different scene changes spanning four continents. The act is only an hour long, so it is great deal of narrative jammed into a tiny space. Basically, this means a lot of recitative and the need for quick scene changes. Librettist Donna Di Novelli's words seem to take precedence over composer Christopher Theofanidis' music. The second half deals with Rescorla's last three years in New Jersey and New York. Here the ensembles, duets, and arias are less burdened by having to tell the story. The ending was particularly strong.

Director Francesca Zambello's style suits this opera, as the characters are of course very human, being based on real events of recent memory. The set, designed by Peter J. Davison, has some movement, but is transformed by Mark McCullough's lighting and S. Katy Tucker's projections. The result was mostly a success, though sometimes the layering seemed overwrought. Also, having the towers so far upstage was a challenge for some of the singers. The choreography seemed natural, everyone moved nicely and with ease.

Maestro Patrick Summers had the orchestra sounding clear and flowing. The chorus sounded together and robust. The rest of the cast boasted many fine singers. Michael Sumuel (Ted, Tom) sang with warmth and nuance. Nadine Sierra was plaintive as Juliet. Melody Moore was convincing as Susan Rescorla, her voice clear-toned and arresting. William Burden too was persuasive as Rescorla's best friend, his duets with Thomas Hampson (Rick Rescorla) were quite beautiful. Hampson sang enthusiastically, and his charismatic presence is commanding.

* Tattling * 
The evening began with "The Star-Spangled Banner," and a fluttering American flag was projected on the scrim. The audience was impressively quiet, there was no late seating on the orchestra level, and almost no whispering.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon at City Opera

Seance-city-opera * Notes * 
The East Coast premiere of Séance on a Wet Afternoon from Stephen Schwartz was given at New York City Opera earlier this month. The opera itself had some impressive intensity, particularly in the last two séances. The orchestration, however, was dense, and the male voices were particularly difficult to make out at times. The libretto had kitschy moments, though this seems very hard to avoid. One did appreciate the bits of humor that came through in early scenes, even in this dark tale. Heidi Ettinger's attractive set was light artfully by David Lander. Alejo Vietti's 1960s costumes were likewise pleasing. The direction and the musical staging, from Scott Schwartz and Matt Williams, respectively, both showed thoughtfulness. The chorus was put to good use, especially in the ransom scene, where the singers are first reporters, then passengers on a trolley. End did strike me as bizarre, and I am not sure what exactly occurred in the plot.

Under Steven Osgood, the orchestra had a lovely transparency during the first overture. The seating arrangement was unusual, with 1st and 2nd violins and basses up against the front wall of the pit. The celli and violas were in the middle on platforms, and there was a large gap between these instruments and the violins.

The singing and acting was strong. The scene with the Irish tenor (Michael Marcotte) was lovely, though the end was rather loud, Todd Wilander (Charles Clayton) was slightly hard to hear until he sang in his higher range. As Rita Clayton, Melody Moore's portrayal of motherly love was heartbreaking. Kim Josephson played anguished Bill Foster believably. One found compassion for him. Lauren Flanigan (Myra Foster) was terrifying. She could sound sweet and delicate, but could be harsh when necessary. There were times when I felt she might be flat, but of course I do not know this music, and it did not matter, in any case, Flanigan was effective. Her last séance was searing.

* Tattling * 
The house was not full for yesterday's performance, perhaps many potential attendees were at the Met's sold-out Walküre instead. There was some whispering during the overtures and even the arias, but people were responsive to hushings.

NCCO plays Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn

Melody-moore-ncco * Notes *
New Century Chamber Orchestra opened a series of performances entitled "Mastery of Schubert" in Berkeley yesterday evening. They began with Bach's Violin Concerto in E major, with NCCO's music director, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, as soloist. Salerno-Sonnenberg has a very peculiar motor pattern, and seemed to be brimming with energy. The piece was played vibrantly, with dramatic contrasts in dynamics. This was followed by 4 Schubert Lieder arranged by Clarice Assad and sung by soprano Melody Moore. Moore sounded clear, her pure high notes are warm and unconstrained. It was especially interesting to compare the two settings of "An den Mond." The orchestra fell readily into the background. The performance ended with Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major, played by the 18 musicians present. The playing here was not overly romantic, in fact, lacking prettiness, but again, very driven. The first movement in particular had much fire, despite the heavy rain that was audible on the roof of First Congregational.

 * Tattling * 
There was minor whispering. An electronic device went off between the first two movements of the Bach. There was slight confusion during the Schubert, as the first piece was listed last in the program.

Melody Moore Interview

Melody-moore This week the soprano Melody Moore (pictured left) performs with New Century Chamber Orchestra. She will be singing in Stephen Schwartz's Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera next month, Gordon Getty's Plump Jack with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester in May, and returns to San Francisco for the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis' Heart of a Soldier in September. Last week, the Opera Tattler spoke to her by telephone.

How did you get involved with opera?
Purely by the encouragement of others. I was in my high school choral program, and the director pulled me aside, and got me to audition for the Texas All State Choir. I had some piano as a child, but as far as music goes, it was mostly church music around me, or bluegrass, or country, since I'm from Memphis. The choral director gave me sheet music and tapes to listen to, and I sang alto in the Texas All State Choir. Only 300 people are chosen a year. I never even know you could have a job as a singer, but I went to school for music in Baton Rouge, Louisiana because of my music teacher. I did also study music therapy.

So you were a mezzo-soprano? When did you switch?
I sang lyric mezzo rep until I was 26 or 27. I always had a lot of top, a B natural and even a C, so my music teacher had me explore that. I don't know if I ever fully transitioned to a soprano mindset, however.

How are mezzos different from sopranos?
There are fewer lyric mezzo-sopranos than lyric sopranos, so it is a more competitive environment for the latter group.

What are you singing with New Century Chamber Orchestra? How has it been?
They are a great group, very tight-knit, and they play like one instrument. I enjoy coming back to work with them. This concert is Schubert, Bach, and Mendelssohn. I will be singing 4 little tiny songs, Schubert Lieder. They have a lovely arc of poetry to them, dreaming about love but not being fulfilled, or rather fulfilling love through the search for love.

Did you just sing Kurt Weill at San Francisco Ballet?
Yes, it was a blast. I was in the pit, and no one could see me so there was no pressure, I just had to deliver the text. Weill really gets down to brass tacks, his music is bawdy and gutsy.

With the exception of Faust earlier this year in Hawai'i, you have a lot of new music for 2011. What are the challenges of contemporary music?
Thankfully I do learn fast. I sit with the score and listen to recordings of the orchestra, if there are any. I try to get the scope, shape, and bones of the music so I know where I fit in. All the music I am working on this year is tonal, though there are challenges with mixed meter in the Schwartz, the meter can change 3 or 4 times on a page, from 9/8 to 7/8 to 5/8, and so forth. Looking over the Getty, it does seem to be mostly in 4/4 and 3/4. I will have to learn it in the next month, so I will be busy! I do feel really comfortable with the Theofanidis, as we work-shopped it in December, and there haven't been any major changes.

What is your workout regimen?
I work with a trainer, just as I prefer to work with a coach with my singing. It is good for me to be responsible to a person as far as exercise is concerned. It makes me feel ready for the day. Working out has been great for me, I had a year of terrible back pain, so strengthening my core has been key to changing that.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I love to cook, I love the alchemy of it. I also love reading. It makes me sad that there is not enough time in one's life to read all the books worth reading.

I love books too! What are your favorites?
Cormac McCarthy's The Road. To me, it is one of the most beautiful love stories. That might sound strange, given that the awful circumstances of the novel, but the love of the father for the son is incredible. Another favorite of mine is The Handmaid's Tale. You could say I am drawn toward dystopian novels.

Any guilty pleasures you are willing to share?
I enjoy American Idol. It is completely awful, but I watch it every week. When it comes on air I feel chipper!

Faust at Hawai'i Opera Theatre

HOT Faust Ticket * Notes *
Hawai'i Opera Theatre just finished a 3 performance run of Gounod's Faust on Tuesday. The set was typical of what is seen regional opera houses, simple and employing multiple platforms. The use of projection was restrained, mostly in the background or on the lowered scrim before each act. General and Artistic Director Henry G. Akina's stage direction was straightforward, and the handling of the chorus was particularly deft.

The orchestra sounded a bit mushy at first in the overture under Maestro Mark Flint, the tempi somewhat slow and grave. The strings were nice, the first violin sounded great during his soli. The brass was slightly harsh at times, but there were only few intonation errors.

The chorus had some problems staying exactly together, but the sound was full. "Gloire immortelle de nos aïeux" and "Sauvée! Christ est ressucité!" were both strong. Leon Williams stood out from the chorus nicely as Wagner, and Dorothy Byrne was amusing as Marthe. Buffy Baggott made for an endearing Siébel, her voice is pleasant, without too much vibrato. Luis Ledesma (Valentin) sounded reedy and light.

The audience adored local singing Méphistophélès, Jamie Offenbach. Vocally he was warm, and perhaps slightly gravelly, but his embodiment of the character seemed complete. In the title role, John Bellemer was slightly stiff but acquitted himself well as far as singing. Melody Moore sounded sweet, warm, and clear as Marguerite. She looked demure in the first half of the opera, and appropriately unraveled by the end until her salvation.

* Tattling *
One could not help being delighted by the long white gowns worn by the female ushers. The audience was enthusiastic, but had a hard time remaining silent. A small elderly woman behind me in B 53 of the balcony had a cough, and spent much of her time unwrapping drops or loudly consuming them. She had difficultly staying still and bounced vigorously in her seat. She did leave at the second intermission. The performance received a standing ovation.

Heart of a Soldier Press Conference

01122010 003 * Notes * 
Today the Communications Department of San Francisco Opera held a press conference on Heart of a Soldier, which will have a world premiere on September 10, 2011. General Director David Gockley told us a bit about how this came to be an opera. An array of individuals were introduced: Susan Rescorla, one of the people whose story is being told in this opera; James B. Stewart, the author of the non-fiction work the opera is based on; librettist Donna DiNovelli; composer Christopher Theofanidis; conductor Patrick Summers; and director Francesca Zambello. Zambello evidently came to Gockley with Stewart's book, saying that the story had operatic themes with two incredible love stories.

This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Kip Cranna, who asked each person involved a few key questions. DiNovelli condensed Stewart's 320 page book into a mere 26. The piece is complete and has been workshopped in the last few days. Theofanidis took Tosca as his starting point and loves verismo. The work uses a full orchestra but also employs saxophone, bagpipe, and electric guitar.

The opera stars Thomas Hampson (Rick Rescorla), William Burden (Daniel J. Hill), and Melody Moore (Susan Rescorla). We got to hear a duet from the piece accompanied by piano, sung by Melody Moore and Austin Kness.

* Tattling * 
The audience consist of the press, board members, colleagues from other performing arts organizations, and San Francisco Opera staff. Everyone seemed very attentive.

Melody Moore in La Bohème

Melody-moore   * Notes *
The eighth performance of San Francisco Opera's La Bohème starred Melody Moore instead of Angela Gheorghiu as Mimì. Ms. Moore sounded lovely, her voice is warmer than Gheorghiu's, and louder, but also has the necessary delicacy. Her voice blended beautifully with Piotr Beczala's, especially during "Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!" However, Moore seems somewhat uncomfortable in her own skin, her acting was less than convincing

The balance between singers was improved, no one stuck out as being underpowered. OperaVision was actually pretty compelling, I did like being able to see details that would have been otherwise lost from so far away.

* Tattling * 
The young couple in L 5 and 7 of the balcony were particularly ill-behaved. Not only did they cough, sneeze, and talk, they also shared some messages on a Blackberry, which they need to discuss 5 minutes before the end of Act III. Thank goodness we were in standing room and could just move to the north side of the building, where it was quieter.

Der Zerbrochene Krug and Der Zwerg at LA Opera

Dwarf* Notes *
Der zerbrochene Krug had its US premiere at Los Angeles Opera yesterday, along with the West Coast premiere of Der Zwerg, both part of James Conlon's Recovered Voices: A Lost Generation's Long-Forgotten Masterpieces project. Both operas are impressive. The comedic Der zerbrochene Krug (1941/1942) was Viktor Ullmann's last composition before he was sent to Theresienstadt. Based on Heinrich von Kleist's 1806 play of the same name, the 40 minute opera treats a seemingly simple story,  the standard Commedia dell'arte love triangle. However, Ullmann's opera can be read on literal, sexual, and political levels, and is all the more fascinating for it. The music has some wonderful percussive parts, which the orchestra well. The production, directed by Darko Tresnjak, is perfectly charming. Peggy Hickey's choreography for the overture is particularly brilliant, a shadow ballet clearly explains all that happens before the scrim comes up is both helpful and very funny. As for singing, I was glad to hear Melody Moore as Eve, she is one of my favorite sopranos in recent years to come out of the Adler Program in San Francisco. She has a good handle on her vibrato, and never sounds harsh, yet her volume is fine. Elizabeth Bishop (Frau Marthe Rull) made me a bit uncomfortable, and her voiced uvular fricative was not quite right, especially in the word "hier." Richard Cox has a pretty tenor voice, though a bit quiet, and he played the indicant Ruprecht well. James Johnson was hilarious as Adam, his diction was clear and dramatically, he never missed a beat.

Alexander Zemlinsky's Der Zwerg is reminiscent of both R. Strauss and Mahler, and I was very surprised indeed to have liked it, even moved to tears. The opera is based on Oscar Wilde's The Birthday of the Infanta, which in turn was inspired by Velázquez's Las Meninas. Ralph Funicello and Linda Cho outdid themselves in set and costume design, as adorable as their work for Der zerbrochene Krug is, the Velázquez world come to life is gorgeous. No less important was David Weiner's contribution as the lighting designer, the use of light through the many doors worked well. Mary Dunleavy was certainly imperious and cold as Donna Clara, she was perfect as the cruel Infanta, though at times it was difficult to understand her German. Ghita, the kindly maid, was sung beautifully by Susan B. Anthony. Rodrick Dixon was excellent in the title role, his volume was good and acting quite fine, though also, at times, I found his diction less than perfect.

* Tattling *
The house was not full, which was sad considering how good the performances were. The applause did last a long time. During the intermission I overheard some ladies speaking with security guards and ushers. Apparently there was some altercation due to a cellular phone that had been on, but had not rung. One of the ladies was turning her phone off during the performance and another patron hit her shoulder rather brusquely and admonished her not to speak on the phone. One of the ladies felt it was because they happen to be Latinas, and in her account explained that they had not just come out of the jungle and knew their manners. The opera employees said they could not do much about what had happened unless the ladies wanted to press charges against the person in question, in which case the police would come, but the report would go on that person's record at Los Angeles Opera. They were also moved down to the Loge. I've never seen an altercation at LA Opera, but one of the employees mentioned that it was rather common, as people are quite passionate about opera.

Adler Fellows Gala Concert

Adlers* Notes *
The Adler recital last night started off with the overture from
Bernstein's Candide. This was followed by a most terrible butchering of Händel's Alcina Act III, Scenes 2 through 7. Soprano Elza van den Heever was a shrill, nasal, and gasping Alcina. Mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen was cold and too quiet as Bradamante, but she sounded much better latter in the evening, when she sang "Va! laisse couler mes larmes!" from Massenet's Werther. Counter-tenor Gerald Thompson did not have control of his voice as Ruggiero. The rest of the evening went better, soprano Kimwana Doner sang "Tacea la Notte Placida" pretty well, though her voice is thin in her higher range.

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu is certainly the star of the Adler Fellows, he sang "Mira di acerbe lagrime" with Doner and a scene each from Billy Budd and Eugene Onegin. His tone is full and warm, not too much vibrato, and never harsh. of the others, soprano Melody Moore and tenor Sean Panikkar were fine as Mimi and Rodolfo. Moore's voice has an effortlessness that is lacking in many of the others. Panikkar strained his higher notes when accompanied by the full orchestra, but his voice is lovely. Bass Jeremy Galyon and tenor Matthew O'Neill show promise, and they were hilarious when they broke out into random Italian, shuffling chairs as Sean Panikkar took the stage. Soprano Rhoslyn Jones annoyed me as Frasquita in the current production of Carmen, as her voice is incredibly loud and wavering. However, she wasn't terrible in the Eugene Onegin excerpt, when she sings piano her voice is pretty, but the forte bits can be frightening.

* Tattling *
People were seated during the Alcina excerpt, and the pair that stepped over me to get to Z 117 and 119 apologized as the music continued. Soon after this a woman in Z 115 decided she couldn't wait for Alcina to be over either and made us all stand so she could get out. There was a great deal of chatter the whole time, plus wonderful amounts of screaming, especially from standing room. David Gockley spoke after the intermission, and he forgot 2 of the 3 names of the departing Adlers. Thankfully, members of the audience were able to yell "Gerald" and "Eugene" for him.