San Francisco Opera opened the 2007-2008 season with Samson et Dalila on September 7th. This 1980 production, by Nicolas Joël, was last revived in 2001. Douglas W. Schmidt's sets look dated from close up, they are a bit flat and at odd angles. The costumes also have suffered in the 27 years since Carrie Robbins designed them. They look like the Alma-Tadema paintings they were inspired by, but every piece of cloth used seemed to have a pattern on it. It looked like the chitons were made of leftover fabric for Easter dresses. However, from the back of the orchestra everything does look lovely, and this time around they managed to get the scrim working properly, it did not get caught on anything in the three performances I have seen.
Olga Borodina's voice is a bit rougher than I remembered, it has some harsh edges when she sang in the higher range at full-volume. She was still a rather sultry Dalila. Clifton Forbis was not inspiring as Samson, his voice was strained but otherwise passionless. In contrast, Juha Uusitalo (High Priest of Dagon) has a beautiful voice, and sings with much more ease. Disappointingly Oren Gradus did not quite have the lower range for the Old Hebrew. I was pleasantly surprised by the Abimélech, Eric Jordan, and curious to hear him in a more challenging role.
* Tattling *
I saw the final dress rehearsal during a corporate event and found it curious that Forbis did not sing full out, as he needed to save his voice for the opening. Borodina also saved her voice somewhat, but did sing audibly.
Everyone was all aflutter for the opening, two couples in standing room tried their best to block me out of my spot and could not be silent. They were repeatedly hushed. It was a good night for looking at fancy dresses and obvious plastic surgery. The flowers on the boxes were a bit naff this year, large squares of pink roses, lots of rose garlands, and random bits of greenery.
I was pleased to note that for the third performance, the scrim was not lowered until after the music ended for Act I, so that the audience, good monkeys that they are, refrained from clapping over the orchestra.