Opera San José

Opera San José's Anna Karenina

Anna (Jasmina Halimic) and her estranged husband, Alexei Karenin (Kirk Eichelberger). Photo by Pat Kirk. * Notes *
The 27th season of Opera San José opened with the West Coast premiere of David Carlson's Anna Karenina yesterday evening. The libretto, written by Colin Graham, packed a lot of narrative into less than three hours. It felt a bit like hearing the Cliff Notes to Tolstoy's novel set to music as we moved through key plot points at breakneck speed. Perhaps the librettist and composer wanted to stay so true to Tolstoy's story they may have lost sight of the dramatic aspects of the operatic form. The music itself was pretty, constantly in motion, evoking waves or other watery imagery and textures. There was much repetition, and the music was consistent regardless of the text, with the exception of Anna's death. The orchestra, under the baton of Stewart Robertson, played with clarity and never overwhelmed the singers.

The singing was uniformly fine. Kindra Scharich stood out in the small role of Countess Lydia Ivanova, her voice is warm and lovely. Christopher Bengochea (Stiva Oblonsky) and Michael Dailey (Konstantin Levin) also offered strong performances. Krassen Karagiozov was not quite dashing enough as Vronsky, but he did sing nicely. Jasmina Halimic made a pretty Anna, and she did sound very sweet. There were a few times when she gasped or cracked slightly. Karenin seemed the most fleshed out character, his motivations were clear, and Kirk Eichelberger portrayed him beautifully.

Brad Dalton's production is impressive. Everything came together perfectly, and without looking overworked or effortful. The choreography, from Lise La Cour, was smooth and looked natural on all the singers, dancers, and supernumeraries. Steven C. Kemp's sets are sleek, simple, but still descriptive, and were lit elegantly by Kent Dorsey. Some of the painted backdrops were particularly gorgeous. Elizabeth Pointdexter's costumes looked in keeping with the novel, as did the wigs and makeup from Jeanna Parham.

* Tattling * 
On the whole, the patrons of Opera San José were excited and supportive. There was some light talking, and some quiet snoring. Both were easy to overlook. The opera received a standing ovation.


Manon at Opera San José

Manon-san-jose * Notes * 
Opera San José's new season opened with Manon last night. The orchestra sounded clean under the baton of Joseph Marcheso. On the whole, the intonation was spotless and the soli from the woodwinds and strings were particularly nice. The organ did have a rough entrance at the beginning of Act II. Dianna Shuster's production was uncomplicated, though the part where Manon gets Des Grieux attention by hopping up on a bench and walking back and forth for entirely too long was somewhat silly. The costumes and set all looked perfectly reasonable given this opera.

The singing was even, and the singers well-matched. Silas Elash had a lot of power as the elder Des Grieux. Krassen Karagiozov was a slippery, evasive Lescaut. Alexander Boyer (Des Grieux) had some pleasant warmth, though his voice did sound a bit compressed at the top. Khori Dastoor looked lovely in the title role, her voice is icy and metallic without being too abrasive. She sang "Adieu, notre petite table" prettily. Her accent in French was somewhat noticeable, though this was true of most of the cast overall.

* Tattling * 
There were some murmurs during the music, but no electronic noise. The ovation at the end was quite effusive, despite some audience attrition at the two intermissions.


Manon is not nice.

We went to see Manon at Opera San Jose. It was very small and pretty as a production, with clever and simple sets. The opera had speaking parts in French, which I did not anticipate. It was especially strange when the audience clapped after these parts, as if it had been some wonderful aria. This only really happened in Act III, which had me very confused as it was, since they took out the first scene of it. Act III is supposed to start off in a park at the Cours-la-Reine, where Manon learns that Des Grieux has become an abb, and only later does the scene change to the sacristy at St. Sulpice. At any rate, French spoken by American opera singers is considerably worse than French sung by said singers. Or at least, the accent is more obvious.

Manon was played by Sandra Rubalcava, who had a nice voice that was occasionally shrill, but mostly just in Act I. She was wonderful in her aria "Adieu, notre petite table" in Act II and at L'Htel de Transylvanie in Act IV. The music was pretty, but not very memorable, though there were very pleasant overtures for all the acts. The word "Manon" was used an incredible amount. The character of Manon says her own name many times, and her dying words are "Et c'est l l'histoire...de Manon Lescaut!"

I enjoyed that the San Jose Opera asks its patrons to please unwrap their candies before the performance begins. This was not terribly effective, however. Apparently, I have very sensitive hearing, because a lady sitting next to my pesky friend was unwrapping and eating candies for the first ten minutes of the opera, and I could hear not only the cellophane wrapper noise, but the clicking of the candies against her teeth. She had eaten about five candies before I asked her as politely as I could to desist. I also received a scathing look in the ladies' room from a middle-aged lady putting on her makeup. Her friend was gushing about how gorgeous the lady in question was, and I merely glanced up at her in the mirror, and was met by the most caustic of looks. It was very entertaining. I must remember to be so pleasant when I get older.