Patrick Summers

SF Opera's Moby-Dick

Sf-opera-moby-dick* Notes * 
Moby-Dick (Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, and Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg pictured left; photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera on Wednesday evening. The opera premiered at Dallas Opera, and the production has traveled to the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide, Calgary Opera, and San Diego Opera. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Sheer managed to distill the sprawling source material into a compelling theatrical work. The music has much appeal, and the production provides spectacle. Some of the staging is not visible in the upper balcony, and some of the voices are not heard to their best advantage from certain parts of the set. However, most of the visual effects are striking, and even beautiful.

Maestro Patrick Summers conducted a fluid orchestra. The performance seemed clean and brilliant, though at times the singers were somewhat muffled by the orchestration. The chorus sounded wonderfully in unison in the scene where the whale boats are lowered to give chase to Moby Dick. The principal cast is formidable. Joo Won Kang's diction was rather good and his Captain Gardiner was sympathetic. Robert Orth (Stubb) and Matthew O'Neill (Flask) were comical. Talise Trevigne's Pip sounded eerie and angelic. Jonathan Lemalu seemed rather creaky as Queequeg at first, but has a robust voice. Morgan Smith was a tormented but tender Starbuck, while Stephen Costello made for a sweet, vulnerable Greenhorn. Jay Hunter Morris triumphed as Ahab, sounding authoritative and full. The baritonal qualities of his voice came out in last night's performance. He was also utterly frightening and commanding in the role.

* Tattling * 
There was light talking during Act I, but the chief offenders near me all cleared out by Act II.

La Bohème at LA Opera

La-opera-la-boheme-2012* Notes *
A revival of La Bohème (Act IV pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) opened Saturday night in Los Angeles. The performance marked the Los Angeles Opera debut of conductor Patrick Summers, and the orchestra played clearly, with only a slight harshness in the brass at one point in Act II. The chorus sang perfectly well, as was the children's chorus, though the singers may not have been exactly together at all times.

Museop Kim moved gracefully as Schaunard, his baritone is pleasingly light. Colline was sung convincingly by Robert Pomakov, his voice has quite a lot of vibrato, but warmth and volume. Janai Brugger's Musetta was appropriately coy, but with a lovely bird-like sweetness. Though she maintained her composure, she did have some troubles with her train in Act II. Artur Ruciński (Marcello) sounds nice in the lower part of his voice and looked comfortable in his role. Stephen Costello strained a couple of times in Act I, however, his portrayal of Rodolfo was strong otherwise. Costello was particularly moving in the Act III quartet and at the end. Ailyn Pérez never sounded like she had to reach for notes as Mimi. She was not overpowering and had a certain delicate quality even though her bright voice could always be heard.

The production, created by Herbert Ross and directed by Gregory A. Fortner, is fairly conventional. Some of the direction was a lot of fun, as with the quartet in Act IV, in which Schaunard and Colline joust with brooms on bicycles. Other moments made less sense, as when Schaunard comes out on the roof at the end of Colline's "Vecchia zimarra." Colline has his back to Schaunard without facing him, somehow the former has divined that the latter is there. Gerard Howland's set makes use of vertical space without detracting from the voices.

* Tattling * 
The parents and brother (Founders Circle Row P Seats 31-33) of one of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus members talked a great deal as she was on stage. I was grateful they decided not to return after intermission, and remained undisturbed for the second half of the opera.

Serse Log

San Francisco Opera's Serse (Michael Sumuel and Heidi Stober pictured in the first image below, Susan Graham and Lisette Oropesa pictured in the second; photographs by Cory Weaver) just finished a run of six performances last Saturday.

31. October 2011: Opening
Media Round-Up

4. November 2011: From Orchestra Standing Room
Opera Tattler Review


8. November 2011: From Balcony Standing Room
* The audience clapped during the overture as the characters were presented in turn.
* The playing was clear.
* Lisette Oropesa got slightly behind during her aria at the end of Act I. Her breath control is incredible and she did not push her high notes.
* The bridge did not collapse before Elviro's Act II arietta, "Del mio caro baco amabile."

11. November 2011: Reading the Score
* The ornamentation is simple and elegant.
* All the repeats, da capos, and dal segnos are taken.
* There were a few times where the orchestra was a bit ahead of the singing.
* A few of Susan Graham's low notes did not float as beautifully as the others, but overall she is just an amazing singer.


16. November 2011: From Box V
* Noted that the President of the San Francisco Opera Association was present.
* There were a couple transitions in Act I that went so quickly that Maestro Summers held his baton in his mouth as he played harpsichord.
* Both Heidi Stober and the flautist sounded especially lovely in "Un cenno leggiadretto."
* The leap that Michael Sumuel before his clicking his heels ("Del mio caro baco amabile") was impressive.
* The box subscribers in U talked at times during the music. Four women (clearly not subscribers) in Box X were even worse, talking, using cellular phones, and moving to Box Z in the middle of Act II. They did not return for Act III.

19. November 2011: Orchestra Level Row P Seat 4
* There was clapping during the overture again, and my companion even joined in out of spite.
* The person in P 124 was ill-behaved. Not only did his cellular phone ring between the recitative and "Ombra ma fui," he very loudly opened a cough drop during Act I. He did not return for Act III.
* Another phone rang during Ariodate's Act I aria, from the north side of the Orchestra Level.
* The couple in R 116 and 118 must have been late, because there was no talking from that area in Act I. They talked for much of the rest of the opera, especially when David Daniels was singing.
* Though the audience was incredibly obnoxious this evening, the singing and playing was a delight. There was a wonderful ease to the proceedings, and it seemed that everyone was having a great time.

Serse at San Francisco Opera

Xerxes-graham-oropesa* Notes *
Händel's Serse (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) had an impressive second performance last night at San Francisco Opera. The English National Opera production at hand premiered in 1985, yet is still as fresh and comedic as ever. This was helped by the deft, transparent playing from the orchestra. The brass was particularly lucid. Maestro Patrick Summers kept the music moving fluidly, sometimes just a bit faster than the singers. The statue chorus was also charming.

The singing was lovely all around. Michael Sumuel was exceedingly amusing as Elviro, and his warm voice was a welcome contrast with all the high voices in this opera. Wayne Tigges was a pompous, silly Ariodate, but never unsympathetic. Heidi Stober was delightful as the unloved, conniving Atalante. Her voice is bright and rich. Sonia Prina too has pretty resonances in her voice, but could have perhaps sung more smoothly. She did play Amastre with the right amount of bluster. Lisette Oropesa was a restrained and elegant Romilda, her voice is cold and pretty, and she only pushed it too hard during the last note of one aria in Act II. David Daniels (Arsamenes) cut a fine figure, and sang well, with good volume. Susan Graham was most impressive in the title role, sounding clear toned and moving with a beautiful ease.

* Tattling * 
For the most part the audience was silent. There was some talking amidst latecomers and ushers at the beginnings of Acts I and II. At least one watch alarm sounded at 8pm. Someone stood behind me during "Più che penso alle fiamme del core" and jingled the change in his pocket with the music.

A Preview of SF Opera's Serse

Sfopera-xerxes-acti* Notes * 
Händel's Serse (Act I pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opens this afternoon at San Francisco Opera, and I for one am quite sad not to attend. Instead I offer you a preview, based on attendance of rehearsals. Nicholas Hytner's production, directed here by Michael Walling, originates from English National Opera and was last seen at Houston Grand Opera. The palette employed for the set is pleasingly spring-like, with much white and green. The supernumeraries are white and are wearing bald caps. The chorus is painted grey, and seem to look quite like statues.

Patrick Summers, last seen on the San Francisco Opera podium for Heart of a Soldier, conducts these performances. The cast includes many fine singers, including David Daniels (Arsamene), Lisette Oropesa (Romilda), and most of all, Susan Graham in the title role. The supporting cast is also promising. Heidi Stober was very funny as Atalanta in Houston, as was Sonia Prina (Amastre), and they reprise these roles in San Francisco. Both Wayne Tigges (Ariodate) and Michael Sumuel (Elviro) made their San Francisco Opera debuts in Heart of a Soldier earlier this season. One may have heard Tigges as Donner in Los Angeles Opera's recent Ring cycle. Sumuel sure to be winsome in his comic role.