Plácido Domingo is performing at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 8pm. He will be joined by guest sopranos Angel Joy Blue and Micäela Oeste and guest conductor Eugene Kohn. Presale tickets are available Tuesday, July 9, at 10am until Saturday, July 13, at 11:59 pm online only through Another Planet Entertainment and Ticketmaster. The presale password is "GREEK."
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera gave a third performance of I due Foscari (Act II pictured left with Francesco Meli as Jacopo Foscari and Plácido Domingo as Francesco Foscari, photograph by Robert Millard) Sunday afternoon. The orchestra seemed comfortable playing under the direction of James Conlon. The clarinet was especially pretty. The chorus sounded full.
The cast seems ideal, rendering the opera rather engaging. Ievgen Orlov radiated evil as Loredano, so much so he was enthusiastically booed by the audience when he took his first bow. Though Marina Poplavskaya does have a gasping quality to her voice, it worked to her advantage as the fiercely angry Lucrezia Contarini. Francesco Meli sounded bright and plaintive as Jacopo Foscari. There was a certain rawness to his singing that had the right appeal for the character. Plácido Domingo was convincing in the baritone role of Francesco Foscari.
The production features an elaborate set with many moving parts. At times the direction seemed hampered and constrained by all that was on stage. On the other hand, the circus-like scene that opened Act III was spectacular, and the ending effective and disturbing.
* Tattling *
There was some light talking in the Grand Circle, but mostly from one rather elderly person who probably had no idea he could be heard. A woman in the Founders Circle caused more than once disturbance during Act II as she climbed over several people to exit the hall.
* Notes *
The third performance of Simon Boccanegra (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) at Los Angeles Opera on Sunday was quite good. The production originates from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and is directed here by Elijah Moshinsky. Michael Yeargan's set is sleek, and Duane Schuler's lighting did help frame the many scenes. The late Peter J. Hall's costumes are lavish and are a fine counterpoint for the relative simplicity of set.
The tempi taken by Maestro James Conlon were brisk, and occasionally the orchestra seemed somewhat rushed. The brass was fairly clean, there were no obvious sour notes. The chorus was not always right on top of the beat, but sang with passion.
The singing was solid. Stefano Secco (Gabriele) was uncharacteristically fervent, perhaps being broadcast live and sharing the stage with Plácido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra) brought out the best in the former. Domingo sounded rather like a tenor in the title role, his voice is, of course, just so resonant and beautiful. Some of his lower notes were not particularly rich. Ana María Martínez made for an ethereal yet girlish Amelia. Paolo Gavanelli made for a convincing Paolo, his voice is sumptuous. Vitalij Kowaljow (Fiesco) also has a weighty sound, and seems bottomless.
* Tattling *
Watch alarms were heard at 3pm and 5 pm. A mobile phone rang in the middle of Act II from the Loge. The audience talked during the scene changes. A woman in Row E Seat 53 was especially loud, commenting that Domingo sounded "the same" as he always does as he was singing, and making other accurate but unhelpful comments to her husband in 54 and friend in 55.
During a pause, this friend mentioned that "in San Francisco we would have had five intermissions already" and that concessions must generate much income for that opera. An odd statement, given that this production has been performed in San Francisco twice (in 2001 and 2008), both times in two acts with one intermission. One will also note that Patina provides food and beverage for LA Opera and SF Opera.
* Notes *
The Metropolatian Opera's new Baroque pastiche, The Enchanted Island, was shown as a simulcast yesterday. The English libretto, created by Jeremy Sams, uses characters from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Tempest. "Arise, ye subterranean winds" from The Tempest, or, The Enchanted Island, which has been attributed to Purcell, was the only piece from this work. The score starts off with the overture from Alcina, and employs 26 other pieces by Händel, the majority of these from his operas and oratorios. The rest of the music is mostly Vivaldi and Rameau. Arias from André Campra's Idoménée and Jean-Marie Leclair's Scylla et Glaucus were included, along with dance music from Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Éléments, and a cantata from Giovanni Battista Ferrandini. It was a rather entertaining spectacle, and the music held together fairly well. I was disoriented at times by pieces I knew, as they had such different texts, but it was not unpleasant as much as vaguely dizzying.
Phelim McDermott's production has a lot of charm, in no small part because of the detailed set by Julian Crouch. The proscenium reminded me of H. R. Giger or Steampunk, and some of the projections used were rather ornate. Though some of the trees and roots looked inelegantly bulbous, overall, the aesthetic sense was consistent and attractive.
The orchestra sounded clean and speedy under William Christie. There were times when the singers were slightly behind. The quartet "Days of pleasure, nights of love" in Act I sounded somewhat chaotic, though all the singers had lovely voices. Luca Pisaroni made for a light, reedy Caliban, his lightly accented English was perfectly comprehensible. Plácido Domingo made two stunning entrances as Neptune, but his diction was less than clear. Anthony Roth Costanzo's Ferdinand sounded bright and winsome. Lisette Oropesa's Miranda was likewise pretty and mincing. Danielle de Niese acted Ariel with utter conviction, sprightly and breathy. David Daniels was strong as Prospero, and seemed as robust as ever. Joyce DiDonato (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard) was splendid as Sycorax, her voice nimble, but she seemed unafraid to create ugly sounds when necessary.
* Tattling *
The placement of one of the microphones picked up the sound of objects striking the stage all too clearly on at least three occasions.
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera's last performance of the year was the matinée of Roméo et Juliette today. The production, directed Ian Judge, ran smoothly. John Gunter's tiered set elegantly framed the space and moved easily. At times the transparency of this set did not serve to create much of an illusion, as we could easily discern entrances and exits of the principal singers. Tim Goodchild's lavish costumes seemed to be of the period that the opera was composed, could have easily been for La Traviata or La bohème.
The orchestra, under Plácido Domingo, had more lovely, fleet moments than muddy, sluggish ones. The brass was not always clear. Though not always perfectly with the orchestra, the chorus did sound pretty.
Renée Rapier made a charming LA Opera debut as Stéphano, sounding light and boyish. Vitalij Kowaljow's warm, rich voice served him well as Frere Laurent. Nino Machaidze (Juliette) made a convincing case for love at first sight. Her "Je veux vivre" was a bit harsh, though she has a pretty darkness to her voice and she never sounds strained. Vittorio Grigolo gave a rather physical performance as Roméo. His acting was exaggerated, but could be amusing when appropriate. His voice is pretty and strong throughout his range, from top to bottom.
* Tattling *
As usual, watch alarms and hearing aids were heard during the music. It sounded like something in Row O of the orchestra level was being deflated for most of the second entr'acte.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has asked Plácido Domingo to be part of a solutions committee for soccer's world governing body.
* Notes *
The latest revival of the Metropolitan Opera's Iphigénie en Tauride on Saturday seemed under-rehearsed, but still has potential. There were many instances when the singers were not with the orchestra, especially as far as the chorus was concerned. Perhaps the elaborate choreography was to blame. The dancers here were more together than in Seattle Opera's 2007 version. Thomas Lynch's set does look more open from the last row of the Met than in orchestra standing room at McCaw Hall. Thomas Wadsworth's production is cluttered, and one gets the sense that he is worried his audience either does not understand what is going on or is in danger of becoming very bored. In any case, the orchestra sounded fluid under Maestro Patrick Summers.
The main cast had a lot of power, and everyone could be heard. Susan Graham may have had poor start in the title role, but did sound lovely in "Ô malheureuse Iphigénie" at the end of Act II. There were moments of roughness later in the evening, but Graham does have a glowing, beautiful sound. Plácido Domingo was strong as Orest, his reediness as a tenor was not distracting, and he was distinct from Paul Groves (Pylade). Groves sang "Unis dès la plus tendre enfance" particularly well. As Thoas, Gordon Hawkins managed to sing his high notes smoothly, and was robust throughout his range.
* Tattling *
Standing room in the Family Circle was nearly empty, as most everyone could take a seat in the last few rows, which were far from full.
I am sorely tempted to hear the Met in HD broadcast of this opera on February 26th.
* Notes *
Sunday's matinée of San Francisco Opera's Cyrano de Bergerac opened a run of seven performances. Petrika Ionesco's production, from Théâtre du Châtelet, is attractive, but does not make for the most elegant set changes. There was much delightful spectacle, and the staging was not entirely old-fashioned either, despite looking fairly traditional.
The orchestra sounded lushly chaotic under Patrick Fournillier, it was unclear if this was because of Alfano's music or because of the playing. In fact, I had a fairly difficult time getting a grasp on the music, it seemed all over the place. Some of it sounded like Debussy, and some rather more like Puccini.
The chorus did a respectable job, and the singing overall was wonderful. Even in their small roles, Martin Rojas-Dietrich (Montfleury) and Bojan Knežević (Lignière) shone. As did the three Adler Fellows participating in this opera, Austin Kness, Maya Lahyani, and Leah Crocetto. All sang more than one role. Kness was most striking as Vicomte de Valvert, sounding strong and warm. Lahyani's acting was impressive, she was convincing the Duenna and Sister Marta. Crocetto was an alluring Lisa, the wayward wife of pastry chef Ragueneau. As Ragueneau, Brian Mulligan was wonderful as ever, his rich voice has such a lovely bloom to it. Lester Lynch (Carbon) sang well and with power.
Thiago Arancam seemed the embodiment of Christian de Neuveville, singing with forcefulness. Likewise Ainhoa Arteta was absolutely gorgeous as Roxane. Arteta pierced through the orchestra without the least bit of effort and could float notes beautifully. She had moments of harshness, but these were few and far between. In the title role, Plácido Domingo was ill, and General Director David Gockley made an announcement begging our indulgence in the second half of Act II. Domingo was somewhat gravelly, some of his lower notes were less than perfect, and he did cough a few times. However, his timbre is so pleasing and still had such an ease, our indulgence was hardly necessary. Domingo sang the last aria superbly, communicating the text with such a directness, rendering the supertitles superfluous.
* Tattling *
On Sunday morning I awoke before dawn as I was so excited for this performance. I dragged Opernphrenologe out of bed and we made our way to the opera house 1 hour before anyone else arrived. Perhaps because of the rain, even by 10 am the standing room line was not much greater than usual. The opera was kind enough to provide us with both coffee and donuts, and by the time we were allowed in a great crowd had developed.
The throng of Domingo aficionados was intimidating. There was some light talking but not a great deal of electronic noise. I did hear a staff member's walkie talkie in orchestra standing room during Act II. At the end of the opera, someone went through his two plastic grocery bags, and someone gave him a talking to as she seemed irritated by all the noise.
* Notes *
Today the Communications Department of San Francisco Opera hosted an event with Plácido Domingo in conversation with David Gockley. Domingo will be singing the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, which opens Sunday, and Gockley spoke a bit about how this was arranged, why we are getting a production from Théâtre du Châtelet, and asked Domingo to tell us more about this opera. We heard about Alfano and how he was the contemporary of Janáček, Berg, and Schoenberg. It was pointed out that Domingo is singing two poets this season back to back, since he just finished as Neruda in Los Angeles Opera's Il Postino. The famous story of how Domingo flew in for the opening of the 1983-1984 season to fill in for an ailing Otello was recounted and he joked that 25,000 people claimed to have been there even though the opera house only seats 3,200.
Gockley had Domingo speak about taking on baritone roles, and made fun of his own voice, since he is a baritone. The music director, Maestro Nicola Luisotti, was also in attendance, and Domingo complimented Luisotti's fine baritone. As for Domingo himself, he said he does not pretend to be a baritone, but likes doing these interesting roles and has to color his voice very differently for them. At one point he had imagined that Simon Boccanegra would be his last role, and has done 28 performances. His voice is still in good condition, so he wants to sing everyday that he can, but to not sing one more day once he cannot. His next new baritone role is Athanaël in Thaïs, which he will perform in Paris and Valencia soon. He quipped that it was appropriate for his age, since Athanaël is a monk. Charmingly, he also said that Cyrano was likewise good for him in this way, since Cyrano is a "loser," and can be any age. On this more human side, we heard about what Domingo does in his downtime, and he apparently recharges by the results of his work. He is a Real Madrid fan and also watches telenovelas with his wife Marta, who was in attendance.
During the question and answer period Domingo was asked how he takes care of his voice, since he still sounds so youthful and fresh. One should not drink terribly cold water, and one cannot drink warm beer. Domingo finds it better to eat lunch late, around 2pm and then have dinner after his performance. Ideally as a tenor one should rest 3 or 4 days if possible. Questions were asked bout San Francisco's charm, and Domingo praised San Francisco Opera as one of the most important companies in the world. He did tease us about how there were some bad years before Gockley's tenure that were good for his company, Los Angeles Opera. The challenges of behing the general director out on the West Coast were discussed. It is difficult to get artists out here, in Europe a singer can get to different houses more easily and the euro is so strong.
Domingo was questioned about the recent Ring at Los Angeles Opera, and he conceded that perhaps two cycles would have been sufficient. That production was to have gone to Mannheim and Seville, but will not. It may still be produced in Korea or Argentina. He was asked about the recent simulcast of Rigoletto in Mantua that he participated in, and he told us he did not feel that opera in cinemas would steal the audience from the opera house.
* Tattling *
The audience was quiet but a cellular phone rang during the aforementioned question about San Francisco as a city. David Gockley was kind enough to call on me for a question, and Nicola Luisotti was gracious enough to introduce me to Plácido Domingo. I encouraged the delightful North American editor of MusicalCriticism.com to have our photograph taken together with Domingo.
General Director Plácido Domingo will not renew his contract with Washington National Opera, which expires on June 30, 2011.
* Notes *
A revival of Le Nozze di Figaro at LA Opera opened this afternoon. Plácido Domingo kept the orchestra at a good clip, though not exactly brisk, the tempi were comfortable. There were many synchronization problems with singers and the orchestra. The bridesmaid duet in Act III went especially awry, either the singers were out of tune, or the brass was. The chorus held together, however, and the character roles were all perfectly fine. Daniel Montenegro was all but unrecognizable as an elderly Don Curzio, Philip Cokorinos seemed suitably confused as Antonio. Valentina Fleer made for a girlish Barbarina, and her "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was lovely and mournful. Christopher Gillett (Don Basilio) was reedy and unctous, Alessandro Guerzoni (Doctor Bartolo) was stuffy and silly, and Ronnita Nicole Miller (Marcellina) was sassy and a touch too youthful.
Renata Pokupic was winsome as Cherubino, breathlessly enamored. Her "Non so più cosa son" was slightly quiet, but her "Voi che sapete" was clear. In contrast, Martina Serafin sounded loud and full as the Countess and her "Dove sono i bei momenti" lacked a sense of yearning. She could overpower the other singers, but did rein in her volume in "Sull'aria...Che soave zeffiretto." Bo Skovhus was delightful as the Count, his voice is warm but not too heavy. Marlis Petersen was sweet and airy as Susanna, but always audible and her Figaro, Daniel Okulitch, sounded robust and facile.
The production was odd, Ian Judge's direction involved a lot of pacing and reclining. The big dance number in Act III was a hybrid of flamenco and lindy hop that was funny and well-excuted, but it did not really tie together with the rest of the choreography. Some of the costumes were Rococo and some of them looked very fifties. Tim Goodchild's set made for seamless set changes, and looked clean and pretty until the last act. For some reason, this last scene has a wide open stage, so that timing for the ensembles was compromised, as there is nowhere to stand without being seen. Then there was a haunted house in the background with a giant moon, completely at odds with the sleek elegance of the other scenery. At least the spectacle ended with onstage fireworks.
* Tattling *
The audience talked, but at least people were quiet when hushed. Watch alarms were heard at each hour. A cellular phone rang three times during Act I starting from when Figaro says "Chi suona? La Contessa."
The production garnered much laughter at inappropriate moments, sometimes simply because of the timing of the supertitles. I, for one, laughed very hard at the fireworks.
I had the good fortune to be invited backstage after the performance, and was able to deliver a commissioned cupcake pirate painting.
* Notes *
The Los Angeles Opera 2010-2011 season opened with the world premiere of Daniel Catán's Il Postino. The music is lush and ornate, has soaring lyrical lines, and is pretty enough to not scare those wary of new music. Though the action takes place in Italy, and the title is Italian, the libretto is in Spanish. This was amusing, a sort of inversion of famous operas like Carmen or Il Barbiere. Neruda's poetry is used in the text, especially the poem "Mañana XXVII."
The set and costumes, both designed by Riccardo Hernandez, likewise were attractive. The tiled turquoise and cobalt floor was especially stunning, though one imagines the effect is better from the balcony than the orchestra. Jennifer Tipton's lighting designed featured many spotlights, and the those projections by Philip Bussmann that were visible in the balcony involved many words and water.
Grant Gershon conducted the orchestra, the sound was full, the brass blurred. The onstage banda was charming, and the accordion was particularly wonderful. The chorus sounded lovely in Act III, this was one of the most moving parts of the piece. The clear standout in the smaller roles was Gabriel Lautaro Osuna (Mario's father), who sang a gorgeous a cappella aria in the wedding scene of Act II. The music here was poignant.
Nancy Fabiola Herrera was hilarious as Donna Rosa, Beatrice's suspicious and protective aunt. Her warm voice betrayed no strain. In contrast, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs trembled her way through Matilde Neruda, and the Act II duet with Plácido Domingo (Pablo Neruda) was not flattering to her. Amanda Squitieri (Beatrice Russo) was icy and piercing, at first perhaps a bit shrill, but she sounded strong in the last act.
Charles Castronovo was winsome in the title role, he projected the earnest, often abashed nature of Mario Ruoppolo clearly. Though he has a very pleasing sound, vocally he could not compete with Domingo. The latter sang with vigor and youth, despite having not sung in the final dress rehearsal because of a sore throat.
* Tattling *
The audience was better behaved than usual. There was some speaking and unwrapping of cough drops during the music. A few watch alarms were also heard. The worst noise seemed to come from the lighting booth at the very back of the house.
The crowd at the stage door after the performance was formidable. One person was heard to joke that he had could not believe someone made an opera of Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic film. A pair of immodest girls in revealing gowns were seen congratulating tenor Daniel Montenegro (1st Thug).
General Director Plácido Domingo renewed his contract with Los Angeles Opera through 2013.
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera's Ring cycle continued with Die Walküre yesterday evening. The orchestra sounded fairly good under James Conlon, though at times they did play gingerly, carefully hitting each note. The cello solo in the beginning of Act I Scene 1 was lovely, but the brass did not sound clean for Hunding's Leitmotiv. There was a painful brass mistake as Siegmund sang in Act I Scene 3, but otherwise only a few stray sour notes and haziness. The playing was mournful and together for the end. The singing was gorgeous, particularly in Act I, with Eric Halfvarson (Hunding), Michelle DeYoung (Sieglinde), and Plácido Domingo (Siegmund). All three have such beautiful voices, with enough heft to be heard over the orchestra. DeYoung sounded silvery and young, rather different than her role as Fricka the previous evening. Domingo did admirably, considering he had surgery for colon cancer just in March. At times it was difficult to discern exactly what words he was singing, but the prettiness of his voice came through. Ekaterina Semenchuk was strong as Fricka, very rich and stirring. Linda Watson fared less well as Brünnhilde, sounding shrill in Act II, but did have some tender moments in Act III. Her sister Walküren sounded hale and hearty, they even managed their choreography convincingly and no one fell. Vitalij Kowaljow was believable as Wotan, especially during Wotans Abschied von Brünnhilde und Feuerzauber.
The production, from Achim Freyer, is a stylized riot of color and movement, including clown makeup, light sabers, contortionists, dancing, spinning horse/bicycle hybrids, and the like. Sieglinde and Siegmund do spend a lot of their time in Act I singing from across the stage from each other, and it was a palpable relief to see them actually in contact with one another in Act II. The staging is novel, the end of Act II was especially stunning, and the Walküren scene (Act III Scene 1) was amusing.
* Tattling *
The audience was embarrassingly ill-behaved, talking even during the singing. Watches were heard not only at the hour, but one went off for 10-12 rings as an alarm during Act II. One person's cellular phone rang on at least 3 occasions, once before the watch alarm and twice afterward, and there was yet another phone heard at the end of the act. Cough drops in cellophane seemed to be unwrapped at every quiet moment. On the orchestra level, a certain visitor from New York made her own announcement before Act II about this, and thus managed to enjoy some respite from the crinkling for the rest of the opera.
September 23- October 16 2010: Il Postino
September 26- October 17 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
November 27- December 18 2010: Lohengrin
February 19- March 13 2011: Il Turco in Italia
March 12-27 2011: The Turn of the Screw
LA Opera's new season opens with a world premiere, with Plácido Domingo singing the part of Pablo Neruda. Domingo conducts Le Nozze, with Bo Skovhus singing Almaviva in his LA Opera debut. Ben Heppner sings the title role of Lohengrin, Soile Isokoski is Elsa, and Ortrud Dolora Zajick. Paolo Gavanelli sings Don Geronio in Il Turco. Patricia Racette and William Burden star in The Turn of the Screw.