San Diego Opera's closure has been delayed to May 19, 2014. Carol Lazier, the former Secretary of the Board, is now the acting President after President Karen Cohn resigned along with 12 other Directors in a board meeting that lasted over four hours.
* Notes *
The last performance of the 2014 season at San Diego Opera was the matinée of Don Quichotte on Sunday, April 13. This may well have been San Diego Opera's final offering, complete with a Save San Diego Opera demonstration outside and capacity attendance inside. The production is a revival of the one at San Diego Opera in 2009.
Maestra Karen Keltner held the orchestra together, and the music sounded lovely. The chorus was generally good, though the bandits in Act III were not exactly together at first. This improved by the end of the act. The small roles were all filled nicely, it was especially nice to hear Susannah Biller (Garcias) and Joel Sorensen (Rodriguez). Eduardo Chama was delightful as Sancho Pança, he is a fine basso buffo. Anke Vondung sparkled as Dulcinée, and her voice is both rich and smooth. Ferruccio Furlanetto was again entirely committed to the title role. His pathos and ridiculousness came through with great beauty.
* Tattling *
San Diego Civic Theatre only has four wheelchair locations, and an usher put a person in a wheelchair next to me in Row B Seat 43. I had purposely selected this seat as I have a temporary medical condition that requires that prompt attention every few hours. The usher did not consider me at all in his deliberations, and even asked that I get out of his way at one point. However, the person in the wheelchair was exceedingly considerate of me, and was careful to let me get past him at intermission and the end of the show. It was unfortunate that about half the stage was not easily visible for him.
* Notes *
San Diego Opera's 2013 season opened with La fille du régiment last night. The production, directed by Emilio Sagi, is set in France during the final days of World War II, rather than in 19th century Swiss Tyrol. This made the sung or spoken text go against the super-titles at times. Otherwise, Sagi seems rather detail oriented, it seemed that all the scenes were rife with activity. The audience appreciated the sight gags and various jokes interpolated in the dialogue.
The orchestra sounded buoyant under Yves Abel, but were not always with the singers. There were rough moments for the brass. The chorus was entertaining. Carol Vaness was a funny Duchess of Krakenthorp, and even sang a little. Kevin Burdette was a charming Suplice. Ewa Podleś was a perfectly haughty Marquise de Berkenfield and her acting is convincing. Her voice is still beautiful, though not as smooth as in former days. Stephen Costello sang with a great deal of power, his high C's were a bit raw in Act I. Costello's second act aria was plaintive without being cloying. L'úbica Vargicová was cute as Marie, and was impressively awkward in Act II, persuasive embodying the role. Her sound has a slight tendency to be shrill, and is pleasantly fluttery, but has a fullness to it.
* Tattling *
The audience laughed a lot, and kept conversations to a minimum.
* Notes *
At first glance, the revival of Don Pasquale (Act II, Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) at San Diego Opera simply looks like someone took a set and costumes for Fanciulla del West and used it for Donizetti's work. Thankfully, there is much more to director David Gately's elaborate production, which is quite funny. This Wild West version of Don Pasquale works because the essentials are still true to this opera buffa. The characters are all believable, and this rendering has a lot of charm. The gags just keep on coming, and perhaps at times this felt somewhat overwrought. The sets, from Tony Fanning, descriptive and painstakingly detailed, as are the costumes from Helen E. Rodgers.
Conductor Marco Guidarini made his San Diego debut with yesterday's performance. The orchestra played with the necessary fleetness, and were often rather loud. The trumpet made a brave effort at the beginning of Act II despite a few raw moments. The chorus moved well, and though not precisely together, sang nicely. The principal singers were cast evenly. Jeff Mattsey was an entertaining Dr. Malatesta, and his singing was fine aside from some of the patter in the duet "Cheti, cheti, immantinente." Charles Castronovo (Ernesto) had a pretty lightness and the right mournfulness for the role. His voice sounds slightly metallic when he pushes it too hard. Danielle de Niese's Norina was completely convincing, her gestures and expressions were faultless. Though her breathing is noticeable, her voice is deft and bright. John Del Carlo was hilarious in the title role. His sound is warm and his enunciation was excellent throughout, especially in the aforementioned Act III duet with Mattsey.
* Tattling *
There was light talking throughout the opera, and a watch or phone alarm rang during Act III Scene 2.
Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the State Opera of South Australia's production of Moby-Dick) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in the San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Heppner is ill. Morris had been originally scheduled for the San Diego performances, but withdrew to sing Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's Götterdämmerung last month.
* Notes *
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) was given by San Diego Opera last night. This production was first seen two years ago at Dallas Opera, and has also had runs at the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide and Calgary Opera. The opening performance in San Diego was impressive. Gene Scheer's libretto is paced well, skillfully arranged and rather more spare than Melville's novel. Heggie's music is also adroit, the ensembles and choruses sounded particularly lovely. Robert Brill's sets are cleverly enhanced by lighting designed by Donald Holder (revived here by Gavin Swift) and projections designed by Elaine J. McCarthy (revived here by Shawn Boyle). Only a couple of the visuals were awkward, specifically the flying harpoon ropes and splintering whale boats. However, director Leonard Foglia pulled together this opera as a coherent, vital work, without being mawkish.
The orchestra was lead by Joseph Mechavich, who also conducted this opera in Calgary. The 63 musicians crowded in the pit produced a lot of sound, occasionally overwhelming the singers. The chorus seemed at ease with the music, and the dancing in the second half of Act I was surprisingly good. The rest of the singing was likewise fine, Robert Orth (Stubb) had a hearty duet in Act I with Talise Trevigne (Pip). Trevigne's subsequent aria when lost at sea was splendid and as the highest voice in the opera, was both striking and haunting. Jonathan Boyd was the wide-eyed Greenhorn, he seemed momentarily strained in the beginning of Act I, but sang nicely for the rest of the evening. Jonathan Lemalu sang Queequeg with a certain dry quality, his duets with Boyd were balanced. Morgan Smith portrayed Starbuck beautifully, with sensitivity and humaneness. Ben Heppner made a grimly determined Captain Ahab, the effort in his voice seemed tangible, which was effective for this role.
* Tattling *
A cellular phone rang on the right side of the orchestra level during Act I. There was a lot of talking between a child in Row P Seat 46 and her guardian in Seat 44, but they were silent after being hushed. The child must have switched seats with someone, as she did not return for the second half. There was also much talking during Pip's aria in Act I from the couple in Row N Seats 42 and 44, rather unfortunate given how beautiful it was, and how lightly orchestrated.
* Notes *
Yesterday evening's opening performance of the 2012 season at San Diego Opera was Salome. Seán Curran's production (pictured left with Irina Mishura as Herodias and Lise Lindstrom as Salome, photograph by Ken Howard) was seen in San Francisco two years ago, with the same sets and costumes designed by Bruno Schwengl, and elegant lighting by Christopher Maravich. There were some differences from the earlier performances in 2009, most notably in Salome's dance. The San Diego version sounded strong, the orchestra seemed restrained under Steuart Bedford, the brass only a bit ragged.
The principals were all impressive. Sean Panikkar sang Narraboth with a painful loveliness. Greer Grimsley gave a powerful performance as Jochanaan. Allan Glassman acted and sang the role of Herodes with complete conviction. As Herodias, Irina Mishura was both visually and vocally complementary to Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Lindstrom was viscerally disturbing, with devastatingly gorgeous high notes. Her movements were rather girlish, and her dancing, aside from a slight awkwardness with her second veil, was graceful.
* Tattling *
There was some limited whispering from the audience. Two chirps were heard when Salome was singing without much accompanying orchestration.
Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the title role of Siegfried at the Metropolitan Opera, photograph by Ken Howard) will replace Gary Lehman as Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's new Götterdämmerung, which opens January 27, 2012. Lehman has withdrawn due to a viral infection. Morris himself has withdrawn from performances of Moby Dick at San Diego Opera, and the role of Ahab will be sung by Ben Heppner.
San Diego Opera recently announced a 2012 season. Lise Lindstrom, Greer Grimsley, Alan Glassman, and Irina Mishura star in Salome. The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick features Jay Hunter Morris as Ahab. John Del Carlo, Danielle de Niese, and Charles Castronovo sing in Don Pasquale. The Barber of Seville concludes next season, with Lucas Meachem in the title role.
* Notes *
The opening performance of a Faust revival at San Diego Opera occurred last night. Seen last season in San Francisco, the sets and costumes were designed by Robert Perdziola, with lighting from Michael Whitfield. Apparently the production, owned by Lyric Opera of Chicago, was actually designed for Tancredi. In San Diego, it was redesigned for Faust 10 years ago and the staging this time around was done by David Gately. It was striking how distinct this performance was from the San Francisco performances last June, despite having the same sets, costumes, and even one of the same singers. There was much more ballet in San Diego's version. The choreography for the chorus was simpler and had the singers remain onstage for more of Act I, Scene 2. The chorus did well, and were, for the most part, together. Karen Keltner had the orchestra sounding pretty and legato. The brass had a few evident vulnerabilities.
Scott Sikon was perfectly fine as Wagner, and Jane Bunnell was amusing as Marthe. Sarah Castle looked perfectly boyish as Siébel. Her voice was clean and bright, both her "Faites-lui mes aveux" and her scene with Marguerite at the end of Act III, Scene 1 were very sweet. Baritone Brian Mulligan was strong as Valentin, his "O Sainte Medaille" garnered the first ovation of the evening. Greer Grimsley looked and sounded like a convincing Méphistophélès. His voice has a certain husk-like quality to it that lacks prettiness and works for the Devil. Ailyn Pérez made for a fitting contrast, a lovely Marguerite indeed, especially for "Il était un roi de Thulé." Pérez possesses a wonderful effortlessness when she sings. Stephen Costello may have a slightly harder time as Faust, one or two high notes betrayed strain, but not constriction. Costello did sound plaintive, his voice is pleasant and has enough squillo to cut through the orchestration. Pérez and Costello made an attractive pair.
* Tattling *
The talking and whispering during overtures was unrelenting, at least on the right side of Row S on the orchestra level. No mobile phones were heard, but there were those who used them to check the time between scenes.
* Notes *
The opening of Nabucco this season at San Diego Opera was last night. The production was directed by Lofti Mansouri, the former General Director in San Francisco, and was as expected, nothing wild or crazy or new. Micahel Yeargan's set stayed essentially the same throughout the performance, though the backdrops were switched out for the different scenes. Something about the geometry about the projections used looked dated, but transitions were clear and straightforward.
Edoardo Müller had a good handle on the orchestra, for the most part they were together and the volume was robust without overwhelming the singers. The brass was competent, only a few mistakes were heard. The first cello solo was a bit severe, but sounded less grating over time. The chorus shone from the beginning, and "Va, pensiero" from Act III, Scene 2 was moving.
Mezzo-soprano Susana Poretsky was both harsh and shrill to begin with as Fenena. She managed to sound very pretty at times though. Raymond Aceto's creakiness worked excellently for Zaccaria, the High Priest of Jerusalem. He could have been somewhat stronger in the very end, but sang proficiently otherwise. Arthur Shen (Ishmaele) had a bright, pleasing sound, but lacked heft. He was, at least, not difficult to hear. As Abigaille, Sylvie Valayre strained for her top notes, and could only reach some of them by wavering quite a lot. She did have her more comely moments, especially in "Anch'io dischiuso un giorno," and she acted with conviction. Richard Paul Fink sang with occasional tentativeness, and perhaps a want of beauty, but overall he does have a fine, vigorous voice. Considering he stepped in at the last-minute, one can hardly complain, and the emotions of the character came through believably in his singing.
* Tattling *
The audience spoke more than one would like, especially when reading the verses from Jeremiah projected onto the scrim before acts. There was no electronic noise, no mobile phone rings, and no watch alarms.
At the second intermission a person in a tuxedo was overheard to say "Did you get a load of that one over in that number with her big fake titties hanging out. She's got to be in her fifties and it's been a long time since she could've pulled that off." I leave it to the reader to make out exactly what such a comment or what elicited it indicates, if anything.
January 30- February 7 2010: La Bohème
February 20-28 2010: Nabucco
March 13-21 2010: Roméo et Juliette
April 17-25 2010: La Traviata
San Diego Opera is only having four operas next year instead of the usual five, but the casting remains strong. Piotr Beczala sings Rodolfo in Bohème, as he did in San Francisco last year. Željko Lučić sings the title role in Nabucco, with Sylvie Valayre as Abigaille. Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello star in Roméo et Juliette, and Elizabeth Futral and Marius Brenciu star in La Traviata.