September 9-30 2016: Andrea Chénier
September 10-29 2016: Dream of the Red Chamber
September 28- October 15 2016: Don Pasquale
October 14-29 2016: The Makropulos Case
November 5- December 6 2016: Aida
November 6- December 4 2016: Madama Butterfly
May 31- July 1 2017: Rigoletto
June 4-30 2017: Don Giovanni
June 10-July 2 2017: La Bohème
David Gockley announced the next season at San Francisco Opera today. Lawrence Brownlee has an SF Opera debut in Don Pasquale. Nadja Michael stars in Makropulos. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo sings the title role of Don Giovanni next year and Marc Minkowski conducts.
Ted Hearne's The Source and Poulenc's La Voix Humane will be performed at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater next year in February and March.
* Tattling *
There was a fair amount of inappropriate laughter at the Gordon Getty piece, but this was more about staging than music. Also the use of "Eddie" to refer to Poe struck some as amusing. Many people around me seemed clearly bored, the man next to me in Row J Seat 7 nearly fell asleep.
The double bill of The Fall of the House of Usher at San Francisco Opera is unspeakably dull.
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Ellie Dehn (pictured left) replaces Nadine Sierra as Micaëla in the first cast of San Francisco Opera's Carmen, which opens May 27, 2016. Tenor Maxim Aksenov makes his War Memorial Opera House debut in the alternate cast as Don José replacing Riccardo Massi. Both Sierra and Massi are withdrawing for personal reasons. Jordi Bernàcer will replace conductor Carlo Montanaro for the final performance on July 3.
Soprano Ana María Martínez sings the role of Elisabetta di Valois in SF Opera's Don Carlo, replacing Krassimira Stoyanova who has cancelled because of "ongoing health concerns that prevent her from traveling long distances." Bass-baritone Ferruccio Furlanetto will sing the role of King Philip II in the final performance of Don Carlo on June 29, in lieu of René Pape who has a scheduling conflict. As planned, Mr. Pape will sing the first five performances on June 12, 15, 18, 21 and 24.
* Notes *
A revival of Emilio Sagi's busy production of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) returned to San Francisco Opera after only two years. The proceedings last night did not come into focus until the finale of Act I, but the result was a definitive success, unlike much of what has gone on this season.
The director this time around is Roy Rallo, but the production was fairly close to Sagi's original work. One such subtle change was the guitar in the serenade was given to someone in the orchestra pit rather than being played by Almaviva. Llorenc Corbella's set is great for changing the scenes but it is hard to tell what is inside and what is outside, it is a platform with a few walls on the left side of the stage. Objects and people can enter and exit from under the platform, but this often felt a bit random, as during Don Basilio's La Calunnia aria, when a white curtain noisily appears under the platform and is blown across the right side of the stage. The main part of the set is also quite white, as are many of the costumes, so the end, which has lots of bright shawls, mylar balloons, cotton candy, confetti, and firework projections, is a happy contrast.
Maestro Giuseppe Finzi had the lively orchestra going at a fast clip and there were times were rather loud, especially during Act I. It was difficult to hear "Largo al factotum," even though Lucas Meachem (Figaro) ordinarily has a strapping sound. Meachem occasionally sounded out of breath, but he is a fine actor and is funny. Daniela Mack is a cheeky, charming Rosina. Her voice is not to my taste for some reason, something about her vibrato and the resonances of her sound, but she is competent and again, acts well. René Barbera is a wonderful Almaviva, his bright voice has a beautiful consistency from top to bottom. His coloratura is gorgeous.
Everyone sang nicely together, and the ensembles were a joy. The supporting cast is solid. Alessandro Corbelli is always impressive as Doctor Bartolo, his patter is excellent. Catherine Cook is a delight as Berta, as is Andrea Silvestrelli as Don Basilio.
* Tattling *
The balcony was full for the night before Thanksgiving performance. There was some talking from old and young alike, but the audience seemed engaged and interested.
* Notes *
Let's not beat around the bush on this one, San Francisco Opera's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is very long and not for the faint of heart. Maestro Mark Elder's style is glacial, and while every single beautiful note is heard, it seemed tough on both the orchestra and the singers. Coupled with the attractive but tame production, it can make for a monotonous evening despite the gorgeous singing.
The exceedingly slow tempi are stately and Elder certainly had control of the orchestra. Playing that unhurriedly does seem to wear on the musicians though, and there was an obvious mistake by the oboe player in Act II and a painful brass blooper in Act III. Quite a surprise, given the oboist normally plays very beautifully and in this piece, the brass did really well otherwise. The singers got ahead of the orchestra, which is a distinct rarity.
The production by David McVicar is mild. The action happens under a fancy vaulted ceiling the whole time, with other elements to change the scenes. The switch from Hans Sachs' house in Act III Scene 1 to the festival banks of the River Pegnitz (pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver) in Scene 2 was wonderfully quiet. The costumes look like pretty cast-offs from a film adapted from Jane Austen, so it seems the setting is updated a few centuries. The choreography of the chorus in the first two acts is a bit on the silly side, and doesn't quite match the music or the setting. All that said, the production did not get in the way of Wagner's opera. It could have been funnier though.
The cast has a lot to recommend it. The bright tones of Sasha Cooke (Magdelena) and Alek Shrader (David) cut through the orchestration. Cooke has a particularly lovely voice, and one only wanted to hear more of her, the role being relatively small. As Eva, Rachel Willis-Sørensen has a cold, piercing sound but isn't nearly as grating or scary as some Wagnerian sopranos.
I really loved Martin Gantner as Beckmesser, his characterization is spot on and his voice has such pretty resonances. Brandon Jovanovich cuts a bold figure as Walther von Stolzing, he was fighting a cold during the first performance, which wasn't announced until before Act III. He almost lost it at the end of his big Act I aria, but managed to keep it together. He sounded tentative in the final act, but did sing the whole role.
James Rutherford is an impressive Hans Sachs, his voice has much vigor. He might sound a touch youthful for the role but he gave an imposing and solid performance.
* Tattling *
There was hardly anyone in the last rows of the balcony, and it was easy to see the stage from standing room. Someone a few rows ahead of the very back of the house had her flashlight on for the beginning of the opera, but her companion slapped her hand and insisted she put it away.
Some of the house staff was at the back of the balcony listening to the end of the opera, but one of their walkie-talkies sounded and they hurried away before they could hear the finale.
* Notes *
It was a distinct pleasure to see and hear the final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Brandon Jovanovich and the cast pictured left) was held last night at the War Memorial Opera House. The cast is great, and I'm sure they will be even better once everyone is singing out for the first performance on Wednesday.
The orchestra beautiful and I loved hearing the musicians, despite Maestro Mark Elder's very slow tempi. It was so nice to see the violist carefully make notes in their scores and I appreciate sitting in the side boxes as to observe the members of the orchestra. The production is tame, there's some cute dancing, and the jugglers need to work on their act.
* Tattling *
It was fun to attend an Orpheus (the young people's donor program) event in the Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Intermezzo Lounge. I heard that the programming for the theater in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera will be announced this week and while there is no Baroque opera, Matthias Goerne will be singing Schubert.
Also, it seems that some members (a violist and hornist?) of San Francisco Symphony are part of Orpheus, which is lovely to see.
Tenor Richard Croft has withdrawn from San Francisco Opera's Usher House and La Chute de la Maison Usher for personal reasons. He is replaced by Jason Bridges, who will sing Edgar Allen Poe in Gordon Getty's piece and Joel Sorensen, who will sing Le Médecin in Debussy's opera. The production runs from December 8 to 13, 2015.
* Notes *
Lucia di Lammermoor closed last Wednesday at San Francisco Opera with Albina Shagimuratova as the title character, substituting for Nadine Sierra, who was ill. Shagimuratova herself has been sick and had not yet performed her role as the Queen of the Night in the current run of The Magic Flute that ends November 20.
The performance of Lucia was tantalizing, Shagimuratova has a powerful voice that is a good match for the other great singers sharing the War Memorial stage with her. On the down side, she was obviously still ill, and no amount of wonderful singing could save the terrible production, which looks even worse in close quarters, I discovered.
Shagimuratova's voice is exceedingly dark but she has brilliant high notes. Her Lucia was less safe than Nadine Sierra's, and more emotional. Shagimuratova did lack the sweetness and innocence that Sierra brought to the role. That said, it was exciting to hear Shagimuratova, and we are lucky to be able to get such talent at the last minute.
Michael Cavanagh's staging is pretty darn silly. Ghosts appear nearly every time the word "ghost" is mentioned, and it made my date laugh almost every time, which is hardly an appropriate reaction. It interesting to see that the production team did not try to put Shagimuratova into Sierra's costumes, or even ones that approximated them. Since neither set of outfits really fit in with anything else on stage, it was perfectly fine.
* Tattling *
There were giggles heard not only from my opera companion, but in adjacent boxes and even from the Grand Tier, particularly when Arturo's body was revealed in the mad scene.
Nadine Sierra has taken ill and tonight Albina Shagimuratova (pictured left) will replace her in San Francisco Opera's final performance of Lucia di Lammermoor this season. Shagimuratova is currently cast as The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, but did not sing the opening performance. Sierra, you'll remember, herself was replacing the ailing Diana Damrau. Let's hope everyone feels better soon.
Greer Grimsley has withdrawn from San Francisco Opera's upcoming Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, because of "ongoing health issues." He is replaced by James Rutherford (pictured left). This is the seventh announced cast change of the season.
* Notes *
A revival of The Magic Flute opened at San Francisco Opera last night. The production has been beset with casting changes since August, and two more were announced from the War Memorial stage by General Director David Gockley before the performance. Adler Julie Adams sang First Lady for Jacqueline Piccolino and Kathryn Bowden filled in for Albina Shagimuratova, both replaced artists were apparently ailing. All four substitutions were more than adequate, in fact, Efraín Solís as Papageno and Sarah Shafer as Pamina (pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver), standing in for former Adlers Philippe Sly and Nadine Sierra, may have stolen the show.
Solís has a ton of charisma, and is an absolute delight. His voice has much warmth and liveliness. Shafer gave a distinctive and emotionally nuanced performance, quite a feat as Pamina can be a pretty flat character. Kathryn Bowden muscled through her arias, her Queen of the Night did not sound ravishingly beautiful but she definitely hit every note and it was impressive, if not a bit terrifying.
The three ladies, Julie Adams, Nian Wang, and Zanda Švēde, sounded wonderful and there was no shrillness at all. Greg Fedderly perfectly reprised his role as Monostatos and was entirely hilarious during the magic bell scene when Papageno enchants him and the male chorus. Paul Appleby was fine as Tamino, though somewhat wooden, his sound is bright and has good volume.
The orchestra did not shine under the baton of conductor Lawrence Foster. There were a lot of obvious errors, the balances were off and the playing was sloppy. In fact, the chaos made me feel seasick, and I had to close my eyes to regain a sense of stillness.
Jun Kaneko's production is still as adorable as ever. It is not a dramatic rendering and does not help explain what is going on in this opera, but the abstractness of the design helps keep the action moving and is attractive.
The English translation is awkward but seems to engage the audience. I often indulged myself in thinking of the original German lines as the performers sang. One has to feel for the non-native English speakers in this piece, accents are fairly noticeable and the words are a compromise at best, so can sound stilted even when sung by Americans.
* Tattling *
There were some whispers but the back of the balcony was relatively well-behaved.
The incoming 2016 Adler Fellows are sopranos Amina Edris and Toni Marie Palmertree; tenor Pene Pati; and bass-baritone Brad Walker. They join current Adlers Julie Adams, Zanda Švēde, Nian Wang, Edward Nelson, Matthew Stump, Anthony Reed, Noah Lindquist, and Ronny Michael Greenberg. The outgoing 2015 Adler Fellows are Jacqueline Piccolino, Maria Valdes, Chong Wang, and Efraín Solís.
* Notes *
A new production of Lucia di Lammermoor opened last night at San Francisco Opera with local favorite and Adler alum Nadine Sierra in the title role. There was much beautiful singing and playing, but while there were many strong elements in the staging, it didn't add up to a cohesive performance.
Sierra cut short a run as Zerlina in Paris Opéra's Don Giovanni to replace Diana Damrau, who is on vocal rest. The young soprano started off the evening sounding slightly pinched, but recovered and has a gorgeous voice with excellent consistency. She looks fabulous as Lucia and her face is expressive, those doe eyes convey a lot. She lacks a certain raw intensity in her madness, which came off as very pretty but somewhat impassive, at least vocally.
One also missed the eerie glass harmonica that we heard in San Francisco Opera's 2008 production, though the flute player was strong, and even joined the cast and crew for a well-deserved ovation. Maestro Nicola Luisotti had the orchestra going rather fast, and got ahead of the singers, but only overwhelmed in volume once or twice.
Piotr Beczala sang Edgardo with warmth and brightness, and Brian Mulligan was completely convincing as the conflicted Enrico, his sound rich and emotional. Their Wolf Crag scene (Act III, Scene 1 pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver) was arresting, and this was one of the more interestingly staged, on a black and white checkered floor that seems to be floating in clouds.
The production, directed by Michael Cavanagh, is efficient and has stylish sets and costumes, and some silly video projections (lots of water and huge statue heads). The mad scene takes place in the bridal chamber, and the set opens up to bring the chorus into the action. This works well, and the contrast of colors is striking. The green, blue, and purple of the chorus women's gowns with the grey set is attractive, and they wear enormous flower-shaped hats which is always a plus.
* Tattling *
Was happy to run into an opera devotee who recently moved to San Francisco from New York. He was accompanying a young lady to her first opera.