American tenor Russell Thomas (pictured left, photograph by Dario Acosta) will sing the role of Pollione for the remaining five performances of San Francisco Opera's Norma on September 14, 19, 23, 27 and 30, 2014. Thomas replaces Italian tenor Marco Berti, who has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons. Additionally, Jamie Barton will sing the role of Adalgisa on September 19 and 23. She was previously scheduled to sing five of the seven performances.
Yesterday the San Francisco Opera Association and members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 6 announced they have negotiated a new four-year agreement for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra effective August 1, 2014. Following almost four months of bargaining, the new agreement creates a stable working framework now through July 31, 2018.
Reviewers are impressed by Sondra Radvanovsky (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) in the title role of San Francisco Opera's Norma.
* Notes *
Carlisle Floyd's Susannah (Patricia Racette as Susannah Polk and Brandon Jovanovich as Sam Polk in Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) had a San Francisco Opera debut yesterday evening. The score is sweepingly lyrical, and Maestra Karen Kamenseki conducted a powerful orchestra. The chorus sounded quite fine.
Much of the singing was beautiful. A.J. Glueckert was easy to pick out as Elder Gleaton, as was Suzanne Hendrix as Mrs. Ott. James Kryshak did well as Little Bat McLean and Catherine Cook was sang Mrs. McLean with the suitable vileness.
Raymond Aceto gave a committed performance as the flawed Rev. Olin Blitch. Aceto's voice did have a tendency to blend in with the orchestra. Brandon Jovanovich sang Sam Polk with verve. His voice is lovely. Patricia Racette is an engaging Susannah. Her voice sounded frayed at the top, her loudest high notes have a wide vibrato. Her "Ain't it a pretty night?" was haunting, however.
The production, directed by Michael Cavanagh, is straightforward. Erhard Rom's set design is clean, the scene changes are simple and elegant. The lighting, from Gary Marder, is likewise. The use of projections on a scrim facilitated the proceedings without being overwhelming or cliched.
* Tattling *
The audience in the balcony was sparse. Even so, there was chatter and cellular phone noise, despite the short run time of this opera.
* Notes *
The 92nd season of San Francisco Opera opened last night with a musically luminous Norma. Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducted with vigor, and the orchestra never overwhelmed the singers, only briefly getting ahead of them once or twice. The woodwinds were particularly beautiful. The chorus sang well, the chorus members sounded unified and together.
Jacqueline Piccolino was a fine Clotilda and Christian Van Horn sang Oroveso with power. Though lacking perfect control, Marco Berti was always audible and made for a respectable Pollione.
Jamie Barton's debut at San Francisco Opera was nothing less than impressive. Her voice simply glows. Her performance as Adalgisa was radiant, and she seemed at ease vocally. Sondra Radvanovsky did an admirable job with the difficult title role and was dramatically convincing. She had some harsh notes but sparkled as Norma nonetheless.
The co-production with Canadian Opera Company, Gran Teatre del Liceu and Lyric Opera of Chicago is inert and bloodless, despite being attractive enough. The set (pictured as a model above) is not dynamic but in the end it does feature real fire.
* Tattling *
The audience was rather tame. There was only a little bit of noise from a latecomer who wanted to sit in ZZ 1 of the orchestra level.
Mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, who was scheduled to appear at San Francisco Opera as Adalgisa in Norma this fall, has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons. She is to be replaced by Jamie Barton (pictured left) for five of the opera's seven performances. A casting update for the September 19 and 23 performances will be announced at a later date.
Soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, who was scheduled to appear at San Francisco Opera as Amelia in six performances of Un Ballo in Maschera this fall, has withdrawn from the production because of health reasons. She is to be replaced by Julianna Di Giacomo (pictured left), who was to sing Amelia on October 22.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music alumna Julie Adams (pictured left) was one of the winners of Met Council Auditions this year. She sang the role of Blanche DuBois in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire as a participant of the Merola Opera Program this summer. The program concludes this Saturday with the Grand Finale.
What was the first opera you sang in?
I was in the chorus of Die Fledermaus at L.A. County High School for the Arts. I initially went there for musical theater, but I don't dance, so that didn't work out so well. Stephanie Vlahos, who is in the music faculty there still, introduced me to opera.
Did you go to the recent performance of A Streetcar Named Desire in Los Angeles?
Yes, I managed to go to the last performance. I was on the edge of my seat, since I knew the music and was curious to hear how Renée Fleming tackled the role of Blanche. Her artistry is amazing.
How was it singing Blanche for Merola?
It was really hard but so rewarding. It was difficult to learn and I had to rely on muscle memory to get the starting pitches, as Previn didn't score things so that the orchestra is there to help. I miss the role now as I was living with it for so long. It was very intense. The movie version is obviously iconic, we had to bring something different to the roles and to make them our own.
What are your favorite operas?
I love Puccini. Bohème is one of my favorites and Mimì is a dream role for me. I also love Marriage of Figaro. Magic Flute, I know not everyone likes that one, but I do. Mozart is, of course, a genius. Traviata. Manon. Susannah. I am so excited that San Francisco Opera is doing this one. This is another dream role. I love Carlyle Floyd.
Is there a particular singer to you look up to?
Pat Racette. I admire her with my whole heart. She always gives 110 percent. She always moves me, and I think that is why people go to the opera, to be moved.
What do you think of musical theater as opera?
I think it is great, it gets people into the opera house. Obviously the opera wouldn't take on contemporary Broadway works. For Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kern and Hammerstein, or Gilbert and Sullivan, it completely makes sense. It is great music and is accessible.
What was it like to sing at the Met?
It was a great experience, very glamorous and thrilling. I was so nervous, so it was hard to be in the moment, but my favorite part was the Sitzprobe, when we rehearsed with conductor and orchestra. I sang "L'annee en vain chasse l'annee" from Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue, which the orchestra wasn't familiar with, obviously, as the opera isn't done that much. The conductor, Marco Armiliato, asked me to bear with them, but the Met Orchestra is incredible. The musicians are such lovely people too.
What are you singing for the Merola Grand Finale?
The "Cherry Duet," "Suzel, buon dì…Tutto tace," from L'amico Fritz with Mr. Casey Candabat. I am also singing Alice in the final piece, "Volgiti e mira…Tutto nel mondo è burla." We are singing on the Susannah set, so we are all in formal wear in a desert.
One of your interests is watching professional hockey games. Do you support a particular team?
The Los Angeles Kings, sorry Sharks fans. Hockey is exciting and I enjoy watching games with my dad and brother.
* Notes *
André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire was performed Thursday night by the Merola Opera Program at Everett Middle School in San Francisco. The production (pictured left with Julie Adams as Blanche DuBois and Casey Candebat as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, photograph by Kristen Loken) directed by Jose Maria Condemi, is attractive. The set has two levels and is rather detailed. The costumes are straightforward and pretty. Mark Morash conducted a reduced orchestration by Peter Grunberg. The ensemble sounded rather vigorous.
There was much beautiful singing, though the first act was somewhat rough. The performances were engaging. Baritone Thomas Gunther was a suitably brutish Stanley Kowalski. Adelaide Boedecker has a lovely sweet voice, and was a believable Stella Kowalski. Casey Candebat sounded great as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, wonderfully lyrical. Julie Adams makes for an impressive Blanche DuBois. Her voice is well-supported and brilliant. Her acting was also spot-on.
* Tattling *
Any missed lines were all too apparent since the libretto is in English and there were supertitles.
Reviewers are not particularly impressed by the first cast of San Francisco Opera's La Traviata (Act II Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver), but find the second one better.