The Makropulos Case

SF Opera's Makropulos Reviews

_B5A4787Production Web Site | SF Opera's Blog

Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Makropulos (A scene from Act III of pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) are very favorable.

Performance Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | San José Mercury News | San Francisco Examiner | San Francisco Classical Voice | Berkeley Daily Planet | Bay Area Reporter | The Rehearsal Studio | Civic Center

SF Opera's Makropulos Case

_B5A3983* Notes *
With a monstrous but charismatic narcissist as protagonist, last night's revival of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case felt timely. It was difficult to not compare our lead, soprano Nadja Michael, with the previous star in the role, Karita Mattila, especially since the latter was so recently here in the nearly perfect Jenůfa over the summer.

Michael's Emilia Marty was certainly very frightening, as befits a jaded person who has had 300 years of youth and cannot find meaning in anything. The soprano has a powerful voice but lacks an ethereal quality that was so impressive in Mattila's performance six years ago. Michael's movements are also very floppy, one would expect more of a cat-like slinkiness from the libertine Marty, though Michael is certainly flexible.

The rest of the cast was fine. Adler Julie Adams was a sweet Kristina, the aspiring opera singing daughter of Kolenatý's clerk. Matthew O'Neill ably reprised his role as Count Hauk-Šendorf as did Dale Travis as Dr. Kolenatý.

Baritone Stephen Powell's Baron Prus was not as subtly drawn as Gerd Grochowski's the last time around. In his San Francisco Opera debut, tenor Charles Workman had a squeaky start as Albert Gregor, but he recovered well and his voice has a lovely timbre.

Mikhail Tatarnikov's conducting was straightforward, there were slight mishaps in the brass at the beginning, but nothing terrible. The orchestra, however, did not achieve the unearthly beauty that we heard over the summer and in 2010 when playing Janáček.

* Tattling * 
The house was not full, and there were lots of seats in the back of the balcony, which is ideal for standing room but not great for the opera company. It's a shame since the piece is gorgeous and the stylish staging, with its rotating set and looming clocks, is elegant.

Věc Makropulos at La Fenice

Fenice-makropulos-2013* Notes *
La Fenice is currently presenting the Robert Carsen production of Věc Makropulos. Carsen sets much of the action in an opera house, starting with Emilia Marty on stage during the overture, switching in and out of various opera costumes. Act II is clearly backstage after Turandot, and Act III is simply in Marty's dressing room. This is a pleasant enough effect and it was entertaining to try to guess which costumes were for which operas.

Gabriele Ferro conducted an enthused orchestra. The playing was not particularly clean, but was spirited. The singing too was somewhat lacking, some pushed the edges of their voices a good deal. Ángeles Blancas Gulín acted and sang the lead role with strength, and only sounded slightly shrill near the end.

* Tattling * 
There was some talking during the music.

2nd Performance of Věc Makropulos at the Met

Met-makropulos-act-3-scene-1-2012* Notes *
The second performance of The Makropulos Case (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera) at the Met this season was held yesterday. The production, by Elijah Moshinsky, is fairly static. Some scene changes are made when only the orchestra is playing, and most of these are not strictly necessary, though perhaps elucidating the plot. The offices of Kolenaty and wherever Marty is staying are stylish enough. The sphinx in Act II was not terribly clever. Howard Harrison's lighting was perhaps the best element of the production.

The orchestra showed dynamic range under Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek. The cast is even. Emalie Savoy's Kristina was a touch too mature, but her sound contrasted with Karita Mattila's. Johan Reuter does not have much warmth to his voice, but as Jaroslav Prus, he does not need it. Richard Leech sounded bright and loud as Albert Gregor. Karita Mattila was again splendid as Emilia Marty, searing but beautiful.

* Tattling * 
This was the worst audience I have observed at the Met. Latecomers sat on the steps of Family Circle, and one particular woman coughed and coughed. She got into an altercation with the woman next to her, and much violent discussion was heard. Another woman with a standing room ticket tried sitting in the aisle for Act II and was scolded by an usher. My companion noted that the people in Family Circle K 116 and 115 were looking at pornography on a mobile phone during Act III.

Opening of Věc Makropulos at the Met

Met-makropulos-act-3-2012* Notes *
A revival of Elijah Moshinsky's 1996 The Makropulos Case opened last night in New York. The performance marked the Met role debut of Karita Mattila (pictured left in Act III, photograph by Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera) as Emilia Marty. Mattila is somehow completely convincing as Marty, her voice is otherworldly and icily perfect. Since I was reading the piano score, I did notice that Mattila may have come in at the wrong time twice in Act I. This hardly mattered, and it was almost difficult to focus on the other singers, as Mattila is so compelling. The rest of the cast all seemed fine, only occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra. Conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, the musicians in the pit played powerfully and with a beautiful transparency.

* Tattling * 
The few people that sat in the Family Circle Boxes were silent. I was told by my friends on the orchestra level that snoring and flatulence were noted.

On the Upcoming Fortnight (Terfel & Heppner)

Tonight I am off to the third performance of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case. It is so wonderful, I regret not being able to attend every performance. During the fourth performance on next Saturday I will be in Berkeley hearing Bryn Terfel sing Schumann, Finzi, and Ibert. Since I have never heard Terfel before, I am making an exception about recitals, which I generally disdain. For the last performance of Makropulos I will be hearing at Los Angeles Opera for Lohengrin. The cast includes Ben Heppner in the title role, and as I have never heard him live either, it may be worth missing the Janáček.

Byrn Terfel at Cal Performances | Lohengrin at LA Opera

Věc Makropulos at SF Opera

OfficeTrio * Notes *
The opening performance of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case was spectacular. The co-production with Finnish National Opera, from Frank Philipp Schlössmann, is stylish, the set design employs cross-hatching that recalls the work of Edward Gorey. The set is on a quiet turntable that was spun during the first overture. The use of over-sized clocks worked nicely with the main theme of this opera. Olivier Tambosi's direction was straightforward, only Emilia Marty moved strangely, but given that she is 337, one imagines she may have picked up rather odd habits.

The orchestra sounded lucid and intent under Jiří Bělohlávek. The brass sounded particularly fine, especially the off-stage banda in the beginning. The string and wind soli were all lovely. The male chorus at the end of the opera was haunting.

The cast was incredible. Maya Lahyani sounded great as both as the cleaning woman at the beginning of Act II alongside Austin Kness' stagehand, and the maid in Act III. Brian Jagde was suitably naive as Janek. Matthew O'Neill was completely convincing as the mad Count Hauk-Šendorf, and even charming. Susannah Biller (Kristina) likewise embodied her role, she was awkward and mousy, and her voice sounded young and flexible.

Thomas Glenn (Vitek) fared well, even singing whilst perched on a ladder, twisting himself toward the audience. Both bass-baritones, Dale Travis and Gerd Grochowski, fit their parts. Travis blustered suitably as Dr. Kolenaty. Grochowski showed his range as an actor, and portrayed various emotions vividly through his voice. Miro Dvorsky was fervid as Gregor, but with the right amount of clumsiness to be plausible. Dvorsky had a just brief moments of being overwhelmed by the orchestra in Act I. Karita Mattila was utterly devastating as Emilia Marty, ruthless yet with unearthly beauty. Her movements were oddly graceful and beastly at the same time.

* Tattling * 
The curtain came down after the singing in Act I, but before the music ended, and this caused people to clap prematurely.
There was some talking in the first half, as Janáček is incomprehensible to some, and the audience attrition after intermission was noticeable. Watch alarms were heard at 9pm.