In Act I of Three Decembers, we become acquainted with renowned stage actress Madeline Mitchell, and her two rather unhappy children.
Three Decembers (Last Acts)
* Notes *
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers was presented by Cal Performances and San Francisco Opera last night. This chamber opera involves just three singers and less than a dozen musicians, including two pianos played by the composer himself and the conductor, Patrick Summers. The work is unchallenging, the arias sound not unlike numbers in a musical. The evening went well, though there were synchronization issues between singers and musicians near the beginning. Interestingly, the orchestra was upstage, behind the singers.
The singing and acting was all quite fine. Soprano Kristin Clayton (Beatrice) had a lovely iciness to her voice, in contrast to baritone Keith Phares (Charlie), whose tones were smooth and warm. Their duet at the end of Act I was lovely. Frederica von Stade embodied her part as the actress and absent mother Madeline. Her voice, though shaky at times, was very effective.
The pacing of this work was good, not utterly glacial and boring as some new operas can be. Gene Scheer's libretto could have been entirely sappy, but somehow managed not to be. The staging, directed by Leonard Foglia, was artful and simple for the most part. The years projected on the scrim to set the various scenes seemed unnecessary.
* Tattling *
Zellerbach Hall was not at all full, and there were only a few latecomers. There was some talking during the first half, but otherwise the audience was quite silent.
I must have been looking particularly characteristic of the Opera Tattler, for I was recognized and greeted by both the Chronicle's classical music critic and the General Director of San Francisco Opera.
September 6 2008: Angela Gheorghiu, soprano
September 21 2008: Rudolf Buchbinder, piano
September 25-28 2008: Mark Morris Dance Group
October 1 2008: Alexander McCall Smith
October 5 2008: Richard Goode, piano
October 7 2008: Seymour Hersh
October 8-12 2008: Druid Theatre Company
October 9-10 2008: Cesária Évora
October 11 2008: Haruki Murakami
October 14-19 2008: Kirov Ballet
October 19 2008: Piotr Anderszewski, piano
October 24-25 2008: Laurie Anderson, Homeland
October 26 2008: Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra
October 29 2008: Ang Lee & James Schamus
November 1 2008: Milton Nascimento & The Jobim Trio
November 2 2008: Conrad Tao, piano
November 7-8 2008: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
November 9 2008: Vadim Repin, violin & Nikolai Lugansky, piano
November 14-15 2008: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
November 23-24 2008: Peter Sellars's Kafka Fragments with Dawn Upshaw
November 28-30 2008: Golden Dragon Acrobats
December 5-6 2008: Ballet Flamenco José Porcel
December 11-14 2008: Jake Heggie's Three Decembers starring Frederica von Stade
December 20 2008: Pomegranates & Figs: A Feast of Jewish Music
December 21 2008: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano
January 10 2009: Salvatore Licitra, tenor
January 15 2009: Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour
January 17-18 2009: National Acrobats of China
January 18 2009: Sergey Khachatryan, violin with Lusine Khachatryan, piano
January 23-24 2009: Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca
January 25 2009: Sarah Cahill, piano
January 30-31 2009: Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre
February 1 2009: Kronos Quartet
February 5-8 2009: Circus Oz 30th Birthday Bash!
February 8 2009: Danielle de Niese, soprano
February 14 2009: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
February 15 2009: Takács Quartet with Richard Stoltzman, clarinet
February 19-20 2009: Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
February 22 2009: Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano
February 25 2009: Afro-Cuban All Stars
February 27-28 2009: Le Concert des Nations
March 1 2009: Nicole Cabell, soprano
March 3-8 2009: Alvin Ailey with Sweet Honey in the Rock (Mar 3-4)
March 8 2009: Takács Quartet with Peter Wyrick, cello
March 12 2009: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
March 13 2009: Brentano String Quartet with Peter Serkin & Richard Lalli
March 17 2009: Simon Shaheen
March 19 2009: Murray Perahia, piano
March 21 2009: Chick Corea, John McLaughlin & Christian McBride
March 28 2009: Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu
March 28 2009: The Tallis Scholars
March 29 2009: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra with Joyce Yang, piano
April 3 2009: Habib Koité & Bamada
April 4 2009: David Rakoff
April 5 2009: American String Quartet with Menahem Pressler, piano
April 19 2009: Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-soprano
April 22 2009: Quatuor Mosaïques
April 24 2009: Krystian Zimerman, piano
April 25 2009: Dianne Reeves
April 26 2009: Australian Chamber Orchestra with Andreas Scholl, countertenor
May 1-3 2009: Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
May 3 2009: Cypress String Quartet
May 15 2009: Yo-Yo Ma, cello
May 29-31 2009: Mark Morris Dance Group (L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato)
June 4-7 2009: Bolshoi Ballet
June 9-13 2009: Ex Machina
Cal Performances just announced their next season, and though I already have tickets for all the co-productions with San Francisco Opera, I might subscribe anyway. Highlights include the Kirov Ballet, Cecilia Bartoli, Angelika Kirchschlager, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring Andreas Scholl as a soloist.
The world premiere of Jake Heggie's Last Acts (Three Decembers) occurred on Leap Day at Houston Grand Opera, the first of eight performances. The reviews do not look favorable so far, laughter was mentioned, as was Broadway. The same cast is set to sing when the production comes to Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley at the end of the year.