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July 2001
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October 2001

Arshak II

Yesterday we just decided to try to see the rescheduled performance of Tigran Chukhadjian's Arshak II, and managed to finagle inexpensive tickets for the orchestra. The performance was supposed to have happened last Tuesday, but most of San Francisco shutdown that day, and it was canceled. The performance started with a moment of silence, and then we sang America, the Beautiful. The opera itself was very nice. It was composed in 1868 but was never performed in its full form until the San Francisco Opera premiered it September 9, 2001. The libretto is loosely based on King Arshak II who ruled Armenia in the 4th century. The staging was the most impressive part of the production. The tiered walls were imposing and they moved to change scenes. The costumes were lovely. There were two ballets, one that involved women in white fluttering and floating beneath the cage were Queen Olympia was being held prisoner, and one with men and slave women that was celebratory. It was strange for the music to go on so long without singing, but the dancing was gorgeous. As for the singing, Arshak II, sung by baritone Christopher Robertson, was not as good as Gordon Gietz (Valinace) nor Philip Webb (Prince Knel). Queen Olympia, Arshak II's first wife, was sung by Hasmik Papian, and her voice was excellent, very sweet, clear, and under control. In contrast was Arshak II's second wife Paransema, who was wasn't nearly as good, her voice was more breathy and less under control. I believe the part was sung by mezzo soprano Mzia Nioradze, though Nora Gubisch should have done that particular performance, but she was ill. The music itself was very pretty. The ending was a bit quiet for how tragic the storyline was, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience.


Last Friday we went to the opening night of the San Francisco Opera. They played Verdi's Rigoletto. The soprano Désirée Rancatore was very good, her voice is sweet and light. Maybe just slightly cold, slightly frail. The tenor Frank Lopardo was acceptable, a bit inconsistent. His voice was not as strong as the title baritone Stephan Pyatnychko, who was amazing. Pyatnychko's voice was rich and warm, and just beautiful.

The set was clever, but certain details made it odd. They did a good job with the river scene, and the way they moved the set around was done well. However, the stripped down nature of much of the set was not aesthetically appropriate, the arches without any ornamentation looked like concrete and the stairs used in an interior space was made hideous with a metal railing at the top which looked like one you would find in a modern office building. The lighting was also strange. One of the interior areas was always lit red, and the adjacent outdoor area was lit yellow.