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November 2006
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L'incoronazione di Poppea

Claudio Monteverdi* Notes *
Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea was performed at Los Angeles Opera from November 25th to December 16th this year. I had the opportunity to attend the penultimate performance in the Grand Circle. All in all, the experience was moving. The music is amazing and the production did not detract from it. Harry Bicket conducted the dozen musicians well, although the hall rather cavernous for such a small ensemble. All the singers had too much vibrato for Baroque music, most notably Frederica von Stade as Octavia. Flicka does not have control of her voice and should retire, she was simply embarrassing. Susan Graham sang well in the title role, though there were times in her higher register when she was shrill. Tenor Kurt Streit was wonderful as Nerone, he did not strain too much and had good volume. Reinhard Hagen made a fine Seneca, his last scene was strong, both in his acting and singing. Countertenor David Daniels was also pretty good, neither shrill nor gritty.

Pierre Audi's production was nondescript, though it had a few interesting moments with the device of deus ex machina. The choreography was the weakest part, it seemed that no one considered that the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is immense and poorly-suited to Baroque music. Many times the singers were made to turn upstage and deliver their lines in the opposite direction of the audience. The stage, designed by Michael Simon, was mostly empty but had a few props, such as a large sphere or a wall, depending on the scene. Emi Wada's costumes were at best pretty and at worst nonsensical, especially Arnalta's costumes, one of which looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and another one which looked like an origami project gone awry. Arnalta was played by a tenor, and this seemed to amuse the audience to no end.

* Tattling *
A couple came in just before the music began and took their seats in front of me. The female half of the couple fell asleep within 10 minutes, and the male half kept checking his mobile device for the entire first act. They had the good sense to leave at the first intermission. Unfortunately, the people next to them moved in, and they whispered throughout the entire opera. The elderly man next to me had a watch that beeped at each hour, and when I asked him to silence it at the second intermission, he denied that his watch made sounds. At the end, the two women in front of me gave Frederica von Stade a standing ovation, and I could not stop laughing at the irony in this.

Iphigénie en Tauride News

C_gluckThis summer San Francisco Opera will perform Christoph Willibald Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride in a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago, where it premiered on September 29, 2006. This week Seattle Opera and the Met announced a co-production of the very same opera, to premiere on October 13, 2007 in Seattle and November 27, 2007 in New York.

Seattle Opera Press Release [PDF] | Met Press Release

Closing of Carmen

The final performance of Carmen this season was on the 9th. The standing room area was fuller than it has been in a long time, not unlike the opening night of a season. The performance was adequate, though Hadar Halévy still gasped a few times and danced badly. However, Marco Berti was most impressive, and I hope he returns soon.

* Tattling *
Normally I would not attend an opera this popular on closing night, because it is bound to be crowded. However, I had promised some friends we would go, and there were six of us, four braving standing room. We got to the opera box office well before 9am, and there were already 5 people in line. We made it in time for the 6:20pm entrance time, and saved our places on the railing. When we returned, a person had shoved the programs holding two of my friends places onto my coat. When I confronted him I was told that clothing only indicated a saved place if it was a seat, and I was speaking nonsense. We continued to argue, and I tried asking 3 ushers for assistance, none of whom were helpful at all. The person did end up leaving some time during Act I.

Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata

317122794_108c318eba* Notes *
The last opera of the year at San Francisco Opera will be Manon Lescaut this Sunday. Overall, this production was the best of the seven, because the cast is strong and the set design is neither distracting nor nonsensical. It is interesting to note that Carmen sold out for the last three performances, and the singers sharing the title role are both newcomers. Manon Lescaut was not completely full yesterday, nor is the final performance sold out, despite Karita Mattila. Perhaps this opera is too obscure, when I've mentioned it in passing, many people have not known of it, nor of Abbé Prévost's book.

I am quite curious to hear Karita Mattila sing in Wagner, I have only heard her sing music that I am not particularly interested in, Puccini this time and Janáček a few seasons ago. Her voice has such beauty and intensity. This time around I noticed that tenor Misha Didyk has a lot of vibrato, but not so much to ruin his intonation. He also sounds better when warm, his Act I performance is certainly not as good as in the others.

* Tattling *
Someone came to the stage when the curtain was supposed to rise, and he assured us that Karita was fine, but some orchestra members were stuck in Bay Bridge traffic. Subsequently, the curtain time was pushed back 20 minutes.

Because of the late start, there were no latecomers in the boxes. However, some girls decided to come into Box X toward the end of the intermezzo between Acts II and III. I was sitting at the back of the box as to not crowd anyone, and one of the girls sat directly in front of me and perched on the chair so that all I could see was the back of her head. To add injury to insult, the girls whispered throughout Act III, though they did leave after the act was finished.

Adler Fellows Gala Concert

Adlers* Notes *
The Adler recital last night started off with the overture from
Bernstein's Candide. This was followed by a most terrible butchering of Händel's Alcina Act III, Scenes 2 through 7. Soprano Elza van den Heever was a shrill, nasal, and gasping Alcina. Mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen was cold and too quiet as Bradamante, but she sounded much better latter in the evening, when she sang "Va! laisse couler mes larmes!" from Massenet's Werther. Counter-tenor Gerald Thompson did not have control of his voice as Ruggiero. The rest of the evening went better, soprano Kimwana Doner sang "Tacea la Notte Placida" pretty well, though her voice is thin in her higher range.

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu is certainly the star of the Adler Fellows, he sang "Mira di acerbe lagrime" with Doner and a scene each from Billy Budd and Eugene Onegin. His tone is full and warm, not too much vibrato, and never harsh. of the others, soprano Melody Moore and tenor Sean Panikkar were fine as Mimi and Rodolfo. Moore's voice has an effortlessness that is lacking in many of the others. Panikkar strained his higher notes when accompanied by the full orchestra, but his voice is lovely. Bass Jeremy Galyon and tenor Matthew O'Neill show promise, and they were hilarious when they broke out into random Italian, shuffling chairs as Sean Panikkar took the stage. Soprano Rhoslyn Jones annoyed me as Frasquita in the current production of Carmen, as her voice is incredibly loud and wavering. However, she wasn't terrible in the Eugene Onegin excerpt, when she sings piano her voice is pretty, but the forte bits can be frightening.

* Tattling *
People were seated during the Alcina excerpt, and the pair that stepped over me to get to Z 117 and 119 apologized as the music continued. Soon after this a woman in Z 115 decided she couldn't wait for Alcina to be over either and made us all stand so she could get out. There was a great deal of chatter the whole time, plus wonderful amounts of screaming, especially from standing room. David Gockley spoke after the intermission, and he forgot 2 of the 3 names of the departing Adlers. Thankfully, members of the audience were able to yell "Gerald" and "Eugene" for him.