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December 2006
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February 2007

Trisha Brown Dance Company

Trishabrowndance* Notes *
Trisha Brown Dance Company was in Berkeley for two performances last weekend. In general, I found her style to be rather slow and sculptural. It was intellectually interesting but not engaging on a visceral level. The dancers were good, but there were times when they were not consistent with each other. For instance if one person might have a stronger point of the foot, or another a higher arabesque.

The first work performed was how long does the subject linger on the edge of volume... (2005), which was supposed to be multimedia coming together to make a whole. Instead, the animated visual elements projected on the scrim competed with the movement of the dancers.

Salvatore Sciarrino's music of the second work, Geometry of Quiet (2002) was disturbing, there were parts that sounded like stylized coughing. This work was particularly slow and involved cloth banners.

The evening ended with I love my robots. (2007), which was humorous and involved 2 poles on platforms that moved on their own. It also had a speaking part.

* Tattling *
Since the music was so minimal, most of the audience was very quiet for most of the performance. A notable exception was the woman next to us in R 112. She absolutely hated the performance, so I'm not sure why she stayed the entire time. After the second piece, she made light of the choreography by imitating the movements in her chair. Before the last piece ended, she muttered about how it was "stupid." She tried to climb over us during the applause, to no avail.

Concerto No. 20 in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra, K. 466

Radulupu* Notes *
Radu Lupu played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 last weekend with the San Francisco Symphony. Lupu certainly was comfortable with the material. He was heavy on the pedal in the Romance. The slower bits were most unclear and slightly mushy.

Lawrence Foster conducted, and for the most part it was fine. However the horn parts in the Allegro assai rondo were not together.

* Tattling *
On my way to Davies I heard a pair wondering whether the Mozart was first or last, they were pretty sure it was last. They passed me, and I noticed they were either violinists or violists. As it turns out, Gerhard's Concerto for Orchestra was last. I must admit my weakness, I did skip out on this half.

People were well-behaved, not that many were seated during the performance, and no one talked. I did notice some humming along and there were watch beeps to signal the hour.

Große Messe No. 17 in C minor K427

Masscminor* Notes *
Ingo Metzmacher conducted Stravinsky's Orpheus and Mozart's C minor Mass last weekend at San Francisco Symphony. The former is ballet music, I had no ear for it, I found it rather dull, though it had some pretty moments in the harp part. Perhaps it would make more sense in the context of ballet. As for the Mass, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The work was edited by Monika Holl with Karl-Heinz Köhler, with the Credo, Et incarnatus est, Sanctus, and Osanna reconstructed and completed by Helmut Eder. The lead soprano, Camilla Tilling, seemed a bit nervous at the beginning of the Friday night performance, but was calmer on Saturday night. She had good control of her vibrato, but some of her higher and lower notes were not clear. She was much more strained in this part than in the role of Susanna she appeared in last summer. The other soprano, Sarah Fox, had a lot of vibrato and more dark hues in her voice. I found tenor Timothy Robinson somewhat lackluster, and I couldn't hear him that well. Bass-baritone John Relyea only sang at the end in the Benedictus, by then his voice was cold, he was also somewhat quiet after waiting on-stage for 45 minutes.

* Tattling *
This is the first time I've sat in the rear boxes at San Francisco Symphony. During Stravinsky on Friday, some people wandered into the box, talking as they came in, but they were confused and in the wrong place.

We wanted to hear the Mozart again, but not the Stravinsky, so we waited in the lobby and read during the first half of the Saturday night performance. When we went to our seats in the second row of the orchestra level, a middle-aged woman in B 111 had her foot propped up on my seat. Her ankle was wrapped up, so perhaps it was sprained. I mentioned that B 112 was my seat, and she rolled her eyes and only unapologetically moved. My companion gave her a cutting look, and her companion might have scolded her, because some angry words were exchanged between the two of them. Thankfully, they were both quiet the entire performance. It just confused me, I do not believe I was outside of my rights to want to sit in the seat my ticket was for, and there was no reason to be hostile.

Alternate Cast of Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera

Morgansmith* Notes *
The alternate cast of Seattle Opera's current Don Giovanni production is well worth seeing. Their final performance is this Friday, but they also sang on January 14th and 21st. Morgan Smith had a very different characterization of the title role than Mariusz Kwiecien. Smith seemed less dangerous and more athletic. His voice is light, and his timing was off at times. Franzita Whelan (Donna Anna) was a bit quiet and shrill. Dana Beth Miller was the perfect scorned woman as Donna Elvira, her voice had good volume. Patrick Miller (Don Ottavio) had some creaky high notes. Brian Kontes (Leporello) had good diction, but something of a gritty quality to his voice. Overall, this cast seemed more engaged with one another, and was more consistent.

* Tattling *
The audience was much more subdued at the Sunday matinee after the opening. I had been expecting a kerfuffle since Seattle's team was in an NFL playoff game that day. Thankfully, the game was lost before the opera began, so audience members were not tempted to look up the scores on their mobile devices during the performance.

This time, again, the person with the seat adjacent to my standing place had her coat over the railing, but she moved graciously moved it without being asked and without any fuss. However, an usher did aggress my companion during the overture, handing her a program for no apparent reason and speaking during the music.

During Act II, a child, sitting in the lap of a woman, kept asking what was being sung. They were in the back of the middle of the orchestra, and apparently she was too young to read.

SF Opera's 2007-2008 Season

LittleprinceSeptember 7-28 2007: Samson et Dalila
September 18- October 12 2007: Tannhäuser
October 5-20 2007: Appomattox
October 13- November 3 2007:
Die Zauberflöte
November 7-29 2007: La Rondine
November 14- December 2 2007: Macbeth
November 23- December 9 2007: The Rake's Progress
December 1-8 2007: Madama Butterfly
May 2-11 2008: The Little Prince
June 3-28 2008: Das Rheingold
June 15- July 6 2008: Ariodante
June 17- July 5 2008: Lucia di Lammermoor

A startling amount of opera in German next season, plus a world premiere and a Händel opera outside the standard repertoire. I am most looking forward to Ariodante as it has two of my most favorite singers, Ruth Ann Swenson as Ginevra and Ewa Podleś finally making her SF Opera debut as Polinesso. Angela Gheorghiu is also having her SF debut in La Rondine as Magda. As for interesting returns, Olga Borodina reprises her role as Dalila and William Burden sings Tom Rakewell.

Press Release [PDF] | Season Brochure [PDF]

LA Opera's 2007-2008 Season

Dorothy_chandler_chandelierSeptember 8- October 6 2007: Fidelio
September 27- October 13 2007: Jenůfa
November 24- December 15 2007: Don Giovanni
November 25- December 16 2007: La Bohème
January 19- February 10 2008: Tristan und Isolde
February 16- March 9 2008: Otello
February 17- March 8 2008: Der Zwerg / Der zerbrochene Krug
May 17- June 21 2008: Tosca
June 7-28 2008: La Rondine

Karita Mattila is singing in Jenůfa. I am most interested in La Rondine and Patricia Racette will be singing Magda. Will probably also see Fidelio, Don Giovanni, and Der Zwerg / Der zerbrochene Krug.

Press Release [PDF]

Opening of Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera


* Notes *
Chris Alexander's new production of Don Giovanni premiered last Saturday at Seattle Opera. The set, designed by Robert A. Dahlstrom, was rather flat and limiting. Basically, it consisted of a large wall with many partitions, which did make the scene changes seamless, but was rather domineering and monolithic. Marie-Therese Cramer's costumes were a mix of contemporary and Rococo. The choreography was similarly confused, cast members would randomly put themselves into doorways or oddly bobble to a minuet.

The most painful and hilarious moment of the performance was when Don Giovanni descends into Hell. For one thing, it is obvious just where this will take place, as this part of the stage is lowered to be a pool in Scenes IV and V of Act I. In Scene V, Act II, the Commendatore inexplicably enters Giovanni's house by a gigantic crack in the aforementioned monolithic wall. Then he proceeds to the table that has been artfully raised from the ground at the beginning of the scene and casts down his admonitions. Clearly, vengeful statue ghosts wish to cast down their admonitions from tabletops! When Don Giovanni takes the Commendatore's hand, he must also jump atop the table, which is slowly sinking. Instead of plunging all the way to Hell in one go, Don Giovanni flings himself away and has to slither around the floor for a good long time before he finally makes his way back, then the lighting changes and a huge white sheet descends to cover the wall. Naturally the sheet does manage to get caught on one of the chairs.

Mariusz Kwiecien was the strongest singer, and being in the title role, this did cause an imbalance for the production as a whole. His acting was also good, he was an unctuous fop. Pamela Armstrong showed potential as Donna Anna, though she lacked control. Her high notes had too much vibrato, which lead to being off key. She was also rather loud. Though her voice needs to be reined in, it is warm and resonant. Marie Plette sang Donna Elvira as if she were a Puccini heroine. Richard Croft's Don Ottavio was simpering, he did have good volume, though he did seem strained at times. Eduardo Chama was a mocking and very funny Leporello. He has a pretty voice, but his diction was sloppy. Ailish Tynan (Zerlina) has a girlish sweet voice, but looked absurd in short skirts with her skinny legs. Kevin Burdette (Masetto) started off too fast, but his acting had a strong physicality and he was convincing in his role.

* Tattling *
This was definitely the most badly-behaved audience I have observed at Seattle Opera, even worse than the Sunday matinee Die Fledermaus I attended last year that convinced me to not subscribe again. The evening started off badly, when I got to my standing room place, the person in the adjacent seat had placed her coat over my spot. My companion asked her to move it, and it was only grudgingly done. The person in question must have not enjoyed the opera, for she left after the intermission.

There was a noisy altercation between some people in the center section of the orchestra level during the overture. There were two rounds of hushing before this settled down. Profanities and invectives were employed.

All of the couples in front of us spoke during the performance, but the people on Aisle F Row BB Seats 1 and 2 were loudest. Among the erudite comments were "He's the guy!" when Masetto appeared onstage, "Nice control!" after one of Donna Anna's arias, and "That was Modigliani" in response to the many female nudes flashed upon a screen during "Fin Ch'han Dal Vino."

A watch alarm went off during Act II, and it beeped at least 8 times before silenced. This was followed by an angry but whispered argument between two men on the right side of the orchestra level. Another man decided he could no longer take Donna Anna, and left in the middle of her aria, despite his being in the middle of the row. About half a dozen people had to stand up to let him leave, and one of them had a bit of trouble and toppled over.

The Met Simulcasts

Simulcasts seem to be all the rage now. San Francisco Opera had one of Madama Butterfly last summer, and one of Rigoletto in October. The Met debuted their simulcast program with an English version of Die Zauberflöte in about 150 movie theatres around the world on December 30, 2006. I Puritani will be simulcast this weekend, followed by The First Emperor next weekend. Eugene Onegin, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Il Trittico will be broadcast in February, March, and April respectively.

I find it terribly entertaining that the theatre nearest me is in loathsome Emeryville. This former Superfund site notable for its IKEA and pedestrian unfriendliness.

Chronicle Article | Met HD Broadcast Web Site | Met Press Release

Carmen at ROH

Carmen_2* Notes *
A new co-production with the Norwegian Opera of Carmen opened at the Royal Opera House opened last month and runs until February 3, 2007. All the performances are sold out, but 67 tickets are held to be sold the day of the performance as day seats. Last Thursday I tried this, getting to the entrance situated under the covered arcade in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza at 7:15 in the morning. The queue was already 20 people long, but getting tickets wasn't a problem, we got bench seats in the Stalls Circle. The ticket seller seemed surprised and said it wasn't always so crowded.

The production, directed by Francesca Zambello, was not perfectly congruous. The costumes were traditional, but the set was just a few large walls placed at different angles for each act. There were props such as an orange tree and a statue of the Virgin Mary that were in keeping with the costumes but not the set. Also featured were an abundance of live animals, including a donkey, a horse, and chickens. Another crowd-pleaser was Arthur Pita's choreography in the form of acrobatics and dancing.

None of the singing was particularly good. Anna Caterina Antonacci had her Royal Opera House debut with the title role, which she is sharing with Marina Domashenko. Antonacci is a strong actress, she was sultry and a bit mean, perfect for the role. Her voice is nice within a certain range, but has some unpleasant qualities outside of that. She gasped a few times and was occasionally flat. I appreciated that this production had the castanets played by a percussionist in the pit, but it would have been nice if they had Carmen at least mime the playing instead of having her alternately stamp the rhythm in her feet or bang together mugs in her hands. Jonas Kaufmann was strained as Don José, his voice is small and slightly nasal. He was quite underpowered compared to Marco Berti, with whom he is sharing this role. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo looked uncomfortable as Escamillo, quite stiff. His voice sounds constrained somewhere in his throat, it has a husk-like feel. He sang half of "Toreador en Garde" on horseback, which was silly but the audience enjoyed it. Norah Amsellem was an insipid Micaëla, she was shrill, out of tune, had too much vibrato, and was even off from the music a few times.

* Tattling *
People talked during the overture, but were fairly quiet the rest of the time. There was some cellophane being unwrapped during Act I, which was hushed quite vigorously, and not by me for once.

Antonacci flashed her undergarments several times during the course of the opera, impressive given that her skirts were all ankle length.

The performance was only 3 hours and 10 minutes long with one intermission, even though they did the longer spoken dialogue version of the opera. They cut "A deux cuartos" from the beginning of Act IV, so that may have contributed to the brevity of the performance.