* Notes *
Graham Vick's production of Tannhäuser opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday. Designed by Paul Brown, this co-production with Dallas Opera strikes an elusive balance, it is neither cloyingly traditional nor starkly contemporary. The bacchanalia is one of the weaker points, Ron Howell's choreography here looks to be inspired by Graham and West African dance, but somehow is vulgar, more so than same scene in the recent Los Angeles Opera offering earlier this year. However, the rest of the choreography is solid and works well with the lighting, designed by Adam Silverman. The entrance of the men's chorus in Act I was particularly beautiful with the light streaming in through the windows one side and the singers emerging from the glow. The pacing of the staging was excellent, there was enough action but it was not superfluous.
Runnicles conducted well, the orchestra was together and the tempi were brisk. I was quite worried that Peter Seiffert (Tannhäuser) and his vibrato would annoy me all evening, but he sounded better in this space. Perhaps the Dorothy Chandler is less forgiving, but Seiffert sounded warmer than I remembered, though he did wobble a great deal. Petra Lang was not the most alluring Venus, her shrill voice and her unflattering bed sheet costume were both less than ideal. I had liked hearing James Rutherford at Opera in the Park, but as Wolfram I found his voice lacks heft. On the other hand, Ji Young Yang sounded just as bright as the Shepherd as she had in Golden Gate Park. Her control is imperfect, at times she shrieked a bit. Petra Maria Schnitzer was good, she seemed better matched in this production than in Los Angeles, her voice did not stand out quite as much.
* Tattling *
The San Francisco audience for Wagner tends to be rather quiet, though I did hear, albeit very faintly, a watch alarm. I commend the audience for not applauding for the horse with the hunting party. Such restraint! In standing room man inserted himself next to my companion and the person to her left, he interrupted our conversation to mention the "X-rated" production in Los Angeles. He repeatedly rubbed his arm during the performance and muttered a few times, but this was pretty minor as I could not discern what he was saying. He probably found a seat after Act I, for we did not see him after the first intermission.