Thoughts On A Season of Glamour
December 05, 2007
Of late, every time I pass Dress Barn I think of San Francisco Opera's most recent promotional materials for subscriptions. "A Season of Glamour," indeed. This is the worst time of the year for me, because by next week, San Francisco Opera will have finished the Fall part of the season, and it will be all Nutcracker all the time at the War Memorial Opera House. Thirty performances in eighteen days! At least when the Summer part of the season is over, I only have to wait a month. Soon I will have no excuse to dress like I've been attacked by a blind post-modern square dancer. In the meantime, I suspect I will go see Otello, Der Zwerg, and Der zerbrochene Krug in Los Angeles, and I Puritani in Seattle. If I become desperate, I will also go hear the Puccini offerings at Los Angeles Opera, but I doubt it will come to that.
San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley's first season hasn't been too shabby so far. Of the eight productions, I thought I would like Die Zauberflöte most, but I was most moved by Tannhäuser. Though there were some stupid things about the latter's staging, on the whole I found it held up, unlike Macbeth. Macbeth certainly was the most entertaining offering all season, and Thomas Hampson's singing was my favorite this Fall. William Burden in The Rake's Progress was a close second for me. Usually I'm quite crazy for the ladies, so I'm a bit taken aback by this. Needless to say, I can hardly contain my excitement about Ariodante in the Summer. Ruth Ann Swenson, Susan Graham, and Ewa Podleś in Händel sounds almost overwhelming.
Appomattox did not annoy me as much I thought it would, in fact, I have to admit I liked it. (Though I could have been spared the message, as if I needed Philip Glass to tell me that racism still exists in the United States.) Madama Butterfly also was a surprise, everything just came together. I was underwhelmed by Samson et Dalila and La Rondine, in spite of Borodina and Gheorghiu, both of whom have amazed me in other performances.
Unlike many others, I did not dislike David Gockley's predecessor, Pamela Rosenberg. Even still, Gockley has made some good improvements. We have been getting many good singers lately. I also like the earlier start times and fewer intermissions. Technology certainly has been embraced in OperaVision, podcasts, and simulcasts. Some of this has been great, but I have noticed the house has become much noisier. I've heard stage managers in Macbeth and The Rake's Progress, headphone noise, and the like. At least Gockley seems receptive to criticism, he does call himself "Mr. Customer Service" and "Mr. Hospitality" in his introduction to the 2007-2008 Season, and he periodically holds question and answer sessions after performances.