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February 2008
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April 2008

L'Elisir d'Amore at Berkeley Opera

* Notes *
The 2008 season of Berkeley Opera opened last Saturday with a performance of the very silly opera L'Elisir d'Amore. The production is sweet, and the set only seemed to have two modes, one with one arch in the background and a few feet of stone wall, and another with three arches and a few feet less of stone wall. Of course, this was perfectly fine, elaborate scene changes are not necessary for L'Elisir. The costumes were pretty good, but the wigs were distractingly poor. Gianetta's dark red wig was styled à la Farrah Fawcett circa 1977, and Adina's ponyfall was too blond for the rest of her hair.

Angela Cadelago screeched a little in her first aria as Adina, but twittered along nicely for the rest of the opera. Andrew Truett acted the part of Nemorino very well, but his voice was a little quiet. He was especially funny when dancing around the stage in Act I Scene 2, when he moonwalked for a few seconds. Torlef Borsting (Belcore) was weak in his higher range, but his voice was pretty otherwise. Paul Cheak was quite amusing as Dulcamara, though his voice is a bit breathy. It was an altogether entertaining evening.

* Tattling *
The fake ficus tree was knocked over in Act I, Scene 1, but was promptly put back up by a chorus member. I overheard a hilarious conversation during intermission which covered the Ring (large women wearing breastplates shrieking in German) and Funny Games (one would be concerned if it was recommended by a friend because of what would that might mean about that person).

Peter Grimes Live in HD Met Simulcast

Metpetergrimes* Notes *
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Benjamin Britten's music, I did attend today's simulcast of Peter Grimes. Some of Britten's rhythms in this opera were of interest, particularly the sea shanty at the end of Act I. Unlike the protagonists of Billy Budd or The Turn of the Screw, the character of Peter Grimes is not completely inane. His status as an outsider is rather operatic, of course, and the ambiguity of his tale is intriguing. I was also quite curious about John Doyle's production since I had just heard his interview on the Los Angeles Opera podcast from last year. The production is striking, though Scott Pask's set was tiresome at times. The set is meant to be oppressive, and it certainly was, but it was also a bit like a stark Advent calendar.

Donald Runnicles seemed to have a good handle on the orchestra, and everything sounded very much together. I had no idea our maestro perspired so much, and this is one of the odd things about the simulcasts, they do sometimes show us more than we wish to see. The singing was all at a high level, with fine diction from everyone, I was able to get away with not reading the subtitles. Felicity Palmer was horribly funny as Mrs. Sedley. Patricia Racette's vibrato grated a bit on me, as usual, but she had some brilliant moments as well, and was convincing as the kind Ellen Orford. Anthony Dean Griffey was impressive in the titular role, both acting and singing were great.

* Tattling *
People clapped a great deal for Patricia Racette and Donald Runnicles as the opening credits ran, good thing they are decoupled from the overture.
Natalie Dessay was a cute host for the simulcast, she did brief interviews of Racette and Griffey, Doyle and Pask, the costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, and Runnicles. The picture froze for several seconds during Act I when Peter was singing the words "The storm is here and I shall stay." The sound did go out for a second, but resumed more quickly than the picture.

La Bohème at SF Lyric

La-boheme-poster* Notes *
A charming production of La Bohème opened at San Francisco Lyric Opera at Cowell Theater last night. The orchestra was not quite together, and at times the singers were not with the orchestra either. For the first act I was unable to stop listening to the orchestra, as it was on the same level as the audience and I was only in the second row. By chance I was right by the violas, which brought me back to the days of being in my high school's orchestra. Kim A. Tolman's set was artful and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the opera. The changes of scene went smoothly and the background projections were not distracting. Most of the costumes were good, though the blue gown Mimi wore in Act IV looked like it was borrowed from Romeo and Juliet. All the singers were fine, especially Shawnette Sulker as Musetta. Sulker was quite the actress as well. Tenor Vincent Chambers (Rodolfo) and baritone Nathaniel Hackmann (Marcello) both showed promise.

* Tattling *
The person next to me in Row E Seat 104 must have been under the impression that this was a sing-along opera, for she sang with nearly every famous aria. She was rather flat, but certainly she knew many of the words. Notably she did not sing Colline's aria in Act IV, nor did she announce the title beforehand, but thankfully she conducted, swaying her right hand back and forth.

Isabel Bayrakdarian at PBO

Bayrakdarian* Notes *
Philharmonia Baroque's first performance of The Queen of Egypt concert occurred last night in San Francisco. The evening started with the overture from Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare, and Isabel Bayrakdarian sang the aria "Tra le procelle assorto" from that work. The horns had a few sour notes, and Bayrakdarian warbled a bit, but not unpleasantly. She also had a slight gasp once on the word "dissipar." She continued sounding bird-like in "Morte, col fiero aspetto" from Hasse's Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra, and had another slight gasp. Her diction was not the clearest, but Baroque music tends to be difficult to understand in any case.

Janet See was the soloist for Quantz's Concerto No. 161 for Flute, G Major, QV 5:174, which was played at the end of the first half. See played beautifully, and everyone sounded very much together.

In the second half, the orchestra played the overture from Händel's Giulio Cesare and Bayrakdarian returned to sing "Piangerò, la sorte mia." I have heard this aria butchered more than once in the last few years, and Bayrakdarian sang it refreshingly well. The B section was sung with passion, yet was always tasteful.

Bayrakdarian was allowed the respite of Heinichen's Concerto in F Major, S 234 before the end. Again, there were a few brief moments of the slightest flatness in the horn, but for the most part the piece was played well. Nicolas McGegan took the tempi at a good speed.

The evening finished off with a lullaby from Act I of Matheson's Cleopatra, and "The Death of Cleopatra." A few of Bayrakdarian's breaths were audible, but her voice sounded warm and beautiful, even voluptuous. The very end was lovely, the music just melted into silence.

* Tattling *
There were a few rows with hardly any people in them, but Herbst was fairly full. The audience was well-behaved, the only sound I heard during the music was a cellular phone on vibrate from a person behind me, which went off during the first movement of the flute concerto. During intermission I did overhear someone explain that Beowulf is Scandinavian, and this made my poor coal-black linguist's heart hurt a little. I should really keep my ears to myself.

Isabel Bayrakdarian is as comely has her billboard indicated. She wore three different dresses, all beaded. The first gown was turquoise and brown chiffon, it something like a mermaid and peacock hybrid. The second gown was brown satin with asymmetrical gathering, this one was my favorite and was most becoming. The last gown was black and silver with gathering down the middle.

Eugene Brancoveanu's Salon at the Rex

Brancoveanu* Notes *
Yesterday evening
Eugene Brancoveanu gave a recital of Gerald Finzi's Let us Garlands Bring, Schumann's Dichterliebe, and Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. The room for the Salons at the Rex series is rather intimate, and Brancoveanu started off a tad too loud in the first few songs. His diction in English is nearly perfect, I only detected a few stray vowels here and there that perhaps were not quite right. His German diction was startlingly perfect, and when John Parr, the accompanist, mentioned that Eugene grew up in Germany, it became clear why. The percussiveness of "Die Rose, die Lilie" was done well, "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen" was sung with great delicacy, and "Die alten, bösen Lieder" was absolutely beautiful. The three songs of Don Quichotte à Dulcinée were cute, and certainly Eugene was adorable, especially when he sang the "Chanson à boire," in which he included an impressive head bobble. The encore was the aria/canzonetta "La Nebbia."

* Tattling *
The turnout was good, nearly every seat was taken. Eugene videotaped the performance for his wife, who was unable to attend. There was only one watch alarm at 7pm, somewhere in the first few rows to the right.

Hotel Rex seems to have a resident pug, who is very quiet, well-behaved, and friendly. Soprano Heidi Melton was possibly as charmed by said pug as I was.

PBO's 2008-2009 Season

June 8 2008: Corelli by Candlelight
September 13-20 2008: Myth and the Muse (Arne and Rameau)
October 17-24 2008: Bach Reconstructed
October 25 2008: An Evening at the Palace
November 13-16 2008: A Classic Triple (Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart)
December 5-12 2008: Natale Barocco
February 5-8 2009: Midwinter Magic (Mendelssohn)
March 20-28 2009: Wind and Waves
April 18-25 2009: Handel's Wicked Queen (Athalia)
May 28-31 2009: L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

Philharmonia Baroque announced their next season, which also includes a couple performances in St. Paul and New York. I am, predictably, most excited about L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato with Mark Morris Dance Group at Cal Performances. Look how nicely they scheduled it too, before San Francisco Opera's summer productions start.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Sächsische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

August 29 2008- March 26 2009: Cleofide
August 31 2008- May 16 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 3 2008- July 8 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
September 14-20 2009: Don Carlo
September 26- October 4 2008: Macbeth
October 8-24 2008: Tannhäuser
October 10 2008- April 14 2009: Turandot
October 11-25 2008: Il Trovatore
October 15-27 2008: Don Giovanni
October 26- December 27 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
October 29 2008- March 19 2009: Euryanthe
November 8 2008 -June 18 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
November 13-25 2008: Ariadne auf Naxos
November 16-22 2008: Così fan tutte
November 19 2008- May 8 2009: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 26 2008- January 30 2009: Die Fledermaus
December 5-10 2008: Lohengrin
December 6 2008-March 28 2009: Der Freischütz
December 17 2008 - July 3 2009: Boris Godunov
January 6-11 2009: La Damnation de Faust
January 10-23 2009: Madama Butterfly
January 25- February 2 2009: Elektra
January 31- July 4 2009: Tosca
February 2-9 2009: Carmen
February 18-26 2009: Fidelio
February 22- March 1 2009: Tristan und Isolde
March 14-25 2009: Die Liebe der Danae
March 15-23 2009: Cardillac
April 3-16 2009: Peter Grimes
April 10-13 2009: Parsifal
April 12- June 7 2009: Der Fliegende Holländer
April 24-30 2009: La Cenerentola
May 14-30 2009: La Bohème
May 15-27 2009: Aida
May 19-26 2009: Dead Man Walking
June 1- July 2 2009: L'Upupa
June 19-25 2009: Salome
June 20-27 2009: Otello

René Pape is singing the title role of Boris, and Emily Magee sings Tosca.

Premieres for the 2008-2009 Season | Official Site

SF Opera's Cinemacasts Spring 2008 at the Castro

March 17: La Rondine
March 31: Samson and Delilah
April 14: Don Giovanni
April 21: Madama Butterfly

The Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

On these four Mondays the Castro Theatre will screen San Francisco Opera productions at 11:30 am, 3:30 pm, and 7:30 pm. Scheduling must have been difficult given that the Castro often is a venue for film festivals, such as SFIAAFF, which starts this Thursday.