Yesterday's performance of Ariodante concluded the 2007-2008 season at San Francisco Opera. The Summer part of the season was mixed bag this year. Das Rheingold had some interesting ideas as far as production is concerned, but some of the execution was weak. Much of the cast was strong, but I found certain female principals disappointing. Ariodante had excellent singers, but although the production was not distracting, it was not breathtaking either. Lucia di Lammermoor had the incredible Natalie Dessay, some fairly poor and even inaudible singing as well, and a nice clean stage.
General Director David Gockley seemed less accessible, he did not have any question and answer sessions after any of the performances I attended this Summer. It also remained noisy in the house, lots of walkie talkies backstage, and still some high-pitched sounds coming from microphones. No fire alarms were pulled, so that was an improvement. The Lucia simulcast did well, about 23,000 people attended at AT&T Park. The SF Opera podcast has slipped, no new content was added this year, and the introductions for the Summer operas were not up-to-date.
The audience was fair to middling this year. There were a few more cellular phone rings than last Fall, and this would be mitigated by having that annoying announcement played after each intermission. It is unfortunate, but it is better to have the recording admonish us all beforehand than have to hear rings during the music. Also, plenty of watch alarms during the hour were heard, someone really should hold some sort of seminar on how to turn those things off.
The general level of absurdity was sadly quite low, though the unused horse heads for Ariodante and various ideas around featuring haggis in the two Scottish operas were amusing. The Opera Tattler attended a mere 14 of 20 performances, down from 16 of 21 last Summer, so perhaps this was part of the problem. However, given the 2008-2009 season, this trend shall continue.