San Francisco Opera's 35th Opera in the Park event was conductor Donald Runnicles' last as music director. The performance was delightful and the orchestra sounded lovely. The afternoon began with Korngold's music from the film Captain Blood. This music was played well, but it was a bit silly out of context.
Various Adler Fellows were featured, first Daniela Mack in "Non so più," followed by "D'Oreste, d'Ajace" from Tamara Wapinsky. In both cases the singers seemed to be working a bit too hard, they were somewhat shrill. Perhaps the amplification was throwing them off. Mack sounded better in "Dunque io son?" with Lucas Meachem. When Wapinsky returned she sounded very metallic as Musetta, and I'm quite curious how she'll do in La Bohème. She was, however, in tune, so that is a good sign. The audience was rather enthused by Adler Alek Shrader. He sang "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" and his high C's were dead on, though his voice sounds rather constrained up in that range.
The audience was also especially excited by Adler Heidi Melton. Ms. Melton has certainly improved. Her powerful "Ozean! Du Ungeheuer!" was impressive, but her "Vissi d'arte" was simply ravishing. None of the ugly edges we've heard in previous years were in evidence.
One cannot help but have high hopes for Die Tote Stadt, as all three principals sound very nice. Lucas Meachem sang "Mein sehnen, mein wähnen," then Torsten Kerl and Emily Magee sang "Glück das mir verblieb." Meachem was wonderful, he had a fine effortlessness. Magee has a nice creamy voice and Kerl likewise was not bad.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky was supposed to have been the main draw of this year's Opera in the Park, but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Barbara Frittoli, whose name was also used in the promotional materials earlier this year. Instead, their fellow cast-members Marcus Haddock and Vitalij Kowaljow sang, and very well too. Kowaljow sang Gremin's aria beautifully, and Haddock was fine in "Ah, lève-toi soleil!" Haddock's duet with Meachem in "Au fond du temple saint" from The Pearl Fishers was also good.
* Tattling *
One could not help notice that General Director David Gockley has a habit of mouthing the words of the tenor and baritone arias as they are being sung. He was on stage much of the time as he would periodically introduce the pieces.
The audience was quite enthusiastic, though naturally not terribly well-behaved. This is acceptable for an informal outdoor concert, of course. However, I was particularly amazed by the couple in front of me, they must have gotten their seats early in the morning, for they were just in the second row of people. The female half of the couple very quietly flipped through a magazine for most of the performance, and the male half wore headphones and was making incredible progress with the New York Times crossword puzzle. Such multitasking skills are dumbfounding to me.