Die Tote Stadt at SF Opera
September 24, 2008
* Notes *
Nearly 88 years after the world premiere, Die Tote Stadt finally opened in San Francisco yesterday evening. The work is certainly a very pretty synthesis of Wagner, Strauss, and Puccini. It is nostalgic, but also prefigures Korngold's work in film scores. The music sounded effortless under the direction of Donald Runnicles, the orchestra did not overwhelm the singers and the tempi were rigorous. The chorus sounded perfectly lovely as well.
All of the smaller singing roles were filled by Adler Fellows, some familiar to the War Memorial stage, such as tenor Andrew Bidlack, soprano Ji Young Yang, and mezzo-soprano Katharine Tier. The other two, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Alek Shrader, had their main stage debuts. They all did well, sounding and looking the parts. Tier was particularly fine as Brigitta, the maid, her diction was clear and her voice is quite promising.
Former Adler Lucas Meachem was convincing as both Frank and Fritz, his acting strong and his volume good. He sang "Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen" splendidly and without strain. Tenor Torsten Kerl was palatable enough as Paul, there were times when his voice did not quite cut through the orchestra, though he was always audible. On the other hand, Emily Magee's voice soared over the orchestra, she gave a vocally exquisite performance as Marie/Marietta. For the most part her acting was persuasive, though she does not quite have a dancer's self-possession as far as movement is concerned. However, overall the music was gorgeous and everything seemed to come together beautifully.
As I was unable to see much of the production in the balcony, I have little to say about it. From what I could see, it appeared sleek and tasteful. Clearly the set was meant for a different space, and it was annoying when singers' heads could not be seen. The shrine to Mariette was not in evidence as there was almost no furniture, only scattered and badly cropped reproductions of a portrait by John Singer Sargent. The painting of Miss Elsie Palmer looks rather grotesque when blown up to the dimensions necessary for the stage, but was used effectively in the various nightmare sequences. I very much enjoyed the little houses that were moved around upstage, apparently if such stagecraft is used in a dream, it is not considered Eurotrash.
* Tattling *
There were many empty seats in the balcony, giving me nothing to tattle about as far as audience behavior. However, I did notice, much to my chagrin, that my name appears in the program.
There was a fair amount of banging and crashing as the set was changed, though the aforementioned houses were silent. Emily Magee lost her wig in Act I as she took off her hat, but remained calm, simply smoothing it back onto her head with aplomb.