* Notes *
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers was presented by Cal Performances and San Francisco Opera last night. This chamber opera involves just three singers and less than a dozen musicians, including two pianos played by the composer himself and the conductor, Patrick Summers. The work is unchallenging, the arias sound not unlike numbers in a musical. The evening went well, though there were synchronization issues between singers and musicians near the beginning. Interestingly, the orchestra was upstage, behind the singers.
The singing and acting was all quite fine. Soprano Kristin Clayton (Beatrice) had a lovely iciness to her voice, in contrast to baritone Keith Phares (Charlie), whose tones were smooth and warm. Their duet at the end of Act I was lovely. Frederica von Stade embodied her part as the actress and absent mother Madeline. Her voice, though shaky at times, was very effective.
The pacing of this work was good, not utterly glacial and boring as some new operas can be. Gene Scheer's libretto could have been entirely sappy, but somehow managed not to be. The staging, directed by Leonard Foglia, was artful and simple for the most part. The years projected on the scrim to set the various scenes seemed unnecessary.
* Tattling *
Zellerbach Hall was not at all full, and there were only a few latecomers. There was some talking during the first half, but otherwise the audience was quite silent.
I must have been looking particularly characteristic of the Opera Tattler, for I was recognized and greeted by both the Chronicle's classical music critic and the General Director of San Francisco Opera.