Festival Opera 2009
José Iturbi International Music Competition 2009

Iolanthe at SFS

Sasha-Cooke * Notes * 
The semi-staged production of Iolanthe at San Francisco Symphony was disappointing aurally, but not because of the musicians, singers, or Gilbert & Sullivan. Frustratingly enough, it was the amplification system that was the problem, and last night's performance was dogged by balance problems and feedback from the microphones. The voices were painfully loud at times, and it was quite difficult to gage the quality of the singers. This is unfortunate, I had been looking forward to hearing Sasha Cooke (Iolanthe) in person, after hearing her in the Met simulcast of Doctor Atomic. Her voice seemed pure and lovely, but the amplification made it difficult to tell about her heft and volume. At least the feedback problem did not persist in the second act.

The performers seemed to have a good rapport with the conductor, George Manahan. The playing sometimes came off nicely, though again the balances were wrong due to the amplification. The dancing was very sweet, though the girls were not exactly together, they were charming. The choreography also worked on the singers, and Lucas Meachem (Strephon) in particular did well. The hula hooping in the first act from the fairies garnered a laugh. The acting was amusing, Joyce Castle was hilarious as the Queen of the Fairies, and Richard Suart was likewise funny as the Lord Chancellor. The diction was not perfectly clear, despite the loud volume, though I was able to follow the words without surtitles.

* Tattling * 
There was rustling and some quiet talking. Someone's watch alarm sounded at least 20 times during Act I, as the Queen of the Fairies spoke.

At intermission, I was blamed for the poor use of amplification, as it had to be someone's fault. Perhaps I would have much less to tattle on if things had gone better, indeed.