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Day at Merola 2009

* Notes * 
Today's Day at Merola was certainly educational. The event began with a lunch in the opera house, and some members of the Opera Standees Association were kind enough to share a table with me. Bass-baritone Yohan Yi joined us and good-naturedly spoke about working with Dawn Upshaw at Bard College's Graduate Vocal Arts Program and his upcoming stint in the Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Program. After eating I managed to introduce myself to soprano Kate Crist and contralto Suzanne Hendrix. Charmingly, Kate explained that I was the one who called Suzanne "disturbing," and I explained I meant it in the best possible way and was quite taken with her performance.

It was quite difficult to decide which of the events to choose, but I started off by listening to Sheri Greenawald's vocal master class, accompanied by Stephanie Rhodes. Maya Lahyani sang the Letter Aria from Werther, Ryan Belongie sang "Ombra mai fu" from Serse, and Evan Boyer sang "Quand la flamme de l'amour" from La jolie fille de Perth. They each sang very beautifully, but Belongie was particularly striking, and it was interesting to hear how he pictured the setting of the aria.

Mark Morash's general rep master class focused attention on the accompanist, Miaomiao Wang, who played fluidly. Susannah Biller sang "Caro nome" from Rigoletto, and Morash said many funny things about teenaged girls such as Gilda. The best quote, perhaps, involved how only 16 year-old girls are allowed to breathe in the middle of words. Yohan Yi sang a lovely rendition of Ravel's "Chanson à boire," which we learnt was supposed to be in the score for Georg Pabst's 1933 film Don Quichotte. Kate Crist sang the Strauss lied "Cacilie" with power.

For the second half of the day, I decided simply to go to the rehearsal of L'Amico Fritz. At first they worked on the last few scenes of the opera, and it was remarkable how effective pianist Tamara Sanikidze's playing was. Conductor Warren Jones gave us an impromptu lecture on the opera as the rehearsal space was set up for Act I. The opera is set in the Jewish community of Alsace-Lorraine during 1892, and was popular up until the 1920s. The last time SF Opera produced this opera was in 1974.

For the next two hours we heard the first run-through for this group of young people. Tamara held up well, she and Jones even sang at certain points. Susannah Biller, Aleksey Bogdanov, Yohan Yi, Eleazar Rodríguez, Maya Lahyani, Sara Gartland, and Nathaniel Peake all sounded promising.

* Tattling * 
I became horribly lost at the War Memorial Opera House, as I tried to get to the Chorus Room by stairs rather than the elevator. Unfortunately, I managed to take two stairwells that both lead me to the Media Suite rather than where I wanted to be. Thankfully I got to the right room in time. Later, at the rehearsal, I situated myself perhaps a bit too close to Warren Jones and could feel the air move as he conducted.