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August 2009
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October 2009

Silvestrelli in Entführung


* Notes * 
Andrea Silvestrelli replaced Peter Rose as Osmin in SF Opera's Die Entführung aus dem Serail last night. Silvestrelli has a lovely warm voice with a good heft, and a certain throaty quality. He was a bit quiet and creaky for that first low D in "O, wie will ich triumphieren," but he was appealing and very funny. His accent in English for the spoken parts was charming, though not all of the words were perfectly clear. It was especially entertaining when he said "Grazie mille" instead of "Danke schön" when handing a lute back to someone in the prompter's box during his last aria.

All evening long there were many problems with synchronization between the singers and the orchestra. The chorus sounded better in Act I, but still seemed detached in Act III. Andrew Bidlack sounded just a bit weak for the sustained note in "Frisch zum Kampfe," but was otherwise great. Anna Christy sang without showing much strain at all. Mary Dunleavy had her best night so far with "Ach ich liebte." Matthew Polenzani's voice sounded both fluid and vulnerable, which was quite winning.

This time around I was able to concentrate more on the spoken dialogue in English, instead of translating it in my mind into the German. It was interesting to note that the obsolete informal second person singular pronoun was used inappropriately. Pedrillo uses the formal "you" when he is chatting it up with Osmin and Belmonte, but uses "thee" with the Pasha. One supposes it goes along with the common perception that this archaic form is actually more formal. It was a bit of a muddle, though it did not bother me the first three times I heard it this way. Once should note that the nominative was always "you" for some reason, and not "thou," which was definitely weird.

* Tattling * 
It was Chevron night at the opera, and many employees of that company, who probably do not normally attend such events, were there. The couple in front of me in T 101 and 102 of the orchestra seemed rather enthused, but they did talk a great deal during the music. The female half of the couple turned on her Blackberry during the pause between the second and third acts. She received a text message that read something like "The opera is in the opera house LOL" from someone who had previously asked if the opera was being performed in Davies.

Levine's Back Surgery

Maestro James Levine will undergo immediate surgery for a herniated spinal disc. The procedure necessitates withdrawing from his scheduled performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on September 29, October 1, and October 3. He has also canceled his October 6 and 10 performances of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera.

AP Article | Boston Symphony Orchestra | Metropolitan Opera

A House in Bali


* Notes * 
The American premiere of Evan Ziporyn's dance-opera A House in Bali was presented by Cal Performances last weekend. This ambitious project involves percussion, bass, keyboard, cello, violin, guitar, a 15-piece gamelan orchestra, Balinese dancers, opera singers, Balinese singers, and real-time videography. Despite a panoply of instruments, the two ensembles, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Gamelan Salukat, played tightly and blended well together. The appeal of gamelan was clearly conveyed, and the music was both hypnotic and engaging.

Unfortunately, as an opera, the work was not particularly dramatic. There was much subtext about Orientalism in art and anthropology, and one appreciates that. However, as a result, Colin McPhee, Walter Spies, and Margaret Mead came off as rather unsympathetic characters. Musically they were difficult to listen to as well, as they, and everyone else on stage, was amplified. For some reason, the opera singers were particularly painfully loud at times. Tenor Marc Molomot (McPhee) had some shrill, strained moments, as did soprano Anne Harley (Mead). Timur Bekbosunov (Spies) seemed warmer and quieter vocally.

The staging and choreography from Anne Harley and Dewi Kadek Aryani, was attractive. The skillful use of video took advantage of the space created onstage, and gave us details of the dancing that could not have normally been seen from afar. All the dancers had gorgeous control of their hands. Dewi Kadek Aryani had some fluid, beautiful backbends, Desak Made Suarti Laksmi moved with great dignity, and I Nyoman Catra was comical. However, when Dewi convulsed across the stage at the end in Western dress and loose hair, my final impression was that this was all rather cerebral for a form that is so visceral.

* Tattling *
At the Sunday performance, were many latecomers, myself included, that were seated after the first scene. The mezzanine was not at all full, so hopefully this was not too disruptive. In any case, people felt very comfortable talking at full volume during the gamelan parts. Given how amplified everything was, they were drowned out pretty effectively.

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen at SFS


* Notes * 
On Friday Michael Tilson-Thomas lead San Francisco Symphony in a program about the origins of the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony. MTT talked quite a bit and gave musical examples, as he was being filmed for the public television show Keeping Score. He even had Thomas Hampson come out to sing bits from three of the Rückert Lieder. The concert proper began with the Adagietto itself, followed by Donizetti's Funeral March from Dom Sébastien. Hampson returned to the stage to sing the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, which he sang with warmth and sensitivity. The songs themselves were a bit silly, particularly the melodramatic "Ich hab' ein glühend Messer."

After the intermission, Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was played yet again. The playing for the first three movements were not as loud as last week's opening. This was particularly nice for the third movement, the folk-tune themes sounded lovely. The musicians seemed more focused, perhaps because of the dozen cameras in the hall, and the soli sounded beautifully clear. The lower strings remained muffled by the violins because the latter were all downstage. There was not enough back and forth between first and second violins to justify the arrangement. The evening ended with the bluster of the last movement, which certainly was Stürmisch bewegt.

* Tattling * 
The audience was exceedingly well-behaved, there were barely any whispers and no electronic noise. Apparently filming a performance inspires silence.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail at SF Opera


* Notes * 
Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday evening. The production, designed by David Zinn, features an adorable 18th century theatre and lavish costumes. Director Chas Rader-Shieber did not use the set to its best advantage. There were some amusing moments, as when the Pasha's ship zipped by in the background, or when a door appeared in the middle of the stage. Unfortunately, for the most part, the opera was just not as funny as it could have been. The choreography was artificial and poorly motivated. The members of the chorus looked and sounded especially uncomfortable as they very carefully synchronized their arm movements.

Under Cornelius Meister, the orchestra was clear, albeit papery and dry. The triangle seemed to have a bit of trouble at the end of the overture and was not with the cymbals or the bass drum. As for the principal singers, everyone sounded perfectly nice, for the most part. The cast fluidly switched from their English dialogue to the German singing, though perhaps it would have made more sense to sing in English as well.

Peter Rose was funny as Osmin, his voice is pleasant, but his low notes are not strong. He was not with the orchestra for parts of "Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden" or in the trio at the end of Act I, but was better for the rest of the opera. Andrew Bidlack sounded lovely as Pedrillo, he was weak at times during Act II, but was wonderful during the seranade "In Mohrenland gefangen war ein Mädel." Anna Christy (Blonde) was as cute as ever, she twittered her way through, occasionally with a lot of vibrato, but much warmth. Mary Dunleavy fared less well, the top of her voice is sometimes strained and shrill, particularly in her first aria. Her voice can be angelic and she held up during "Welcher Wechsel herrscht...Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose." As our hero Belmonte, Matthew Polenzani looked stiff but sang his arias with beauty.

* Tattling * 
The audience talked during the English dialogue, but were quiet for the music. A person next to us in standing room exclaimed something when he realized the dialogue was to be in English, he seemed rather unhappy.

My companions were asked if they were married by a very pleasant usher who took our photograph. We had a good laugh about this.

SF Opera Ring Cast


The casting for San Francisco Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen was announced today. The three cycles are scheduled for June 14-19, June 21-26, and June 28-July 3, 2011, and will be conducted by Donald Runnicles. The production is directed by Francesca Zambello, with sets from Michael Yeargan. Currently, tickets for complete cycles are on sale for subscribers and donors only.

Das Rheingold
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Loge: Stefan Margita
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Fricka: Larissa Diadkova
Erda: Ronnita Miller
Mime: David Cangelosi
Fasolt: Andrea Silvestrelli
Fafner: Daniel Sumegi
Freia: Melissa Citro

Die Walküre
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Siegmund: Brandon Jovanovich
Sieglinde: Anja Kampe, Heidi Melton (6/29)
Fricka: Larissa Diadkova
Hunding: Daniel Sumegi

Siegfried: Ian Storey
Mime: David Cangelosi
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Erda: Ronnita Miller
Fafner: Daniel Sumegi
Forest Bird: Stacey Tappan

Siegfried: Ian Storey
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Gunther: Gerd Grochowski
Hagen: Andrea Silvestrelli
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Waltraute: Daveda Karanas
First Norn: Ronnita Miller
Second Norn: Daveda Karanas
Third Norn: Heidi Melton
Woglinde: Stacey Tappan

Adler 2010 Speculation

Adlers-2009 The Adler Fellows for 2010 will be announced next week, but it is good fun trying to figure out which of the Merolini are coming back to San Francisco next season. It is quite likely that we won't see any of the Merola apprentice coaches as Adlers, given that both Dennis Doubin and Allen Perriello are in their first year here. As for singers, the probable outgoing Adlers are two sopranos (Heidi Melton, Tamara Wapinsky), two mezzos (Daveda Karanas, Daniela Mack), two tenors (Andrew Bidlack, Alek Shrader), and the sole bass Kenneth Kellogg. My guesses are:

Susannah Biller
Kate Crist
Maya Lahyani
Ryan Belongie
Gregory Carroll
Nathaniel Peake
Benjamin LeClair

One would love to see countertenor Ryan Belongie and baritone Michael Sumuel as Adlers, but looking at what is coming up and who is leaving, I would be surprised if they were chosen. Suzanne Hendrix would also be great as an Adler, but she's a contralto, though this might work for next year's Die Walküre. In any case, they will need a bass, probably Ben LeClair, as Yohan Yi is a Domingo-Thornton Young Artist at LA Opera and Evan Boyer is a member of the upcoming season of Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Center. Baritone Paul Scholten will be in this latter program as well. Mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani and tenor Alex Mansoori might also be out since they are in the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program.

Merola's Official Site | Upcoming Performances

Merola Grand Finale Reviews: The Opera Tattler | Not For Fun Only | Civic Center | SFCV | San Francisco Chronicle

Così fan tutte: The Opera Tattler | Civic Center | Oboe Insight | Not For Fun Only | SFCV | San Francisco Chronicle

L'amico Fritz: The Opera Tattler | Civic Center | SFist | SFCV | San Francisco Chronicle

Schwabacher Summer Concert: The Opera Tattler | Not For Fun Only | SFist

Rückert Lieder at SFS

Susan-graham * Notes * 
Yesterday evening mezzo-soprano Susan Graham opened San Francisco Symphony's latest Mahler Festival with the Rückert Lieder. Graham sang with a gorgeous ease, her voice sounds both pure and lush. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the orchestra in a straightforward manner. Some of the brass entrances were harsh, but the playing was fairly clear. The woodwinds did well, especially the English horn in "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen." The violins were split downstage, with cellos next to the first violins, violas next to the seconds, but it seemed that everyone could be heard perfectly fine.

After the intermission, Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was played with great volume and flashiness. Despite this, the performance was a bit slack, the tempi and dynamic changes did not always come through. Also, the celli were buried behind the violins, because of the seating arrangement. There were, of course, moments of beauty nonetheless, particularly in the inner movements.

* Tattling * 
The audience was perfectly silent for the Rückert Lieder, as they were being recorded. People did whisper during the 1st, and someone's iPhone quacked at one point. The woman in Row L Seat 7 of the orchestra got a text message on her iPhone at the end of the second movement and she updated her Facebook page during much of  the following Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen. Naturally she clapped quite heartily at the end and joined in for the standing ovation.

Il Trittico at SF Opera

Tabarro * Notes * 
Il Trittico opened at San Francisco Opera last night with Patricia Racette singing all three of the major soprano roles. The production, directed by James Robinson, is clean and simple. Allen Moyer's sets are unostentatious, the three are not tied together in an obvious way, yet still look like they match each other. Patrick Summers had the orchestra sounding both tasteful and even. The Alders were out in full force and did very well. Tamara Wapinsky, David Lomelí, Daveda Karanas, Leah Crocetto, Heidi Melton, Daniela Mack, Austin Kness, and Kenneth Kellogg all sang at one point or another.

Brandon Jovanovich sang beautifully in Il Tabarro as Luigi. He was overwhelmed by the orchestra at one point, but perhaps because he was simply too far upstage. In her San Francisco Opera debut, Ewa Podleś was arresting as the Princess in Suor Angelica. Her voice has an incredible richness and resonance. Paolo Gavanelli was menacing in Il Tabarro and darkly hilarious in the title role of Gianni Schicchi. He too sounded wonderful, embodying the parts perfectly. Patricia Racette managed her roles of Giorgetta, Suor Angelica, and Lauretta competently. She definitely looked different as each. Racette's vibrato can be unpleasant and her singing a bit labored. However, she does convey various emotions through her voice with an intense clarity.

* Tattling * 
We were very kindly given premium orchestra seats from the chorus director. The audience around us was well-behaved, very little talking and only a few electronic noises were heard.

One could not help but notice that some of the program notes were written by a certain degenerate blogger.

Opera in the Park 2009

Mtwohy * Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's Opera in the Park performance this year was rather charming
. Incoming Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducted with great enthusiasm, and to begin he faced the audience for the National Anthem and conducted us. Both the overture to La Forza del Destino and the intermezzo to Manon Lescaut sounded grand and sweeping. He also  We heard quite a lot from the current Trovatore at SF Opera: Sondra Radvanovsky sang "Tacea la notte...Di tale amor," Marco Berti sang "Ah, si, ben mio...Di quella pira," Quinn Kelsey sang "Il balen del suo sorriso," and the three of them sang "Deserto sulla terra...Di geloso amor" together.

The Adlers sang several selections starting with Daniela Mack's "Non più mesta." Mack was a bit choppy and did sing "Voi che sapete" with greater fluidity. Leah Crocetto did well with both Donizetti and Puccini. David Lomelí sounded very fine as well, singing "Che gelida manina" and then "O Mimì, tu più non torni" with Quinn Kelsey. The afternoon also saw a lovely performance from Ewa Podleś of "Cruda sorte" from La Italiana in Algeri. Her low notes are richly secure, but those higher up in her tessitura are not exactly in tune. Continuing with Rossini, Andrea Silvestrelli gave an amusing rendition of "La calunnia." Brandon Jovanovich closed the afternoon with a beautiful "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca.

* Tattling * 
There was some talking, including a woman on her cell phone as Crocetto sang from Lucia.

The rehearsal earlier in the day was exceedingly entertaining, Luisotti sang in place of the singers for the first half. Podleś did not rehearse, nor did she sing in the encore "O sole mio." The encore was hilarious, and the women held their notes longer than the men. Luisotti danced around the stage during the ovation.