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October 2009
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December 2009

Confess the Flame her Tongue Denyes

Susan_Graham_Credit_Dario_Acosta * Notes * 
Yesterday in San Francisco, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra performed the first of six performances celebrating Henry Purcell. The evening started with his "O Sing Unto the Lord a New Song," Chacony in G minor, "Hear My Prayer, O Lord," and the Suite from Abdelazer, or The Moor's Revenge. Conducted by Music Director Nicholas McGegan, the playing was buoyant. The Philharmonia Chorale, directed by Bruce Lamott, was also in fine form. Most of the soloists featured in the first half are members of the Chorale, with the exceptions of sopranos Cyndia Sieden and Céline Ricci. All sounded lovely, though Ricci did not clearly enunciate the words of "Lucinda is bewitching fair," in the Suite from Abdelazer.

The semi-staged Dido and Aeneas that came after the intermission was entirely gratifying. The orchestra was splendid and together, as was the chorale. Cyndia Sieden was sweet and bird-like as Belinda, and only had the slightest gasp during "Pursue thy Conquest, Love." Céline Ricci was a good vocal foil as the Second Woman, her voice being warmer but her coloratura more effortful. Ricci overacted and moved a great deal, even swaying her hips to the music. It was not very becoming, considering she had only a few lines by herself, but it was easy enough to ignore her. Sieden and Ricci were amusing as the two witches. Tenor Brian Thorsett also had two roles, as the Spirit in the likeness of Mercury at the end of Act II, and the First Sailor at the beginning of Act III. He was able to give very different characterizations for each.

Jill Grove was an imperious Sorceress, her low notes were rich, but there was some strain and lack of smoothness in her higher register. Baritone William Berger (Aeneas) has a pleasant sound, and he held his own against the incredible Susan Graham (Dido). Their exchange in the last act was heartrending. Graham sang with a facile beauty, yet with a stately grace in keeping with the music.

* Tattling * 
They seemed to skip the chorus near the end of Act II, though the text was printed in the program. The audience was well-behaved, though I did hear one watch alarm near the end of the performance.

Love's Labour's Lost at Cal Performances

Globe-theatre * Notes * 
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre opened a run of Love's Labour's Lost at Cal Performances yesterday. Musicians played in the audience, there were a mere five instrumentalists that played recorder, shawms, dulcian, ocarina, hurdy-gurdy, sackbut, viol, hunting horn, Baroque guitar, theorbo, and percussion. Many of the actors also walked around in the lobby and through the aisles of the house to get on stage.

The acting was very strong. The rapport that Philip Cumbus (Ferdinand), Trystan Gravelle (Berowne), William Mannering (Longaville), and Jack Farthing (Dumaine) made for spirited entertainment, but really, there were no weak links in the cast. Everyone moved beautifully, and the choreography was perfectly together, almost uncannily so. Nearly everyone sang as well, and all sounded quite lovely, especially given the cavernous space that is Zellerbach Hall. Thomasin Rand (Rosaline) had a particularly pretty singing voice, though her speaking voice was considerably less so. Paul Ready was surprisingly winsome as Don Adriano de Armado, and his Spanish accent was ridiculous without being unintelligible.

* Tattling * 
There was a great quantity of bread thrown near the end of the play. The audience laughed at this, and pretty much at everything else too, though some of the wordplay was perhaps lost. A cellular phone rang just before Holofernes said "shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions" in Act IV, Scene 2.

Molly Fillmore in Salome

Molly-fillmore * Notes * 
Last Friday Molly Fillmore replaced Nadja Michael as San Francisco Opera's penultimate performance of Salome this season. Evidently Michael had a throat infection, and Fillmore had to be flown in from Phoenix. I was not in attendance, but by all accounts, Ms. Fillmore sang well, she was less flat than Michael. However, her acting was less convincing, as was her movement, and I heard she may have had some trouble with a veil.

I believe I heard Molly Fillmore at the piano dress rehearsal on October 10th, as the person singing Salome that day was certainly not Michael. Luisotti and someone else both told her "Good job, Molly" at the end of the rehearsal. A good portion of the rehearsal was taken up by Maestro Luisotti trying to place the sawed-off bell of a sousaphone to best effect for Greer Grimsley's off-stage singing. Luisotti did not want to use non-acoustic amplification, and he worked with Giuseppe Finzi to get it just right.

Obviously, it was a piano rehearsal, so take my comments on all this with a grain of salt. Not everyone sang out, particularly because there was another Salome rehearsal that evening with the orchestra. Fillmore did not project youth, her hands were dead, and she fiddled with her costume. All understandable given that she probably had very little rehearsal time. The Dance of the Seven Veils was skipped over. Fillmore's singing was a bit shrill at the top of her tessitura. She was quite loud, and her intonation was good. Fillmore sings Salome at Arizona Opera on November 14 and 21.

* Tattling * 
Rehearsals can be very goofy. It was charming to hear the back and forth between Luisotti and Finzi. Kim Begley did some very funny ballet moves at one point as well.