* Notes *
Last Thursday San Francisco Opera held a donor event at the Ritz-Carlton, a panel discussion with Maestro Donald Runnicles, soprano Nina Stemme, and baritone Mark Delavan, moderated by Gregory Henkel. Henkel was bit late, as he had been stuck at the airport in Los Angeles on his way back from the Ring there. David Gockley spoke for a few minutes, and let people ask him questions about SF Opera's Ring. Evidently there are tech rehearsals for the whole Ring for two weeks this July. He also mentioned that Henkel is a tenor.
We heard about how conducting the Ring has changed for Runnicles in the last 20 years, how he is perhaps less brash now. It sounds like Runnicles has a fine rapport with the orchestra, and many of the musicians have been at San Francisco Opera for the last 20 years, though there are notable additions, and José González Granero, the wonderful principal clarinetist hired by Nicola Luisotti, was mentioned. The whole cast sounds like they get on quite well, Stemme and Delavan certainly seemed to indicate this was the case. Both might have sung respective Ring roles before, having gotten offers elsewhere.
We learnt that Runnicles cycles for up to two and a half hours in the mornings, and that Delavan runs. For Delavan, the physical demands of Die Walküre were greater than the vocal ones, and he described how he could barely move his legs after performing in Berlin. Also of interest was hearing about the greatest influences of Runnicles, Stemme, and Delavan as far as the Ring is concerned. Runnicles mentioned Georg Solti; Stemme gave a whole list of famous Brünnhildes, including Birgit Nilsson; and Delavan revealed that Hans Hotter and Johnny Cash are his role models.
* Tattling *
After the panel discussion, Kristina Flanagan, a production sponsor of the Ring, gave a donation pitch. There are still a few million left to raise, and George and Leslie Hume will be matching gifts up to a certain amount. It was clear that Flanagan was utterly committed to the production, and that next year's cycles are a worthwhile cause.
I had a chance to speak to Nina Stemme, and asked how she was feeling, given that David Gockley announced she had a bronchial infection for the performances on June 19 and 22. She said she was much better, though she could feel some congestion, and she had been so glad that she was able to sing those two evenings. Runnicles and the orchestra had helped out by playing more quietly. I had the opportunity to thank Runnicles for how absolutely beautiful Walküre is as well.