SF Opera's Madama Butterfly
October 13, 2010
* Notes *
Harold Prince's production of Madama Butterfly opened last night at San Francisco Opera. The revolving set, designed by Clarke Dunham, is pretty enough. Though not terribly elegant, it is sure to delight most. The transitions were fluid. Director José Maria Condemi certainly was presented a challenge of getting people on, off, and around this set.
Maestro Luisotti conducted the orchestra with verve, the playing was sweeping and painterly. The chorus also made strong contributions, and received the only ovation during the music, after the Humming Chorus. Both the Adlers looked and sounded appropriate for Kate Pinkerton (Sara Gartland) and Prince Yamadori (Austin Kness). Christian Van Horn was intimidating as the Bonze. Quinn Kelsey was a tender, kind Sharpless, his voice is rich and strong. Thomas Glenn (Goro) was foppish but also oozed unctuousness. His voice is light but always audible. Daveda Karanas (Suzuki) has a powerful, yet lovely voice. Her notes floated over the orchestra with ease.
Our leads were perhaps less appealing. Stefano Secco was not the least bit dashing as Pinkerton, though his singing was perfectly fine. His volume is good, there is richness in his lower register, but he is not exciting. In the title role, the petite Svetla Vassileva looked comely, at least when she was still. Her gestures were distressing, as if she was having convulsions limited just to her hands. When she noticed that her hair became accidently unbundled in Act II, she was unable to keep in character. Worse yet, her voice could be shrill and her intonation was imperfect. She did pull it together for "Un bel dì," and only one phrase was really off in pitch. Her timbre can be pleasant, with nice resonances in her chest voice, but she was a bit too hearty to be a vulnerable young girl.
* Tattling *
There was light talking during the music, but I did not hear any watch alarms. I did have a seat in the Orchestra Ring, as I volunteered in the gift shop, however, I found I was more comfortable in standing room.
A medical emergency occurred on the north side of the Premium Orchestra seating during the transition between Acts II and III. Many people stood up in the aisle to either help or to get out of the way. A nurse was called in, as was the house manager. The ailing person in question was taken out in a wheelchair.