Věc Makropulos at SF Opera
November 10, 2010
* Notes *
The opening performance of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case was spectacular. The co-production with Finnish National Opera, from Frank Philipp Schlössmann, is stylish, the set design employs cross-hatching that recalls the work of Edward Gorey. The set is on a quiet turntable that was spun during the first overture. The use of over-sized clocks worked nicely with the main theme of this opera. Olivier Tambosi's direction was straightforward, only Emilia Marty moved strangely, but given that she is 337, one imagines she may have picked up rather odd habits.
The orchestra sounded lucid and intent under Jiří Bělohlávek. The brass sounded particularly fine, especially the off-stage banda in the beginning. The string and wind soli were all lovely. The male chorus at the end of the opera was haunting.
The cast was incredible. Maya Lahyani sounded great as both as the cleaning woman at the beginning of Act II alongside Austin Kness' stagehand, and the maid in Act III. Brian Jagde was suitably naive as Janek. Matthew O'Neill was completely convincing as the mad Count Hauk-Šendorf, and even charming. Susannah Biller (Kristina) likewise embodied her role, she was awkward and mousy, and her voice sounded young and flexible.
Thomas Glenn (Vitek) fared well, even singing whilst perched on a ladder, twisting himself toward the audience. Both bass-baritones, Dale Travis and Gerd Grochowski, fit their parts. Travis blustered suitably as Dr. Kolenaty. Grochowski showed his range as an actor, and portrayed various emotions vividly through his voice. Miro Dvorsky was fervid as Gregor, but with the right amount of clumsiness to be plausible. Dvorsky had a just brief moments of being overwhelmed by the orchestra in Act I. Karita Mattila was utterly devastating as Emilia Marty, ruthless yet with unearthly beauty. Her movements were oddly graceful and beastly at the same time.
* Tattling *
The curtain came down after the singing in Act I, but before the music ended, and this caused people to clap prematurely. There was some talking in the first half, as Janáček is incomprehensible to some, and the audience attrition after intermission was noticeable. Watch alarms were heard at 9pm.