* Notes *
The November/December run of Aida at San Francisco Opera opened last night with Maestro Giuseppe Finzi at the helm and a bevy of new principal singers. The orchestra sounded rather pretty but not perfectly secure, there was some slight squeaking from the woodwinds, brief fuzzy moments in the brass, and the finale of Act II was not exactly together. Though comparisons are odious, it is difficult not to compare this cast with the one that opened the season in September. On the whole, this group was more balanced as far as both singing and acting is concerned.
Somehow the performance did not coalesce, even though the individuals involved are all talented. Tenor Brian Jagde made the most of the small role of the messenger, and Leah Crocetto sounded robust yet mysterious as the priestess. Christian Van Horn made for a powerful the King of Egypt, and Eric Owens was likewise strong as Ramfis. Quinn Kelsey was beautifully lyrical as Amonasro, his characterization is markedly different than Marco Vratogna's, but still formidable.
Carlo Ventre had a lot of volume as Radames, his voice is reedy, and has a weeping quality to it, almost as if he was sobbing out the lines. Guang Yang (Amneris) was also rather loud, her voice flexible, but she seemed to rush at a few points. Michele Capalbo obviously understood every word she sang as Aida, and nuanced her voice appropriately. She too has a large, dark voice, but she was not always smooth, there were catches and gasps here and there. During "Ritorna vincitor" in Act I we heard drilling and banging coming from backstage.
* Tattling *
Latecomers talked a great deal as they waited in balcony standing room to be seated. A mobile phone rang right before the words "Immenso Ftah" are sung in Act I, and watch alarms were heard at each hour. During intermission I heard a ridiculous woman complain in Mandarin about how fat Capalbo was, and her companion corrected her, saying that it was Yang that was the heavier one. She only responded that no, they were both fat. After this, someone was nice enough to give me a ticket for the Balcony Circle, but unfortunately people talked aloud throughout. The French speakers in Row D Seats 13 and 15 were particularly chatty.