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February 2011

LA Opera's 2011-2012 Season

September 17- October 9 2011: Eugene Onegin
September 18- October 8 2011: Così fan tutte
November 6-26 2011: Roméo et Juliette
February 11- March 4 2012: Simon Boccanegra
February 25- March 14 2012: Albert Herring
February 25- March 14 2012: La Bohème

Vittorio Grigolo has his LA Opera premiere in Roméo et Juliette opposite Nino Machaidze. Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack star in Albert Herring, while Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello sing in La Bohème. Plácido Domingo sings Simon Boccanegra, with Vitalij Kowaljow and Paolo Gavanelli. Sadly, the Recovered Voices program is still on hiatus.

2011-2012 Season | Official Site

Houston Grand Opera's 2011-2012 Season

October 21 - November 6 2011: Il barbiere di Siviglia
October 28- November 13 2011: Fidelio
January 27- February 12 2012: La Traviata
February 3-11 2012 : The Rape of Lucretia
April 13- 28 2012: Don Carlos
April 21- May 4 2012: Maria Stuarda

Nathan Gunn sings the title role in Barbiere with Ana María Martínez as Rosina and Lawrence Brownlee as Almaviva. Karita Mattila stars in Fidelio. David Lomelí sings in La Traviata opposite Albina Shagimuratova. Michelle DeYoung sings Lucretia, Brandon Jovanovich is Don Carlos, and Joyce DiDonato is Maria Stuarda.

2011-2012 Season | Official Site

La Traviata at the Met

Mettraviata German Regietheater made another inroad (after Luc Bondy's poorly-received Tosca) into the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera's with its new production of La Traviata. Here is the Unbiased Opinionator's account.

* Notes * 
Few Met opera-goers will mourn the passing of Franco Zeffirelli's visually overloaded production of Traviata, in which it was almost impossible to discern the principal singers on a stage riotously overpopulated with supernumeraries and overburdened with layers of flamboyant set design. German director Willy Decker's mounting of one of Verdi's most popular operas is the polar opposite of Zeffirelli's visual pandemonium. All three acts of the opera take place within a glaring white semi-circle, replacing Zeffirelli's over the top realism with abstract, "concept"-laden sterility. As is common with this sort of thing, the Director writes pages of explanatory program notes (filled with tautological, tortured sentences such as: "La Traviata is a piece about death – and paradoxically, or maybe inevitably, it is equally a piece about the almost overwhelming force of life, which drives every living thing toward death...") in an attempt to win over the otherwise bored or baffled audience member.

Well before curtain time, a hoary "Father Time" figure, a sort of Dr. Death, is seated before a giant clock, which dominates the stage throughout the evening. As the Overture begins, Violetta makes her entrance in a scarlet strapless party dress and drifts about the stage, occasionally moving pleadingly toward "Dr. Death" as she attempts to grasp and stop the motion of the hands of the clock. An ungenerous critic might ask: Was a metaphor ever more belabored or more obvious?

The courtesans and haute-bourgeois party-goers were dressed, both men and women, in black tuxedos, menacing Violetta and Alfredo.  The hospital white, semi-circular set created odd acoustic distortions of the singing and the largely purposeless stage direction left the principals to wander about the stage or required them to perform writhing physical contortions on the floor or on one of the couches which appeared like an obstacle course. In fairness, it must be mentioned that the confrontation between Alfredo and his father, culminating in Germont striking his son and then holding him, weeping, in his arms, was effective and moving. As Violetta surges toward death in her final scene, a floral patterned sky turns blood red – giving the impression of tubercular microbes seen under a microscope – creating a chilling, spine-tingling effect.

Marina Poplavskaya's Violetta was uneven, ranging from an explosive "Sempre Libera," with muddy coloratura and a strident top, to a meltingly beautiful rendition of the third Act "Addio del Passato." It does not matter at all if Violetta does not interpolate a high E-flat at the end of "Sempre Libera," but it does matter if what comes before is so disappointing. A visually striking woman, she was forced to writhe, crawl, meander and ghost-walk through the show; which was choreographically impressive, but surely not vocally helpful. Possessed of an impressively beautiful voice, one has the sense that the soprano consistently overloads her middle range, which might account for her difficulties in important, climactic moments such as her outburst "Ah, M'ami Alfredo!" in Act II.

As Alfredo, Matthew Polenzani sang with consistent beauty and sensitivity. In particular, his "Parigi, O Cara" was sung with an exquisite gradient of vocal color and emotional expression.  His second act rendition of the cabaletta to "De Miei Bollenti Spiriti" was powerful without being forced. Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber cut an impressive figure as Germont, and sang "Di Provenza al Mar" with a fine sense of line despite the aria's cruel tessitura and a slight crack on the high G-flat in the aria's concluding phrase.

There were many instances of poor coordination between the pit and the stage. The second act Gypsy Chorus fell apart completely as a result of an impossibly fast tempo. On the plus side, the orchestra played with marvelous balance and uniformity of sound, especially in the Act One and Third Act preludes.

All in all, an interesting evening for a short run in a B-level German opera house. An enduring production for the Metropolitan Opera? The question is open and surely will provoke lively debate.

Canadian Opera Company's 2011-2012 Season

September 22- October 15 2011: Iphigenia in Tauris
September 29- October 22 2011: Rigoletto
January 21- February 25 2012: Tosca
February 2-22 2012: Love From Afar
April 10- May 14 2012: Tales of Hoffmann
April 30- May 29 2012: A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi
May 9-26 2012: Semele

Today the new season of the Canadian Opera Company was unveiled. Susan Graham sings Iphigenia in the co-production seen in San Francisco in 2007. Jane Archibald, Allyson McHardy, and William Burden star in Semele.

Season | Official Site

San Francisco Opera's 2011- 2012 Season

September 9- November 25 2011: Turandot
September 10-30 2011: Heart of a Soldier
September 23- October 11 2011: Lucrezia Borgia
October 15- November 10 2011: Don Giovanni
October 30- November 19 2011: Serse
November 6- December 4 2011 Carmen
June 8- July 3 2012: Nixon in China
June 12- July 1 2012: Attila
June 13 - July 8 2012: The Magic Flute

Iréne Theorin and Susan Foster share the title role of Turandot. Thomas Hampson stars in the world premiere of Heart of a Soldier. Lucas Meachem is Don Giovanni, Renée Fleming is Lucrezia Borgia, Susan Graham is Serse, and Kate Aldrich is Carmen. In the summer, Brian Mulligan returns to sing Nixon in Nixon in China, Ferruccio Furlanetto sings Attila, and Albina Shagimuratova makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Queen of the Night.

Season Announcement | Official Site

Il Barbiere at Seattle Opera

Barbiere-seattle-reception * Notes *
Il Barbiere di Siviglia returned to Seattle Opera this weekend. The set, from the Canadian Opera Company and designed by John Stoddart, is traditional, and turns for the various scenes. Particularly amusing were the projections used for the storm scene, we saw all manner of objects fly by. Peter Kazaras' stage direction was pleasingly campy, involving many dance moves. This all came together for a satisfying show and much laughter was heard.

Maestro Dean Williamson kept the orchestra going at a good clip, the brass had some ragged moments but the playing was lively. The chorus was not exactly together in the first scene, perhaps the choreography threw things off slightly.

Sunday's alternate cast was strong. David Adam Moore was an entertaining and spry Figaro. His voice is pleasant, but there were times when not all the words he sang could be discerned. He was also a bit slow during "Numero quindici a mano manca." Nicholas Phan made a fine Seattle Opera debut as Almaviva. His voice has a lot of volume and sweetness, though there was some strain at times. Kate Lindsey was a slightly tomboyish and very pert Rosina. She sounded rich and hale, yet shimmered when necessary.

As for the smaller roles, Sally Wolf sang Berta's aria convincingly. Burak Bilgili was a hilarious Don Basilio and Patrick Carfizzi likewise was comic. Carfizzi had wonderfully clear enunciation for "A un dottor della mia sorte."

* Tattling *
The audience clapped for the set twice, once for when they turned it about in Act I, and once for the interior at the beginning of Act II. The person in front of me in U 1 of Section 1 of the Orchestra Level twitched her head to pretty much every note of the music. Had I not been so engaged with this performance, I might have been more bothered by this. The woman in either V or W Seat 2 Section 2 sang along to the first notes of "Buona Sera, Mio Signore."

David Daniels at PBO

_for_website_-_Daniels___Robert_Recker_licensed_to_Virgin_Classics * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opened a run of performances featuring countertenor David Daniels last night in Berkeley. Nicholas McGegan first conducted Telemann's Concerto for Three Horns and Violin in D major. The orchestra bounced delightfully but despite their efforts, the horns had more than one painful moment. One imagines this instrument must be devilishly hard to play. The concertmaster and violin soloist, Carla Moore, sounded quite good in the second movement Grave. Daniels joined the orchestra for Vivaldi's Stabat Mater. He sang with warmth and sweetness. There was a bit of warbling but nothing terribly distracting. The quietness of "Quis est homo" was lovely and the strings sounded particularly vibrant in "Eja mater, fons amoris." After the intermission, Daniels returned to sing arias from Händel's Il triofo del Tempo e del Disinganno, Radamisto, and Agrippina. "Perfido, di a quell'empio tiranno" was strident and "Voi che udite il mio lamento" mournful. Daniels sang "Qual nave smarrita" from Act III of Radamisto as an encore. The concert ended with Telemann's Suite in F major, which was played with insouciance. The Die concertierenden Frösche Krähen was rather silly but certainly amusing.

* Tattling * 
The people in the center of the front balcony were silent for the first half, but the women in the middle of Row E spoke during David Daniel's first aria after the break. A watch alarm was heard at 9pm during this piece as well. The couple in E 211 and 212 also talked during the second half but responded appropriately when they noticed they were audible to other audience members.

Yan Pascal Tortelier & Vadim Gluzman at SFS

Yan-pascal-tortelier * Notes * 
Yan Pascal Tortelier is conducting San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of Mussorgsky, Khachaturian, and Prokofiev. Last night's performance began with Mussorgsky's Prelude to Khovanshchina, orchestrated by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The playing was clear and lively. The Khachaturian Violin Concerto that followed was likewise sprightly, the soloist, Vadim Gluzman, sounded bright and genial. There were times when the orchestra did not seem precisely together, the horns dragged slightly, perhaps. Despite this, the playing did gleam and shimmer. The orchestra was more comfortable with Scenes from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and the dynamic contrasts here were rather marked. The maestro did many impressive balletic moves whilst conducting.

* Tattling * 
The audience on the orchestra level was quiet for most of the performance, until the mandolin players stood up in the Prokofiev. For some reason, more than one person felt that this deserved commentary aloud during the music, despite the fact this part of the music is called "Dance with Mandolins" and it was obvious that mandolins were on stage.

Kirill Karabits & Helene Grimaud at SFS

Grimaud, Helene 4x4 * Notes * 
Kirill Karabits made a promising conducting debut at San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of Silvestrov's Elegie, Schumann's Piano Concerto, and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. Last night's performance began with the piece by Silvestrov, scored for string orchestra. The small ensemble played with grace and the work was rather pretty. Next came the Schumann, the pianist Hélène Grimaud was perhaps ungainly, but perfectly precise and never boring. She listened to the orchestra but sounded quite distinct from the other instruments. The Rachmaninoff dances were fluid and adroit. The trumpets and trombones were clean but slightly harsh. The woodwinds were particularly beautiful.

* Tattling * 
The audience on the orchestra level was exceedingly well-behaved for the first half of the performance, especially when Grimaud was playing. Almost no one left during intermission, but light talking was noted during Rachmaninoff, and more than one person fell asleep.