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January 2012
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March 2012

Lyric's World Premiere in 2015-2016

Today Lyric Opera announced the world premiere of Bel Canto, by composer Jimmy López and librettist Nilo Cruz. The work is based on the novel by Ann Patchett will be performed in the 2015-16 season. The conductor will be Sir Andrew Davis and the director Stephen Wadsworth. The opera has been commissioned as part of Lyric's Renée Fleming Initiative.

Press Release | Official Site

Orphée et Eurydice at Seattle Opera


* Notes * 
Orphée et Eurydice (William Burden as Orphée with the Furies pictured left, photograph by Elise Bakketun) opened at Seattle Opera on last night. Jose Maria Condemi's production provided a series of entertaining moments that did not quite cohere, but did not get in the way of the music. Phillip Lienau's set is clean, and the scene changes were smooth and quiet, enhanced by Connie Yun's lighting. The costumes, from Heidi Zamora, had a loose, relaxed look. Yannis Adoniou's choreography was dull, for example, the first ballet consisted of three dancers falling to the floor in unison and the third one was a pantomime foreshadowing the plot. The second ballet was silliest, the 7 dancers were Furies who drew their shirts over their heads. It seemed an untoward combination of Martha Graham's Lamentation (1930) and Merce Cunningham's Antic Meet (1958).

Conductor Gary Thor Wedow kept the orchestra moving, occasionally a bit a head of the singers. There were 2 or 3 minor intonation errors, but for the most part the orchestra had a nice, clear sound. The chorus sang well.

The principals were uniformly strong. Julianne Gearhart looked like she was on her way to Black Rock City as an Amore outfitted with pink ruffles, fairy wings, tall shiny boots, and a glittering cruiser. Her voice has a breathless, girlish quality to it. Davinia Rodríguez's voice is more piercing, and her Eurydice was convincing. Rodríguez pushed a little hard on some of the high notes at the beginning of Act II, Scene 2, but otherwise sounded fine. William Burden made for an incredible Orphée. His voice is sweet and bright, and his singing was quite moving. His "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" was exquisite.

* Tattling * 
Someone unwrapped something in cellophane during the overture. There was some whispering, particularly when no one was singing. No electronic noise was noted. I laughed a great deal during the second ballet, and tried to keep this as silent as possible.

The Met's 2012-2013 Season

September 24 2012- February 8 2013: L'Elisir d'Amore
September 26 2012- January 10 2013: Turandot
September 28 2012- March 1 2013: Carmen
September 29 2012- January 24 2013: Il Trovatore
October 9 2012- March 30 2013: Otello
October 23- November 17 2012: The Tempest
October 29- November 17 2012: Le Nozze di Figaro
November 8- December 14 2012: Un Ballo in Maschera
November 16- December 10 2012: La Clemenza di Tito
November 23- December 28 2012: Aida
November 28- December 20 2012: Don Giovanni
December 13 2012- January 5 2013: Les Troyens
December 18 2012- January 5 2013: The Barber of Seville
December 31 2012- January 26 2013: Maria Stuarda
January 11-26 2013: La Rondine
January 17- February 5 2013: Le Comte Ory
January 28- May 1 2013: Rigoletto
February 15- March 8 2013: Parsifal
February 22- March 16 2013: Don Carlo
March 4-22 2013: Francesca di Rimini
March 14- April 6 2013: La Traviata
March 21- April 5 2013: Faust
April 4- May 10 2013: Giulio Cesare
April 6- May 4 2013: Das Rheingold
April 13- May 6 2013: Die Walküre
April 20- May 8 2013: Siegfried
April 23- May 11 2013: Götterdämmerung
May 4-11 2013: Dialogues des Carmélites

The Met announced the 2012-2013 season today. The 7 new productions are L'Elisir d'Amore, Thomas Adès' The Tempest, Un Ballo in Maschera, Maria Stuarda, Rigoletto, Parsifal, and Giulio Cesare.

Online 2012-2013 Brochure | Official Site

Simon Boccanegra at LA Opera


* Notes *
The third performance of Simon Boccanegra (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) at Los Angeles Opera on Sunday was quite good. The production originates from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and is directed here by Elijah Moshinsky. Michael Yeargan's set is sleek, and Duane Schuler's lighting did help frame the many scenes. The late Peter J. Hall's costumes are lavish and are a fine counterpoint for the relative simplicity of set.

The tempi taken by Maestro James Conlon were brisk, and occasionally the orchestra seemed somewhat rushed. The brass was fairly clean, there were no obvious sour notes. The chorus was not always right on top of the beat, but sang with passion.

The singing was solid. Stefano Secco (Gabriele) was uncharacteristically fervent, perhaps being broadcast live and sharing the stage with Plácido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra) brought out the best in the former. Domingo sounded rather like a tenor in the title role, his voice is, of course, just so resonant and beautiful. Some of his lower notes were not particularly rich. Ana María Martínez made for an ethereal yet girlish Amelia. Paolo Gavanelli made for a convincing Paolo, his voice is sumptuous. Vitalij Kowaljow (Fiesco) also has a weighty sound, and seems bottomless.

* Tattling * 
Watch alarms were heard at 3pm and 5 pm. A mobile phone rang in the middle of Act II from the Loge. The audience talked during the scene changes. A woman in Row E Seat 53 was especially loud, commenting that Domingo sounded "the same" as he always does as he was singing, and making other accurate but unhelpful comments to her husband in 54 and friend in 55.

During a pause, this friend mentioned that "in San Francisco we would have had five intermissions already" and that concessions must generate much income for that opera. An odd statement, given that this production has been performed in San Francisco twice (in 2001 and 2008), both times in two acts with one intermission. One will also note that Patina provides food and beverage for LA Opera and SF Opera.

Casting Change for San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick


Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the State Opera of South Australia's production of Moby-Dick) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in the San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Heppner is ill. Morris had been originally scheduled for the San Diego performances, but withdrew to sing Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's Götterdämmerung last month.

Moby-Dick at San Diego Opera | San Diego Opera's Press Releases

Moby-Dick at San Diego Opera


* Notes * 
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) was given by San Diego Opera last night. This production was first seen two years ago at Dallas Opera, and has also had runs at the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide and Calgary Opera. The opening performance in San Diego was impressive. Gene Scheer's libretto is paced well, skillfully arranged and rather more spare than Melville's novel. Heggie's music is also adroit, the ensembles and choruses sounded particularly lovely. Robert Brill's sets are cleverly enhanced by lighting designed by Donald Holder (revived here by Gavin Swift) and projections designed by Elaine J. McCarthy (revived here by Shawn Boyle). Only a couple of the visuals were awkward, specifically the flying harpoon ropes and splintering whale boats. However, director Leonard Foglia pulled together this opera as a coherent, vital work, without being mawkish.

The orchestra was lead by Joseph Mechavich, who also conducted this opera in Calgary. The 63 musicians crowded in the pit produced a lot of sound, occasionally overwhelming the singers. The chorus seemed at ease with the music, and the dancing in the second half of Act I was surprisingly good. The rest of the singing was likewise fine, Robert Orth (Stubb) had a hearty duet in Act I with Talise Trevigne (Pip). Trevigne's subsequent aria when lost at sea was splendid and as the highest voice in the opera, was both striking and haunting. Jonathan Boyd was the wide-eyed Greenhorn, he seemed momentarily strained in the beginning of Act I, but sang nicely for the rest of the evening. Jonathan Lemalu sang Queequeg with a certain dry quality, his duets with Boyd were balanced. Morgan Smith portrayed Starbuck beautifully, with sensitivity and humaneness. Ben Heppner made a grimly determined Captain Ahab, the effort in his voice seemed tangible, which was effective for this role.

* Tattling * 
A cellular phone rang on the right side of the orchestra level during Act I. There was a lot of talking between a child in Row P Seat 46 and her guardian in Seat 44, but they were silent after being hushed. The child must have switched seats with someone, as she did not return for the second half. There was also much talking during Pip's aria in Act I from the couple in Row N Seats 42 and 44, rather unfortunate given how beautiful it was, and how lightly orchestrated.

Merola Behind the Scenes Event 2012


* Program *
Rachmaninoff's Prelude Op. 23 No. 5
Robert Mollicone, piano

Richard Rodgers' "My Funny Valentine"
David Hanlon, piano

The end of Act I Scene 2 from Dead Man Walking
Laura Krumm, mezzo-soprano and David Hanlon, piano

"Il core vi dono" from Così fan tutte
Laura Krumm, mezzo-soprano, Ao Li, baritone, and Robert Mollicone, piano

"Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Faust
Ao Li, baritone and Robert Mollicone, piano

David Hanlon's "Bang Kiss Kiss Bang"
Robert Mollicone and David Hanlon, piano

* Notes *
Mark Morash, the San Francisco Opera Center Director of Musical Studies, held an event on Thursday focusing on the collaborative pianists in the Merola Opera and Adler Fellowship programs. Current Adler Fellows David Hanlon and Robert Mollicone spoke about how they came to the collaborative arts and auditioned for Merola. Both pianists played solo pieces, Mollicone chose the more conventional Rachmaninoff, and Hanlon improvised a version of "My Funny Valentine." Hanlon coached Laura Krumm through the end of Act II, Scene 2 from Dead Man Walking with a projection of the music on a screen behind them so we could follow along. Ao Li joined Krumm for a duet from Così fan tutte. Li sang Valentin's aria "Avant de quitter ces lieux", as Mollicone played the piece transposed down a step to accommodate his voice. Both pianists played a piece for 4 hands composed by Hanlon as the finale.

* Tattling *
The event started slightly late, as traffic was rather heavy coming into San Francisco, due to President Obama being in town for a speech at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.

Ensemble Parallèle's The Great Gatsby

Marco Pannucio, Susannah Biller, Julienne Walker, Jason Detwiler

* Notes *
A chamber version of John Harbison's The Great Gatsby (Act II, Scene 3 with Marco Pannucio, Susannah Biller, Julienne Walker, Jason Detwiler, and Daniel Snyder pictured right; photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) from Ensemble Parallèle opened last night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The ambitious reorchestration was undertaken by composer Jacques Desjardins, using 30 musicians instead of 80, and will be presented at the Aspen Music Festival this August. The opera has been cut down to 2 hours and 10 minutes, but does not seem rushed or undescriptive.

The music is rather difficult, and conductor Nicole Paiement had kept everyone together, at least for the most part. Director Brian Staufenbiel put forth a bold production, employing much videography and period dance. The many scene changes were smooth, and there were only a few odd moments, notably between Act I Scenes 1 and 2, and in Act II Scenes 5 and 6. One can appreciate how challenging it is to put forth this familiar story that has been visually represented in more than one film. Matthew Antaky's set is stylish, but at times the singers seemed rather far upstage, and this effected how well they could be heard.

The cast is strong, featuring those who can both act and sing. The diction was all perfectly comprehensible. Mark Robinson and Carrie Zhang had some of the simpler, lyrical music as Radio/Band and Tango Singers. Erin Neff and Bojan Knežević made fine contributions as Myrtle and George Wilson. Knežević was terrifying yet sympathetic when Myrtle is killed. Julienne Walker (Jordan Baker) was a good foil for Susannah Biller (Daisy Buchanan), physically and vocally. Jason Dewiler made for a likeable Nick Carraway, ever patient as he observed. Daniel Snyder (Tom Buchanan) sounded a bit choked in the first half of the opera, but seemed in better voice after the intermission. In the title role, Marco Pannucio gave a heartfelt, but somewhat strained, performance. Susannah Biller sparkled as Daisy Buchanan, her bright sound had a certain lovely ease to it.

* Tattling * 
The woman in Row E Seat 106 arrived only a few minutes before curtain, and had to step over us to leave the hall after the opera's second scene. She returned between Act I Scenes 3 and 4, squeezing by and speaking to her date during the orchestral interlude.

Some men behind Row J of the Orchestra Right section talked loudly during Gatsby's final aria, and someone had to ask them to be quiet.

LA Opera's 2012-2013 Season

September 15- October 9 2012: I due Foscari
September 22- October 14 2012: Don Giovanni
November 17- December 9 2012: Madama Butterfly
March 9-30 2013: Der fliegende Holländer
March 23- April 13 2013: Cenerentola
May 18- June 8 2013: Tosca

Plácido Domingo stars in I due Foscari. Oksana Dyka sings Butterfly with Brandon Jovanovich as Pinkerton and Eric Owens as Sharpless. Jay Hunter Morris is Erik in Der fliegende Holländer. Kate Lindsey and Ketevan Kemoklidze share the title role of Cenerentola. Sondra Radvanovsky is Tosca. Again, the Recovered Voices program seems to still be on hiatus.

2012-2013 Season | Official Site

Medallion Society Luncheon 2012


* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Medallion Society Luncheon was held Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton. George Hume, the president of the San Francisco Opera Association welcomed the donors before they partook of a meal of cauliflower bisque, barbeque chicken, and pear cake. David Gockley presented Sylvia Lindsey (pictured left, photograph by Drew Altizer) with an apron signed by the opera staff and this year's Spirit of the Opera Award.

San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald introduced Adler Fellows David Hanlon, Marina Boudart Harris, Brian Jadge, Laura Krumm, Ryan Kuster, Ao Li, Robert Mollicone, and Renée Rapier. Pianists Hanlon and Mollicone switched off accompanying the singers, starting with Hanlon playing for Jadge and Li in "In un coupé...O Mimì, tu più non torni" from La Bohème. Harris and Rapier sang "Prenderò quel brunettino" from Così fan tutte. Kuster sang "Le veau d'or" from Faust. All the singers joined in for the opening scene from La Cenerentola. The afternoon ended with a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Ao Li, who turned 23 today.

* Tattling * 
There were the usual mobile phone rings at lunch. Mr. Feldheim and I were seated at the Orpheus table, which was a nice change from last year.

Luisotti appointed Music Director of Teatro di San Carlo

Nicola_Luisotti_by_John_Martin_2According to the press release reproduced below, Nicola Luisotti (pictured left, photograph by John Martin) is the new Music Director of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy, effective immediately. Luisotti is already Music Director of San Francisco Opera and Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.


 February 6, 2012 -- Nicola Luisotti has been appointed Music Director of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy,  effective immediately.  The news was announced over the weekend by General Director Rosanna Purchia and the Board of Directors of the Teatro di San Carlo Foundation following a meeting where the unanimous decision was taken.  Maestro Luisotti succeeds former Principal Conductor Maurizio Benini and Music Director Jeffrey Tate.  Born and raised in Tuscany, the 50-year old Luisotti is currently Music Director of San Francisco Opera and Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Philharmonic. 

      The oldest theater in Europe and one of Italy’s most prestigious opera houses, Teatro di San Carlo is renowned not only for its beauty but for its legendary acoustics.  Founded in 1737, many of opera’s most famous composers spent significant time at the theatre, including Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi.  In 2010, the theater was reopened after an important period of restoration where the magnificent five-level horseshoe of boxes which are upholstered in red and decorated in gold leaf,  frescoed ceiling and beautifully painted stage curtain were renewed to their original glory. 

      Full details of the appointment will be announced at an official ceremony and press conference on March 7th when Maestro Luisotti will be at San Carlo to begin rehearsals for Verdi’s I Masnadieri, in a production directed by Gabriele Lavia.
      “I have spent a good deal of time abroad in the last ten years of my career.  My heart fills with joy at the thought of spending so much more time in my home country with such a prestigious appointment,” said Maestro Luisotti speaking from Philadelphia where he is leading concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra.  “And the joy is even greater when I think of how deeply this Theatre was influenced, in recent years, by the presence of a man such as Riccardo Muti, with whom I had the honor of working at La Scala.”

      General Director Rosanna Purchia commented, “Nicola is young and enthusiastic and has had a bright career that took him to the most important theatres in the world, from Covent Garden to the Met, from La Scala to our San Carlo.  In the United States he is recognized as one of the best interpreters of Italian opera. With his appointment, we want the San Carlo to aim higher and higher.”
       Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris, the foundation president, expressed his satisfaction: “We chose Luisotti because he is a high profile conductor, young, Italian…and this is a source of great pride for us.  We are sure he will contribute to the success of this great theatre both in Italy and the rest of the world.”

      "We at San Francisco Opera are thrilled that Nicola Luisotti has been appointed music director of the San Carlo, one of the world's great lyric theaters," said San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley.  "This announcement is a tribute to his musical talent and leadership."  Nicola Luisotti’s position as San Francisco Opera's  music director began in September 2009 and continues through the 2015-16 season.

      Maestro Luisotti has been called “both an original thinker and a great respecter of tradition” by Opera News, which featured him on the cover of the July special issue on conductors.  Since his international debut in 2002, Luisotti has garnered enthusiastic praise from both audiences and critics at venues throughout the world.  His leadership of Puccini’s rarely performed La fanciulla del West at The Metropolitan Opera, following critical successes conducting Tosca and La bohème, was hailed by the New York Times as a “distinguished performance.”  In conjunction with these 100th Anniversary performances Luisotti was awarded the Premio Puccini Award. 

      Luisotti’s third season at San Francisco Opera’s Music Director of San Francisco Opera continues in June with a new Gabriele Lavia production of Attila, co-produced with Teatro alla Scala.  In addition to I Masnadieri and concerts with the Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo in late March, Maestro Luisotti’s operatic engagements this season include a return visit to La Scala for Turandot in April.  Critically acclaimed for his orchestral conducting, Luisotti will also make appearances with six great orchestras this season including his own San Francisco Opera Orchestra presented by Cal Performances, the Berliner Philharmoniker, Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Madrid’s Orquesta Nacional de España and the orchestras of Cleveland and Philadelphia. 

      The Italian conductor made his critically acclaimed international debut leading a new production of Il trovatore at the Stuttgart State Opera and he has subsequently performed with nearly every major opera company across the globe, including the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Royal Opera at Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Milan’s La Scala, Vienna State Opera, Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice, Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera,  Dresden State Opera, Frankfurt Opera,  Madrid’s Teatro Real, Los Angeles Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Seattle Opera, Bologna’s Teatro Comunale, and Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.  He made his debut in Japan, where he serves as Principal Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony, with a semi-staged production of Tosca at Suntory Hall and has since returned for Turandot, La bohème, and the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy of Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, and Così fan tutte.

      Maestro Luisotti has also led many of the world’s most acclaimed orchestral ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonia, San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, NHK Symphony, Dresden’s Staatskapelle, Munich’s Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the orchestra of Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Torino’s Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI and the orchestras of Hamburg, Budapest, and Zagreb. In conjunction with the 2008 Olympic Games, Luisotti led special concerts in Beijing featuring artists Renée Fleming, Sumi Jo, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ramón Vargas.

      The conductor’s discography includes a complete recording of Stiffelio (Dynamic) with the orchestra of Trieste’s Teatro Verdi and the critically acclaimed Duets (Deutsche Grammophon), featuring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón.  He is also on the podium of a DVD recording of the Met’s La bohème, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas (EMI).

Alexander String Quartet's 30th Anniversary


* Notes * 
The Alexander String Quartet (pictured left with Jake Heggie and Joyce DiDonato, photograph by Brian Byrne) celebrated 30 years with a new commission presented by San Francisco Performances. Yesterday's performance at Herbst Theatre began with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato singing Hahn's Venezia, accompanied by Jake Heggie on piano. DiDonato sang these evocative songs with a beautiful legato line. Alexander String Quartet took the stage next with Debussy's String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893). The playing was balanced, and second movement Scherzo was especially charming.

After the intermission came the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, for mezzo-soprano and string quartet. The music was pretty and often wistful. DiDonato enunciated clearly and was clearly moved by the songs. The fifth song, The Gossips, was, for this listener, most striking. The quartet played all together here, and the rhythms were attractive. The encore was Richard Strauss' "Morgen!" with DiDonato accompanied by not only the string quartet, but by Heggie on piano again.

* Tattling * 
Members of the audience only occasionally whispered, most were quiet. I seemed to be seated next to the music historian-in-residence of San Francisco Performances and his date. It was entertaining to hear exchanges between the former and his various friends. At one point Italian was spoken, and this ended with someone saying "Spaghetti!" and someone else responding "Meatball!"

Ensemble Parallèle's Great Gatsby Rehearsal


* Notes *
Ensemble Parallèle held an open rehearsal of The Great Gatsby (Marco Panuccio as Jay Gatsby and Susannah Biller as Daisy Buchanan pictured left, photograph by Steve di Bartolomeo) at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center in San Francisco yesterday. The opera opens next Friday, and though the rehearsal process is always chaotic, the cast and crew have made great progress thus far. We heard and watched Act II, Scene 4; Act I, Scene 4; Act I, Scene 3; and Act II, Scene 2. Keisuke Nakogoshi accompanied the singers on piano. The chorus and many of the principal singers were present. Director Brian Staufenbiel worked out the staging and Maestra Nicole Paiement made sure the singers were on beat. As Staufenbiel focused on certain specifics, Paiement would address us, revealing that one of her favorite parts of the opera is when Gatsby and Nick meet in Act I, Scene 3.

After the rehearsal Susannah Biller, Jason Detwiler (Nick Carraway), Marco Panuccio, Daniel Snyder (Tom Buchannan), Julienne Walker (Jordan Baker), Jacques Desjardins, Staufenbiel, and Paiement answered questions about working on this opera. The work is cut, runs 2 hours and 10 minutes, and Paiement takes speedy tempi for the dialogue. All the cuts had to be approved by the composer, John Harbison.

* Tattling *
Some members of the audience whispered throughout, and a few cellular phones were heard.

SF Opera Audited Financial Results 2010-2011

San Francisco Opera's 88th season started on September 10, 2010 and finished on July 3, 2011. Ten operas were performed in 66 performances. The Company concluded Fiscal Year 2010-11 (FY 11) with a deficit of $1,801,417 on an operating budget of $71,094,620. Total operating revenue for FY 11 grew from $27,113,297 to $35,947,397, with income from ticket sales increasing 32% to $24,633,817. Contributions to the annual fund were $33,345,806 from approximately 11,350 donors.

Press Release | Official Site | Audited Financial Results [PDF]