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June 2012

SF Opera's 2012 Nixon in China Poster

Nixon-in-China-Poster-SFOperaMichael Schwab has created a poster for San Francisco Opera's upcoming Nixon in China. The opera has a Bay Area premiere on June 8, 2012. Schwab made a lovely poster last year for the Ring. The graphic artist will be signing his work at the San Francisco Opera shop on June 17, 2012, after the performance that afternoon.

Press Release | Michael Schwab's Official Site

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opéra de Paris

Paris-opera-barbiere-2012* Notes *
Coline Serreau's 2002 production of Il barbiere di Siviglia (second half of Act I pictured left, photograph by Christian Leiber) opened Thursday night at Opéra national de Paris. Conducted by Marco Armiliato, the orchestra floated in the overture, but was somewhat loud at times. The members of the chorus were clear, and moved well in the choreography.

The principals are all fine actors. Carlo Cigni's Basilio is funny, as is Maurizio Muraro's Bartolo. The latter has an imposing command of patter. Tassis Christoyannis is an amusing Figaro, though his voice is not exceptional. Karine Deshayes started off rather darkly as Rosina, and showed a nice agility as the evening progressed. Antonino Siragusa is an appealing Almaviva, his bell-like tone is pretty. He was occasionally difficult to hear.

The Moorish set from Jean-Marc Stehlé and Antoine Fontaine, with matching costumes from Elsa Pavanel, is elaborate. The direction tended toward camp and silliness. This seemed to delight the majority of the audience, though someone did boo forcefully when Serreau appeared for her ovation.

* Tattling * 
It seemed many people seated around us on the parterre level did not have command of either the Italian of the opera or the French of the supertitles. There were whispered explanations for much of the first act.

Football was referenced in the last aria, and for some reason, this provoked much flash photography.

Long Day's Journey into Night at the Apollo Theatre

Long-days-journey_david-suchet-laurie-metcalf* Notes * 
A new production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night opened at the Apollo Theatre in London last month. Directed by Anthony Page, the play stars David Suchet as James Tyrone and Laurie Metcalf as Mary Cavan Tyrone (pictured left, photograph by Alastair Muir). The detailed set, designed by Lez Brotherston was beautifully lit by Mark Henderson. The leads are strong and act with great intensity. Suchet is rather pitiful, and Metcalf searing. The supporting cast is also formidable. Trevor White (James Tyrone, Jr.) and Kyle Soller (Edmund Tyrone) both give fiery performances. Soller is particularly moving in Act IV, when he speaks about being at sea.

* Tattling * 
A mobile phone was heard several times in Acts I and II during last night's performance. There was some other disturbance during Act IV, it sounded like someone's iPhone was playing music.

Met Cast Changes 2012-2013 (as of 5/17/2012)

From a press release on May 17, 2012.

Gwyn Hughes-Jones will make his Met role debut as Manrico in Il Trovatore on September 29 and sings the role on October 4, 8, 12, 17, 20, and 25.

Carmen Giannattasio will replace Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora in Il Trovatore on October 12, 17, 20, and 25. These performances are in addition to the previously announced dates when Giannattasio will sing the role.

Sondra Radvanovsky will replace Karita Mattila as Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera on November 8 through December 8. The role of Amelia for the performance of December 14 is to be announced.

Marcelo Álvarez will sing Gustavo III in Un Ballo in Maschera on November 27, replacing Roberto De Biasio. Álvarez will now sing all performances of the role in the 2012-13 season.

Dolora Zajick will replace Olga Borodina as Amneris in Aida on December 19, 22, and 28. As previously announced, Borodina will sing the role on November 23, 26, 29 and December 3, 7, 12, and 15.

Erwin Schrott will make his Met role debut as Dulcamara in Bartlett Sher's new production of L'Elisir d'Amore on January 30. He will also sing the role on February 2, 6, and 9 matinee.

Sondra Radvanovsky will not be singing any performances of Don Carlo in the 2012-13 season, and her replacement as Elisabeth de Valois is to be announced.

Italian baritone Marco Vratogna will make his Met debut as Iago in Otello on March 27. He replaces Thomas Hampson, who will still sing the performances on March 11, 15, 20, 23, and 30.

Gilbert conducts NY Phil in Berlioz, Bartók, Debussy, & Ravel

Ny-phil-gilbert* Notes * 
Last night Alan Gilbert and New York Philharmonic (pictured left) played a second performance at San Francisco Symphony. The evening began with a very cheerful Le Corsaire Overture by Berlioz. Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 1 was sober in contrast, and soloist Glenn Dicterow played elegantly, with long lines. Dicterow listened carefully to the rest of the orchestra, not a surprise given that he is the concertmaster. At one point the violinist's sheet music was blown the wrong way, and Gilbert reached over to smooth out the page. showed a predilection for strong contrasts. After intermission we heard Debussy's La Mer, which was energetic. The harps were particularly good. The last piece was Ravel's La Valse. The orchestra seemed to relish the bits that were loud and fast, sounding rather bright and happy. There were two encores, including Emmanuel Chabrier's España and another that only involved the brass.

* Tattling * 
There was scolding before the performance began as photographs are not allowed in Davies. Otherwise, the audience was rather quiet. A young woman in Row W Seat 15 of the orchestra level could not help but point out various instruments and whispered various explanations to the other girl in Seat 13. Fortunately, this only happened on two occasions.

La Bohème at LA Opera

La-opera-la-boheme-2012* Notes *
A revival of La Bohème (Act IV pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) opened Saturday night in Los Angeles. The performance marked the Los Angeles Opera debut of conductor Patrick Summers, and the orchestra played clearly, with only a slight harshness in the brass at one point in Act II. The chorus sang perfectly well, as was the children's chorus, though the singers may not have been exactly together at all times.

Museop Kim moved gracefully as Schaunard, his baritone is pleasingly light. Colline was sung convincingly by Robert Pomakov, his voice has quite a lot of vibrato, but warmth and volume. Janai Brugger's Musetta was appropriately coy, but with a lovely bird-like sweetness. Though she maintained her composure, she did have some troubles with her train in Act II. Artur Ruciński (Marcello) sounds nice in the lower part of his voice and looked comfortable in his role. Stephen Costello strained a couple of times in Act I, however, his portrayal of Rodolfo was strong otherwise. Costello was particularly moving in the Act III quartet and at the end. Ailyn Pérez never sounded like she had to reach for notes as Mimi. She was not overpowering and had a certain delicate quality even though her bright voice could always be heard.

The production, created by Herbert Ross and directed by Gregory A. Fortner, is fairly conventional. Some of the direction was a lot of fun, as with the quartet in Act IV, in which Schaunard and Colline joust with brooms on bicycles. Other moments made less sense, as when Schaunard comes out on the roof at the end of Colline's "Vecchia zimarra." Colline has his back to Schaunard without facing him, somehow the former has divined that the latter is there. Gerard Howland's set makes use of vertical space without detracting from the voices.

* Tattling * 
The parents and brother (Founders Circle Row P Seats 31-33) of one of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus members talked a great deal as she was on stage. I was grateful they decided not to return after intermission, and remained undisturbed for the second half of the opera.

Kronos Quartet: Women's Voices

Tanya Tagaq- credit Nadya Kwandeben* Notes *
Kronos Quartet gave two performances under the title Women's Voices in San Francisco this weekend. The program featured four female composers and two female performers. Friday's concert began with the wry "Death to Kosmische" by Nicole Lizée, whose sense of humor came through the piece rather beautifully. Laurie Anderson's quieter Flow, arranged here by Jacob Garchik, made for a nice contrast. Mosaic, an arrangement of Delia Derbyshire's music by Danny Clay with David Harrington, followed. An impressive array of instruments were used in addition to the violins, viola, and cello of a normal string quartet.

The most anticipated work of the evening was the world premiere of Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ 's All Clear, in which the composer also performed. The đàn tranh, đàn bầu, k'ni, and artillery gongs were employed. Vo sang two texts. The audience even struck rocks together at a certain point in the music, as cued by two of the musicians on stage.

The second half of the performance was devoted to Derek Charke's Tundra Songs with special guest vocalist Tanya Tagaq (pictured above, photograph by Nadya Kwandeben), a Inuk throat singer. Tagaq's voice is unbelievable, both ethereal and visceral. Kronos Quartet did a fine job of supporting her, but not being dull in the least.

 * Tattling * 
I happened to be seated in Row O all by myself, but behind a person I happened to recognize as an arts activist from many years past. She whispered a few times to her companion, and I could not help but notice that the two women did not turn off their mobile phones and used them as timekeepers or flashlights when the need arose.

NCCO plays Grieg, Zwilich, Schoenberg, Heidrich

Zwilich* Notes *
New Century Chamber Orchestra end the 2011-2012 season with a world premiere by Ellen Taafe Zwilich (pictured left). The Berkeley performance last night began with Grieg's Fra Holbergs tid, which was played with much vim. The likeable Zwilich piece, Commedia dell'Arte, followed. Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was soloist, and stood surrounded by the orchestra. Salerno-Sonnenberg certainly plays with bravura. NCCO features string players, but the Zwilich employs percussion, which meant slapstick, tambourine, and toy drum in different movements was played by a violist, cellist and violinist respectively.

After intermission came a lusty rendition of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and Heidrich's entertaining Happy Birthday Variations. The musicians of NCCO always seem to be having a great time playing together and their joy was infectious.

 * Tattling * 
There much whispering in the second half of the performance, especially from near Row I Seats 107 to 111 on the orchestra level.

Trio Appassionato at SFCM

Frederica-von-stade* Notes *
Last Sunday and Monday San Francisco Conservatory Opera Theatre presented works by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. The performance, entitled Trio Appassionato, was held as a salon in which the biographies of aforementioned musicians were covered. Frederica von Stade (pictured left) hosted, with Darryl Cooper and Curt Pajer accompanying four student singers. The conceit, thought up and directed by Lotfi Mansouri, worked very well for Flicka. She is charming and explaining the songs and how they related to the lives of the Schumanns or Brahms seemed to come naturally to her. Both pianists spoke, made musical commentary, and played solo pieces.

The script, developed by Richard Harrell, and written and researched by Kathryn Cathart, held together fine. One can see how it would work as a presentation in schools. The young singers did not sell it as expertly as Flicka or the pianists, but perhaps this just made them more endearing. The singers on Sunday afternoon were soprano Antonia Tamer, mezzo-soprano Raquel Fatiuk, tenor Daniel Bates, and baritone Ryan Bradford. For the most part their singing was strong though not always nuanced. Flicka joined in for Brahms' "Rede, Mädchen, allzu liebes" and for the encore, Wiegenlied.

* Tattling *
The audience was attentive, though some electronic noises were heard.

Götterdämmerung at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-goetterdaemmerung-2012* Notes * 
The second Ring cycle the Met this season came to a rather disappointing conclusion with Götterdämmerung yesterday. Though there were many fine individual contributions to the piece, in the end both playing and staging fell short. Robert Lepage's production was not consistent with the earlier parts of the cycle. Why should Grane finally appear as a horse puppet (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) in this opera, and not in Walküre or Siegfried? Why is it that the projections have Siegfried and Hagen walking on water? It just seemed a bit sloppy. The statues used to portray the Gods looked like they were stolen from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Even still, there were nicely rendered scenes, as with the prologue with its tree-like web.

The orchestra did not seem terribly concerned with Maestro Luisi, the musicians were not always together, and there was rushing, especially near the end. Singers were overwhelmed now and again. The harps did sound gorgeous during Act III. The chorus was cohesive.

Eric Owens had a sore throat, so Richard Paul Fink sang Alberich instead. Fink is secure in the role, and has the right mix of beauty and menace. Hans-Peter König sang a threatening Hagen. Wendy Bryn Harmer sang a pretty Gutrune.

Katarina Dalayman was fairly good as Brünnhilde, though her changes in volume were abrupt. Jay Hunter Morris was a strong Siegfried, sounding youthful and poignant, although he lacked baritonal warmth.

* Tattling *
The French-speakers in Family Circle Standing Room Places 25 and 26 talked a lot in Act I, and had to be hushed. They were preoccupied by taking Seats 202 and 204. It was odd that the male half of the couple seemed so worried about sitting, yet slept through most of Acts II and III. Both halves of this pair had not seemed to have bathed in some time, and their odor could be detected from several feet away.

2nd Performance of Věc Makropulos at the Met

Met-makropulos-act-3-scene-1-2012* Notes *
The second performance of The Makropulos Case (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera) at the Met this season was held yesterday. The production, by Elijah Moshinsky, is fairly static. Some scene changes are made when only the orchestra is playing, and most of these are not strictly necessary, though perhaps elucidating the plot. The offices of Kolenaty and wherever Marty is staying are stylish enough. The sphinx in Act II was not terribly clever. Howard Harrison's lighting was perhaps the best element of the production.

The orchestra showed dynamic range under Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek. The cast is even. Emalie Savoy's Kristina was a touch too mature, but her sound contrasted with Karita Mattila's. Johan Reuter does not have much warmth to his voice, but as Jaroslav Prus, he does not need it. Richard Leech sounded bright and loud as Albert Gregor. Karita Mattila was again splendid as Emilia Marty, searing but beautiful.

* Tattling * 
This was the worst audience I have observed at the Met. Latecomers sat on the steps of Family Circle, and one particular woman coughed and coughed. She got into an altercation with the woman next to her, and much violent discussion was heard. Another woman with a standing room ticket tried sitting in the aisle for Act II and was scolded by an usher. My companion noted that the people in Family Circle K 116 and 115 were looking at pornography on a mobile phone during Act III.

Siegfried at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-siegfried-2012* Notes * 
The second Ring cycle this season at the Met continued last night with Siegfried. The production, directed by Robert Lepage, proved to be even more traditional than its most recent predecessor. Here we have both bear and giant serpent, and so many of Lionel Arnould's projected images are literally from the text. The innovation comes in as far as puppetry and illusion, and it is a spectacle. François St-Aubin's costumes continue to be perfectly in keeping with the narrative, though Erda's dress was blinding.

Luisi and the orchestra gave an orderly rendition of the music, though there were a few noticeable brass errors. There were certainly moments when the orchestra overwhelmed the singers. The strings were clear, and the harps played particularly well in Act III.

Erin Morley's diction as the Forest Bird was lacking, perhaps being off stage muffled her syllables. Patricia Bardon (Erda) sounded icy but well-supported, her highest note was pushed too hard to sound pretty. Hans-Peter König was a credible Fafner. Gerhard Siegel was fairly winsome as Mime, and appropriately duplicitous. Eric Owens gave a powerful performance as Alberich.

Byrn Terfel's Wanderer was only slightly light in Act II, but strong in Act III. Katarina Dalayman did not always sing Brünnhilde perfectly smoothly. Her voice does have a lovely warmth even if her volume control is not terribly nuanced. Jay Hunter Morris (pictured above in Act II, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) seemed confident in the title role, he may have been slightly quiet in Act I but sounded oddly fresh in Act III.

* Tattling *
The ushers tried to seat latecomers, and unfortunately put one such person next to me in Family Circle standing room. Said person was quite rude, leaving her backpack and coat in the walk way, not silencing her watch alarm, and completely unable to be still. The latter would not have been a problem except that she was wearing clothes out of a noisy synthetic material.

The man in FC Standing Place 26 giggled through most of the first two acts.