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Arabella at Santa Fe Opera

Santa-fe-opera-arabella* Notes *
This season's revival of Arabella (Act III pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) opened at Santa Fe Opera yesterday. Sir Andrew Davis conducted a vivid performance from the orchestra, and the strings were particularly beautiful.

Many of the smaller roles were filled by singers familiar to those of us from San Francisco, such as former Merolini Susanne Hendrix (Fortune Teller) and Jonathan Michie (Dominik). Current Adler Fellow Brian Jagde sang Count Elemer with strength. Dale Travis and Victoria Livengood convinced as Arabella's rather silly parents.

Heidi Stober sounded lovely as Zdenka, and was suitably naive and boyish. Mark Delavan could have sung Mandryka with a bit more heft, but the weight of his voice suits this venue better than the War Memorial. He did inhabit the character and his movements were appropriate to his role. Erin Wall sounded icy yet sturdy as Arabella.

Director Tim Albery's production is fluid, and designer Tobias Hoheisel's work detailed but sedate. The three semi-circle walls arranged in different configurations for each act certainly has appeal.

* Tattling * 
There was again a lot of talking at this performance. The woman in Mezzanine Row G, Seat 107 would not be silent, even when glared at several times.

Maometto II at Santa Fe Opera

Maometto-santa-fe-opera* Notes *
The opening of Santa Fe Opera's Maometto II (Act II pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) occurred a few weeks ago. The third performance yesterday evening had much appeal, in no small part because of Rossini's music, which was conducted by Frédéric Chaslin and played with spirit. The volume of the orchestra was held in check, and the singers were always audible.

The singing was less consistent, at least on this particular Friday night. The chorus had a few diffuse moments, but sounded lovely by the end of the opera. Patricia Bardon looked convincing as Calbo, and while she does have plenty of power, her singing is not beautiful. Likewise, Luca Pisaroni is a strong actor, but did not seem vocally suited to the title role. His is a pretty voice, but the low notes lack richness. His big aria ("All'invito generoso") in the second half had more vitality than his singing in Act I.

On the other hand, Bruce Sledge (Paolo Erisso) sounded bright, his voice seems to have the right weight to it for this music. There were a few moments of constriction in a few of his high notes, but this was easy to overlook. The obvious star of the performance was Leah Crocetto. Though her voice is a touch robust for Anna, she sang with ease and deftness. Her legato is gorgeous.

David Alden's production is economical, and works well with the scenic design from Jon Morrell. The staging, dancing, and music come together delightfully when the Turks make their entrance at the end of Act I.

* Tattling * 
There was much talking at this performance. A child seated in Row B of the mezzanine conducted with both hands during the opera, and his father simply joined in, and gestured as the music played.

Król Roger at Santa Fe Opera

Krol-roger-santa-fe-opera* Notes *
Szymanowski's Król Roger (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) opened last weekend at Santa Fe Opera. The second performance on Wednesday sounded strong, the orchestra held together under Maestro Evan Rogister. At times the volume obscured the singer's voices, but not often.

The production, directed by Stephen Wadsworth and with sets from Thomas Lynch, is clear and elegant. Shifts in the background and with the light (designed by Duane Schuler) are enough to change the scenes. The silence before the music started was engaging, as the characters quietly found their places on stage. Peggy Hickey's choreography looked comfortable on both the singers and dancers. The costumes, from Ann Hould-Ward, looked suitably grand.

The cast is even. Raymond Aceto is perfectly appropriate for the Archbishop, as is Dennis Petersen as Edrisi. Erin Morley (Roxana) has a cold, brilliant sound. William Burden impressed as the Shepard, his appealing tenor well-suited to the role. Mariusz Kwiecien was robust in the title role.

* Tattling * 
Only one person in the middle of the balcony talked during the performance, and was audible from Row D Seat 113 at least twice.

Lost in the Stars at Glimmerglass

KarliCadel-LostFinalDress-1765* Notes *
Lost in the Stars, composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, opened at the Glimmerglass Festival (Act I pictured left with Sean Panikkar as The Leader, photograph by Karli Cadel) on Sunday afternoon. This opera is based on South African author Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Somehow the opera feels a little naive, the characters are not particularly nuanced. This co-production, directed by Tazewell Thompson, is with Cape Town Opera, where it was performed last November. Michael John Mitchell's set is clean and his costumes attractive.

The orchestra sounded spirited under the baton of John DeMain. The chorus was strong. Chrystal E. Williams sang a hilarious "Who'll Buy?" in Act I, and the list of fruits and vegetables were amusing to hear. Sean Panikkar (The Leader) sounded bright and powerful throughout the performance. Eric Owens convinced as Stephen Kumalo, though the role seems to sit a bit high in his range perhaps. He was very good about keeping the South African accent in his voice even whilst singing.

* Tattling * 
There was too much talking in the balcony when only the orchestra played. The audience appeared rather moved by the performance, however.

Armide at Glimmerglass

KarliCadel-ArmideFinal-9838* Notes *
The opening performance of Lully's Armide at the Glimmerglass Festival (Act I pictured left with Peggy Kriha Dye as Armide and Colin Ainsworth as Renaud, photograph by Karli Cadel) occurred last Saturday. The opera takes its plot from Torquato Tasso's epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata and shares several characters with Orlando furioso by Ariosto. The co-production here is with Opera Atelier, and was performed in Toronto last April with the much of the same cast and crew. Marshall Pynkoski's direction is ridiculously delightful, and Gerard Gauci's layered, flat set is charming. The jewel-toned silks and rich velvets Dora Rust D'Eye used in costuming look appropriately Baroque, as did the choreography from Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg.

David Fallis conducted a jaunty orchestra that did not overwhelm the singers. The chorus sang beautifully. Most of the principals were also perfectly fine. The physicality of the dancers and singers was impressive. João Fernandes (Hidraot) and Aaron Ferguson (Chevalier) were entertaining. Tenor Colin Ainsworth sounded bright and blustery as Renaud. Peggy Kriha Dye gave a vivid portrayal of Armide. Her rage and anger were particularly scintillating.

* Tattling * 
Artistic and General Director Francesca Zambello introduced herself to an assortment of young people milling about before going into the hall, and also addressed the whole audience before the music began.

Pina Bausch's Orpheus und Eurydike

Pina-bausch-orpheus-eurydice* Notes *
The Paris Opera Ballet performed Pina Bausch's arresting choreography of Orpheus und Eurydike as part the Lincoln Center Festival yesterday evening. The set, designed by Rolf Borzik, is sober, offset by his simple, often translucent costumes. The dancing was gorgeous. The movements were fluid, and had a lovely natural quality to them. One never felt that the dancers were simply following directions, all the motions seemed to flow out of their bodies with elegance.

The orchestra sounded together under conductor Thomas Hengelbrock. The oboe was especially lovely. The singers also did well. The chorus had many strong moments. Zoe Nicolaidou was a perfectly sprightly Amore. Yun Jung Choi (Eurydike) sounded pretty enough, and only had a few shrill moments. In the title role, Maria Riccarda Wessling had a nice clarity in her higher range, and some warmth. She had some frogginess a few of her lower notes.

* Tattling * 
There was whispering from the woman in B 1 at the beginning of scenes, even when the dancers were performing. Said person was concerned about seeing the stage, and asked that the person in A 1 not lean into the aisle as he was blocking her view.

Merola's Postcard from Morocco

Merola-postcard-from-morocco-2012* Notes * 
Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco was performed last night by the Merola Opera Program at Cowell Theater in San Francisco. This odd one act opera, which premiered in 1971, requires only ninety minutes, seven singers, and eight instrumentalists. The action takes place at a train station, and the waiting travelers all carry particular items, which they sing about but never show. The various scenes are entertainingly absurd, one uses a hula hoop, another a balloon animal. Directed here by Peter Kazaras, the production involves a lot of choreography from Melecio Estrella, which the singers all handle beautifully. The puppet show is particularly striking, as the puppets are worn on hats and manipulated by sticks. Kristi Johnson's costumes use ombré and colorful patterned cloth, and looked good against Nicholas Muni's sedate, neat set. The lighting, designed by Justin Partier, enhances the shifts in focus of the loose narrative.

The singing was strong. Bass-baritone Matthew Scollin was vaguely sinister as A Puppet Master, and funny as A Man with the Cornet Case. He is wonderfully expressive in his face and even did some cartwheels. Suzanne Rigden was a bright-toned Lady with a Hand Mirror. Joseph Lattanzi made for a slick shoe salesman and was hilarious with Andrew Stenson when they both played puppets. Lattanzi is an exceptionally good dancer. Stenson's tenor is rather pretty, and he juggled the roles of First Puppet, A Man with the Old Luggage, and An Operetta Singer with aplomb.

Carolyn Sproule made a clear distinction in both singing and posture when she played A Foreign Singer and A Lady with a Hat Box, the former being much more sultry, and the latter rather coy. As A Lady with a Cake Box, soprano Aviva Fortunata sang with much power. Her voice is robust and penetrating, but her quiet notes were loveliest. Tenor AJ Glueckert was most impressive as A Man with the Paint Box. His pleasantly brassy voice has volume without strain.

* Tattling * 
There was some light talking from the audience, perhaps because the opera is unusual and has no intermission.

Schwabacher Summer Concert 2012

The Rake's Progress - 2* Notes * 
The Schwabacher Summer Concert on Thursday started with a percussive and energetic overture from Roberto Devereux. The orchestra, conducted by Giuseppe Finzi, sounded together and strong. The singing began with a scene from Anna Bolena, the matching costumes in black and white were striking. On the other hand, the stark shadows used looked unintentional. It did become clear that this effect was purposeful as the lighting continued in the same manner all evening. Erin Johnson gave a fluttery performance as Giovanna Seymour, but has a lot of volume. Melinda Whittington had a piercing, metallic quality to her voice as Anna Bolena.

Tenor Chuanyue Wang's voice is pretty and open, with a particular reedy vibrato that seemed suited for the Faust of Boito's Mefistofele. Andrew Kroes was committed to the title role, sounding threatening, if not a little creaky. Elizabeth Baldwin has warmth to her soprano and a lot of power. Her costume was unflattering, being sleeveless, and having many layers of dirty-looking fabric. It did, however, make a certain amount of sense given the scene depicted.

The excerpt from Act III of La Jolie Fille de Perth was incomprehensible, involving lots of chairs. Normally I enjoy director Roy Rallo's inventiveness, but here the singers seemed like reveling zombies wandering on the stage. Joshua Baum (Le Duc de Rothsay) sounded drily husk-like, while Yi Li (Henri Smith) was distinctly warmer and more plaintive. Seth Mease Carico (Un ouvier) and Hadleigh Adams (Ralph) also contrasted well, the latter having an opportunity to display both anger and despair. Carico rasps somewhat, but not unpleasantly. Adams sounds smoother.

The scenes from The Rake's Progress came off best, Joshua Baum sounded sweet as Tom Rakewell and Seth Mease Carico was a robust, unctuous Nick Shadow. Elizabeth Baldwin (Anne Trulove) sang searing high notes.

* Tattling * 
The audience was attentive and quiet. A chair was knocked over during the Bizet.

Auditions for the General Director 2012

Merola-general-director-auditions-2012.jpg* Notes *
The Auditions for the General Director of San Francisco Opera occurred last night after the this season's last performance of Attila. The twenty-three singers in the Merola Opera Program performed, each accompanied by one of five apprentice coaches. This year there are many talented tenors. Many Mozart arias were heard.

Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino, tenor AJ Glueckert, mezzo-soprano Erin Johnson, soprano Rose Sawvel, soprano Elizabeth Baldwin, tenor Chuanyue Wang, mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko, soprano Jennifer Cherest, and bass-baritone Hadleigh Adams were called back.

David Gockley seemed most enthused about tenors Yi Li, Andrew Stenson, and Chuanyue Wang. Li sang "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Werther, Stenson sang "Di rigori armato" from Der Rosenkavalier, and Wang sang "La mia letizia infondere...Come poteva un angelo" from I Lombardi alla prima crociata and "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from Die Zauberflöte.