Peer Gynt at SFS
January 19, 2013
* Notes *
This week Michael Tilson Thomas conducts San Francisco Symphony in a multimedia production (actor Ben Huber as Peer Gynt and dancer Janice Lancaster Larsen as Ingrid pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) of Peer Gynt. The score included music by Edvard Grieg, Alfred Schnittke, and Robin Holloway. Holloway's Ocean Voyage was used in Part II Scene 3, and had a Wagnerian feel to it. It did seem disproportionally long compared to the other pieces.
The playing was slightly off-kilter at times in the first half, especially with some of the choral entrances. Nonetheless, the music gleamed eerily, and the chorus sounded particularly haunting in the second half. The violin and viola soli in Scene 2 of Part I were played beautifully.
Portillo was convincing as Åse, Peer's mother. Her speaking voice is
rich and dark. Soprano Joélle Harvey (Solveig) sounded sweet and pure.
Ben Huber's Peer Gynt was boyish and sprightly.
The production, directed and designed by James Darrah, made use of a sculptural scrim placed above the musicians. Adam Laresen's videos were, for the most part, tasteful and the shape of the scrim rendered the images more abstract. This did not work as well for projections of the human face, which became distorted in a cartoonish fashion. The use of the limited space, given the symphony on stage and the chorus in the Center Terrace, was artful.
* Tattling *
The microphones used were occasionally too loud, and emitted crackles and pops in the middle of Part I.