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The Nose at The Met

Met-opera-the-nose-2013* Notes * 
William Kentridge's 2010 production of The Nose (pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) at the Metropolitan Opera was revived on Saturday afternoon. The matinée performance was an utter delight. The combination of music, singing, animation, set, and choreography all came together wonderfully. Performed without an intermission, the intensity of the proceedings is impressive. The only real problem was that Valery Gergiev had the orchestra playing a bit too loudly for some of the singers. The tempi seemed brisk.

The ensemble and choral singing were particularly strong. Ying Fang sounded lovely in the last scene of Act I as the female soloist at Kazan Cathedral. Alexander Lewis makes for a sprightly Nose, his voice is bright. Andrei Popov also has wonderful command of his choreography as the Police Inspector and projected nicely. Paulo Szot's voice is not quite incisive enough to cut through heavy orchestration but his general demeanor as Kovalyov is sympathetic and warm.

* Tattling * 
This is the first opera at the Met since 2006 that I have attended in a regular seat, so not standing or at a score desk. Unfortunately the two people next to me in Row N of the orchestra level arrived at 1:07pm and left right when the music ended, not convenient since they were not on the aisle. I suspect they were associated with the production, which would be rather shameful, given that the man in N 116 had an iPhone that rang twice. Once was at the end of the Kazan Cathedral scene where Kovalyov confronts The Nose, and the other time was during the entr'acte before the balalaika scene.

West Edge Opera's Vanessa

West-edge-opera-vanessa-2013* Notes *
West Edge Opera performed Vanessa (Marie Plette as Vanessa and Nikola Printz as Erika pictured left, photograph by Jeremy Knight) last weekend on Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Thrust Stage. The space is quite intimate and this gave the performances a special sort of immediacy. Musically, this was gratifying, but seeing the safety pins or rips in ill-fitting costumes was less welcome.

The production was fairly simple given that the singers shared the stage with the orchestra. The latter sounded quite bold under the direction of Maestro Jonathan Khuner. The chorus, Chora Nova, sounded lovely.

Most of the singing was good. Philip Skinner is an excellent performer, and his amusing mannerisms and warmth worked well for the Doctor. Malin Fritz (Baroness) has wonderful facial expressions. Nikola Printz sang a convincing Erika. Her dresses were most awkward and one wished she had covered the tattoo on her inner left arm. Likewise, Jonathan Boyd (Anatol) should have taken off his wedding band for Sunday's performance. Boyd has a bright sound, and only seemed strained on two or three occasions. Marie Plette sang the title role with a certain fierceness yet vulnerability. Her voice is icy.

* Tattling *
Because West Edge Opera can no longer afford the space at El Cerrito High School, I felt that I should get a VIP seat to express my support of the company. Unfortunately, because of certain inconsiderate people and the open seating policy, I had to move two times. Perhaps because I appear small, large people often choose to sit next to me. This is fine if I am not compelled to compress myself in order not to be in contact with them. Both people in question happily had their elbows in my ribs so that I was intimidated out of my seat twice.

SF Opera's Dolores Claiborne Media Round-Up

Sf-opera-dolores-claiborne-ferry-2013Production Web Site | SF Opera's Blog

So far, the reviews of San Francisco Opera's Dolores Claiborne (Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne on the Little Tall Island ferry pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) are not impressive.

Performance Reviews: Financial Times | Los Angeles Times | New York Times | San Francisco Chronicle (Racette) | San Francisco Chronicle (Cook) | San Francisco Classical Voice | San Francisco Examiner

World Premiere of Dolores Claiborne

Sf-opera-dolores-claiborne-2013* Notes * 
Tobias Picker's Dolores Claiborne (Act I Scene 3 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) had a world premiere at San Francisco Opera on Wednesday night. The opera is compelling. The narrative, based on Stephen King's novel, is rather dark. Picker's music is ornate, there are many twists and turns in the musical line, and many duets, trios, and ensembles. Though the music is lyrical, it eschews sentimentality. J.D. McClatchy's libretto is neither cloying nor awkward, and has a refreshing directness.
The tiered set is cinematic, the many scenes flow easily, and though there are projections, they do not dominate the production.

George Manahan kept the orchestra together. The singers were all able to float above the sound of the orchestra. The chorus sounded characteristically good.

The opera features many female voices. Patricia Racette was fairly strong, though much of the singing seemed a bit lower in her tessitura than we are accustomed to hearing. Susannah Biller sounded clear and bright as Selena St. George. Elizabeth Futral sounded harsh and shrill as Vera Donovan, which was extremely effective for this role.

Wayne Tigges was an utterly alarming Joe St. George, his voice is pretty but his music is disquieting. Jacqueline Piccolino, Nikki Einfeld, Marina Harris, Laura Krumm, and Renée Rapier did a fine job as Vera Donovan's other maids. Robert Watson, Hadleigh Adams, and A.J. Glueckert were amusing as Cox, Fox, and Knox.

There were some opening night difficulties, which are sure to be ironed out in the coming weeks. Some of the singing did not seem precisely together. At one point in the ferry scene (Act I Scene 5) Selena angrily asks her mother to let her go, but Racette had not yet grabbed on to Biller's arm.

* Tattling * 
There was lot of clapping between scenes, even if music was clearly still being played.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was Mr. Picker's guest. Her security detail sat at the very back of the orchestra level and the railing behind them was cordoned off from standees.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Dolores Claiborne

Dolores-claiborne-racette-promo* Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Dolores Claiborne (Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne pictured left, photograph by Scott Wall) was held this afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House. The pacing of Tobias Picker's music is good, the drama does not lag, and J.D. McClatchy's libretto is much less clumsy than other recent contemporary commissions by San Francisco Opera. The orchestra sounds fine, as do the singers. The staging is particularly impressive as well. Catherine Cook sang the title role, while Patricia Racette did all of the acting on stage. This was a little surreal, especially when the assistant stage director was visible, carefully watching Racette's every move and giving her notes.

* Tattling *
Arriving two hours before curtain was overkill and I was alone by the north doors for a very long time.

SF Opera's Mefistofele

Sfopera-mefistofele-2013* Notes * 
Robert Carsen's 1989 production of Mefistofele (Act II pictured left with Ildar Abdrazakov as Mefistofele and the San Francisco Opera Chorus, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened the 91st season of San Francisco Opera last night. The opera is rather droll, and Carsen's treatment is bursting with color and activity. The scenes do not flow nicely into each other, and the curtain is brought down for several uncomfortable pauses as the set is rearranged. This encourages restlessness, and Music Director Nicola Luisotti was visibly and vocally annoyed at one point, as the audience was not quiet enough to begin Act III.

Luisotti conducted a bright and vibrant orchestra. The brass was clear save for perhaps one stray note in Act I Scene 1. The two harps were played beautifully. In the beginning the chorus was occasionally off from the orchestra, but sounded more cohesive as the performance progressed.

Patricia Racette sounded as robust as ever as Margherita and Elena. At times her wobbling is pronounced, but this is effective in Act III, when the imprisoned Margherita dies. Her duet as Elena with Pantalis (Renée Rapier) was lovely. In contrast, Ramón Vargas (Faust) was sounding particularly thin and reedy. This was especially noticeable in his first scene with Chuanyue Wang as Wagner, as Wang has a fresh, rich sound. Ildar Abdrazakov is a convincing Mefistofele, his physicality is appropriate for the role. His singing is perfectly fine with some warmth and good volume, but his voice is not exceptionally impressive.

* Tattling * 
As is customary for Opening Night, the proceedings started a bit late and began with a slightly less awkward than usual welcome from the General Director, President, and Chairman of the Board. Photographs were taken during the performance, and there were the usual talking and electronic disturbances.