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Luisotti Conducts Verdi's Requiem

Luisotti-baton* Notes * 
Last night Nicola Luisotti conducted Verdi's Messa da Requiem at the War Memorial Opera House with the combined orchestras and choruses of Real Teatro di San Carlo and San Francisco Opera. The volume was occasionally deafening, especially the repeated part when the chorus sings "Dies irae" and the trumpets play. The piece felt a bit chaotic, but there were lovely moments, as with the bassoons.

The soloists had to sing with a lot of power to be heard. Vitalij Kowaljow sounded grave and authoritative. Michael Fabiano was strong and bright. Margaret Mezzacappa's voice could have been richer, she sounds rather soprano-like in this work. Leah Crocetto sounded celestial and well-supported, and sang beautifully with the chorus in the "Libera me."

* Tattling * 
The War Memorial was completely full; the stage, seats, and standing room areas seemed at capacity. The mayor of San Francisco, Edwin Lee, gave a halting speech before the performance, while Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris gave a more fluid one, translated by the Consul General of Italy, San Francisco, Mauro Battocchi. Someone in one of the choruses took a flash photograph of the scene.

The audience on the orchestra level was rather silent and still. The ushers, who had no place to sit, felt it was appropriate to talk to each other during the music.

SF Opera's Der Fliegende Holländer

Sf-opera-hollaender-act-3-2013* Notes * 
A co-production of Der fliegende Holländer (Greer Grimsley as the Dutchman and Lise Lindstrom as Senta pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) with Opéra Royal de Wallonie opened yesterday at San Francisco Opera.

Petrika Ionesco designed the set and was to have directed as well, but it seems that he was asked to leave, and as I understand it, the whole thing was re-staged in the last week or so. The result is rather tame, and does not include space ships, planets, and aliens that one may have heard about or even hoped for. More importantly, the cast is quite strong and the playing is clear and smooth. Maestro Patrick Summers was characteristically able in in his conducting, keeping the orchestra at an even clip and a sensible volume. The chorus sounded nice.

A.J. Glueckert made for a fine Steuermann, his voice is bright and unstrained. Ian Storey sounded pained as Erik. Kristinn Sigmundsson seemed an ideal Daland, singing with much warmth. Lise Lindstrom's San Francisco Opera debut went splendidly. Her Senta is sympathetic, her voice conveys emotion without being ugly. Likewise, Greer Grimsley sang the title role with feeling. He seemed tortured as appropriate for the Holländer, but his voice did not sound overtaxed.

* Tattling * 
Standing room attendance more robust than for Falstaff. I arrived a bit after 7pm and had Standing Room Ticket 59.

The last row of the balcony was more or less empty, so a middle-aged woman in a short skirt climbed over from the second to last row to place herself unfortunately close to me. This revolting person ate some sort of Patina treat in cellophane during Act II, flicking the crumbs onto the floor. She took off her boots and placed her stockinged feet on an empty seat in front of her.

SF Opera's Falstaff

Falstaff-terfel-arteta * Notes * 
Lyric Opera of Chicago's current production of Falstaff (Act II, Scene 2 pictured left with Ainhoa Arteta as Alice Ford and Bryn Terfel as Sir John Falstaff, photograph by Cory Weaver) had an opening performance at San Francisco Opera yesterday. The set, from Frank Philipp Schlössmann, is a bit like a pop-up book made of wood. The pauses between scenes are fairly minimal. Maestro Nicola Luisotti had the orchestra sounding robust and lush. There were times when the singing was lost, this was especially evident at the end of Act I, when the male and female ensembles share the stage.

There was much fine singing all around. Joel Sorensen is a hysterical, mincing Dr. Caius. Greg Fedderly (Bardolfo) and Andrea Silvestrelli (Pistola) sounded great and are wonderful actors. Fabio Capitanucci had some nice moments as Ford, though his voice occasionally was overwhelmed by the orchestra. Francesco Demuro sounded reedy and youthful as Fenton, and only had a bit of strain in some of his higher notes.

Renée Rapier is a charming Meg Page, and Meredith Arwady a very funny and rich-voiced Dame Quickly. Heidi Stober is perfectly adorable as Nanetta and sings with a warm brightness. Ainhoa Arteta sparkled as Alice Ford, her icy, brilliant voice is never harsh.

Despite the rather even cast, Bryn Terfel is the clear star of the show. Not only did he embody the title character in all his movements, but his voice is simply a marvel. He sang with velvety warmth but also buoyant lightness when appropriate.

* Tattling * 
Standing room attendance was sparse. I arrived at 7:15pm and had Standing Room Ticket 19.

There was much use of mobile phones during the pauses between scenes. It seems that young people do not take the announcement to turn off electronic devices seriously. That said, I did not hear any rings or alerts at the back of the balcony.

New Music at the Met 2013

Lincoln_Center_TwilightThe Metropolitan Opera has announced the addition of three new composers to its Met/LCT New Works Program: Matthew Aucoin, David T. Little, and Joshua Schmidt. Two new premieres were also announced, namely Thomas Adès' The Exterminating Angel, to be seen in the 2017-18 season and Osvaldo Golijov's adaptation of the Euripides play Iphigenia in Aulis, which premieres in the 2018-19 season. Other contemporary works to be seen soon at the Met include John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer in the 2014-15 season and Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin in the 2016-17 season.

Pergolesi's Stabat Mater at PBO

Carolyn_Sampson_cr_Marco_Borggreve* Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2013-2014 season opened with a set of performances entitled "Pergolesi in Naples." The San Francisco performance was held at the SFJAZZ Center, which has an intimate feel and a dry, crackly acoustic. Maestro Nicholas McGegan described Pergolesi's Sinfonia from L'Olimpiade as having "vim and spritz," the Händel duets and arias as being "jolly and miserable" in turn, Durante's Concerto for Strings No. 2 in G minor as "chromatic and slithery," and explained that Pergolesi wrote his Stabat Mater just before he died at the age of 26. The playing sounded a bit harsher and less resonant in this venue compared to the Herbst Theatre or First Congregational, but is a far more comfortable than the former as far as seating and air flow. McGegan has his own very distinctive cheerful style and the orchestra still sounded jaunty and lilting.

I enjoyed hearing the Händel played by this orchestra, as there was never a dull moment. Though I know the pieces quite well, having heard Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare live on multiple occasions, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra brought a certain freshness to them. Soprano Carolyn Sampson (pictured above, photograph by Marco Borggreve) and countertenor David Daniels blended nicely in "Io t'abbraccio." They clearly listened to each other. Daniels sounded fairly hearty in this space, and did not have to employ much vibrato. Sampson was delightful in "Da tempeste," and it would be great to hear her sing the entire role of Cleopatra. Her voice has a sultry warmth but sparkling high notes.

The Stabat Mater was exuberant, the light music is mostly happy with a few moments of seriousness, and then rather triumphant. The orchestra never overwhelmed the singers. The singing went smoothly.

* Tattling * 
One of the ushers behind us in Row M seemed to speak at full-volume even when musicians were playing quietly. There was also some sort of incident with a microphone during the Presto of Durante's Concerto.

2014 Adler Fellows

2013-Adler-group-photoThe incoming 2014 Adler Fellows are Maria Valdes, Zanda Švēde, Pene Pati, Efraín Solís, and Noah Lindquist. They join current Adlers (pictured left) Erin Johnson, Jacqueline Piccolino, A.J. Glueckert, Chuanyue Wang, Hadleigh Adams, and Philippe Sly. The outgoing 2013 Adler Fellows are soprano Marina Harris, mezzo-sopranos Laura Krumm and Renée Rapier, baritone Ao Li, bass-baritone Joo Won Kang, and coach and accompanist Robert Mollicone.

Press Release | Official Site