* Notes *
A new production of Les Troyens (Act IV pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened this afternoon at San Francisco Opera. The orchestra sounded absolutely gorgeous under the direction of Maestro Donald Runnicles. The playing was fluent and cohesive. The strings sounded lovely and the woodwinds were wonderful.
The cast is magnificent. Soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci sounded utterly deranged as Cassandra and giving an effective, disturbing performance. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham had great appeal as Dido, her creamy voice is not as fresh as before, but it seems appropriate for the role. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (Anna) is vital. Her voice shows no hint of strain or effort.
Tenor Bryan Hymel made for a powerful Aeneas. His voice is bright and cuts through the orchestration. Baritone Brian Mulligan (Chorebus) sounded rich and warm. Tenor René Barbera (Iopas) sounded wonderful in his Act IV aria, as did tenor Chong Wang (Helenus, Hylas) in his Act V aria. The chorus was strong.
David McVicar's production is not particularly coherent but does not interfere with the music. The set is enormous yet moves quietly. Acts I, II, and V could have been set at Burning Man. Acts III and IV look more like an Orientalist painting. The juxtaposition of these two aesthetics is odd, as were the different styles of dance used for each of the ballets.
* Tattling *
The audience in the balcony was focused and quiet with the exception of a demonstrative, chatty couple sitting on one of the aisles in the the last row, house right. Thankfully it was easy enough to get away from them and they left after Act IV.