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West Edge Opera's Lulu and As One

West-edge-lulu-2015* Notes *
My review of West Edge Opera's Lulu and As One is on KQED Arts.

The singing was all very strong, especially the leads. I don't focus on the voices in the review, but feel I should mention here that Brenda Patterson (Hannah After in As One) has unreal abilities, she did not seem to need to breathe.

* Tattling *
Neither venue was well-ventilated, but the Oakland Metro was worse. The woman behind me in Row B had a spray bottle and a lint brush that she used during the performance.

Merola's The Medium and Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi 3* Notes * 
The Merola Opera Program recently returned to Cowell Theater with a double-bill of The Medium and Gianni Schicchi. Directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by Mark Morash, the Saturday afternoon performance was engaging and energetic.

The Medium is a stark, tense work, and Donald Eastman's simple scenery was enhanced by the Kazaras' straightforward direction. The set is two full walls arranged at angles from an upstage platform with a curtained scrim above it. A few solid pieces of furniture and pretty period costumes completed the ambiance, letting the singers shine.

Mezzo-soprano Nicole Woodward was impressively unhinged as Madame Flora (Baba). Her voice is rich. Soprano Madison Leonard made for a devastating Monica, her resonant sound has bite without being harsh. Soprano Kathryn Bowden (Mrs. Gobineau), bass-baritone Austin Siebert (Mr. Gobineau), mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon as Mrs. Nolan sang well together. Alasdair Kent did a fine job as Toby, a mute role. His movements were convincing and he was unrecognizable when he reappeared as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi.

Gianni Schicchi (pictured above, photograph by Kristen Loken) happens in essentially the same space, but with the full walls pushed further from the center to make room for Buoso Donati's bedroom. The platform is now a terrace with patio furniture and a bird cage. Baritone Kihun Yoon fully embodied the title role. His voice is strong, with some grit to it. His stage presence is superb. His charisma was palpable from the very moment he stepped on stage.

The others did not perfectly match Yoon, but made fine efforts. Soprano Cree Carrico sang Lauretta prettily, and her big aria ("O mio babbino caro") went nicely. Christopher Bozeka (Rinuccio) sounded bright and pleasant. Kathryn Bowden (Nella), Ashley Dixon (Ciesca) and Tara Curtis (Zita) sang beautifully together as they veiled Yoon changing into Donati's clothes.

As the orchestra is on the same level as the audience, and Cowell is small, the music was loud. All the singers have a ton of volume, so by the time the matinée was over, my ears were ringing. Though not the most subtle of performances, it was certainly gripping.

* Tattling * 
I gave myself an hour and forty minutes to make it the 17.3 miles to the venue from my abode. Unfortunately it took me two hours, so I missed much of Act I of The Medium. The staff at Merola and Cowell were helpful and kind. Next time I will plan for lunch in the Marina.

Nadine Sierra at Festival del Sole

Nadine_Sierra_1We have Last Chinese Unicorn as a special guest on The Opera Tattler, as she encountered an impressively ill-behaved audience member at Nadine Sierra's concert at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole on Friday, July 17.

* Notes * 
A review of the performance is posted on GBOpera.

* Tattling * 
The person next to me in Row M Seat 8 takes the cake for being the most badly behaved audience member of all time. After the first song he rushes out to refill his glass of wine, then runs back to his seat, but not before stomping on my foot. Several times during the performance he raised his phone blatantly over his head to take photos and even videos. When the pianist or singer were speaking to the audience to introduce a new set, he would make loud, obnoxious remarks as though he were having a conversation with them. But the pièce de résistance of his string of bad behaviors happened when he played his recording of Sierra back at full volume, all 15 seconds of it, while she was still singing on stage. I guess he really wanted a duet.

SF Opera Sweeney Todd Casting Changes

03--Sweeney-Todd_Marie-Noelle-Robert-Theatre-du-ChateletBaritone Gerald Finley, who was to perform the title role of Sweeney Todd (pictured left, photograph courtesy of Marie-Noëlle Robert/Théâtre du Châtelet) at San Francisco Opera, has withdrawn from the production in order to be at home in Great Britain with his wife for the expected birth of their child in mid-September. Brian Mulligan replaces him.

Sweeney Todd | San Francisco Opera Press Release

Festival Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos

Festival-opera-ariadne-2015* Notes *
My review of Festival Opera's Ariadne auf Naxos is on San Francisco Classical Voice.

* Tattling *
It did not seem appropriate to mention this in a review, but at this performance I realized that Richard Strauss' music really does make me feel a little queasy. I also got an inkling of why not everyone likes bird-like high voices, but only for a few seconds.

The English translation of the Prologue was amusing and I especially liked it when Zerbinetta says "Opera is easy if you just pay attention."