* Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's second opera this year is The Rake's Progress, performed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on August 2 and 4. The singers (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) gamely performed this challenging music in a sleek Baroque meets modern production that suits Stravinsky's music.
The stage is clean and elegant, a simple white wall with five doors topped with pediments, a raised platform in front, some space on the sides for chairs and the chorus. The costumes matched. I especially loved Anne Trulove's outfit, a navy dress with bright blue accents in the shape of a Baroque gown, but no frills and a short hem, worn with sturdy brown boots. The chorus members had many different outfits for their many roles, there was a lot of drag, both for men and women. Scene changes are managed with props, especially inventive was the use of a huge doll house, which is the conveyance for Baba the Turk in Act I and the stone/bread machine in Act II.
Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of big voices here. The chorus made up for its small size by being very loud and sang in a unified and cohesive manner. Even the smaller roles are excellently cast, tenor Addison Marlor really hammed it up as the auctioneer Sellem. He was very funny. Also hilarious is mezzo-soprano Anne Maguire as Baba the Turk. Her sound is very deep, almost gravelly, and she has the right self-possession for the role.
Soprano Meigui Zhang's wide-eyed Anne Trulove has a supple, gleaming sound. Tenor Christopher Oglesby is likewise fine as Tom, his voice is rich and warm without strain. Best of all though may have been baritone Jacob Scharfman as the villainous Nick Shadow. His voice and movements conveyed his dangerous nature, even when being very obsequious at first.
* Tattling *
It seemed that the audience was not clear on the libretto of the opera, because they seemed to clap at the wrong time more than once. This may have contributed to the Act I harpsichordist missing a cue, and also delayed the epilogue.