SF Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice
November 19, 2022
* Notes *
Matthew Ozawa's beautiful new production of Orfeo ed Euridice (Act III pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera last week. I attended the second performance last night, and the debuts of Maestro Peter Whelan and countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński as Orfeo were both impressive.
The musicians were laid out in quite an interesting way, with the horns next to the bassoons in the last row close to the prompter's box. The flutes and oboes were just ahead of them, and the clarinet was off to the side, where the basses usually are. Whelan's conducting was crisp but not metronomic. The woodwinds and harp were especially lovely.
The unfussy set, designed by Alexander V. Nichols, was essentially a turntable with projections, which are apparently of brain images. There are swings, making good use of the vertical space without having to take any pauses to switch the scenes. There are also 3 pairs of dancers, meant to represent the title couple in different stages of their life together. Rena Butler's choreography felt comfortingly familiar to me, it was sculptural without being static, and there was athleticism and acrobatics but also elegance. Jessica Jahn's costumes in warm shades for Orfeo and cool tones for Euridice were likewise tasteful, in keeping with the classical plot.
The chorus sounded powerful and together throughout the piece, they supported the principals without overwhelming them and negotiated the spinning set with ease. The principals are all clearly talented. I very much enjoyed the humor-infused performance of soprano Nicole Heaston (pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) as Amore. Heaston sang with rich warmth and was charming.
The icier sound of soprano Meigui Zhang was suitable for Euridice. Her voice is clean and graceful, though perhaps not very distinctive, it did contrast with both of the others. Zhang did well with the dancing and did not look out of place among the dancers.
The same could be said of Orliński, the piece opens with him doing handstands and leaps during the overture. I was a little shocked to hear his voice, I had thought he was one of the dancers. His sound is strong and clear, very smooth throughout his range. His "Che farò senza Euridice?" was filled with pathos and very moving.
* Tattling *
This was part of my subscription, and I loved peering at the orchestra from Box X. I was a bit concerned about the trio of chatty young men in Box Y, but they were very much into the opera and didn't say a word during the 90 minute performance.
In fact, I had such a nice experience, without talking, coughing, mobile phones, or watch alarms, that I'm a bit hesitant to attend this opera again, I'd like to hold on to this pleasant memory. But I will be there at least twice more, as this opera is rare and San Francisco Opera has only performed it in one other season.