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Rigoletto at Opera San José

OSJ_Rigoletto_PhotoBy_DavidAllen_1114-scaled* Notes *
Rigoletto opened at Opera San José last weekend, but I attended the fourth performance, today's matinée. The opera was very moving.

Dan Wallace Miller's production has the title character with a large scar on the right side of his face, rather than a spinal deformity, while the Duke has pox on his left arm from syphilis. There are also a lot of books, the opening scene has Gilda sitting in the middle of the stage reading, books litter the space of Rigoletto's home, and the chorus is pretty gross and lascivious with one of Gilda's books in Act II. All of this is coherent and fits the narrative.

Jorge Parodi presided over an enthusiastic orchestra that occasionally was out of tune (the beginning of "Caro nome" definitely had an issue) but pleasantly buoyant. There were also a few times when the orchestra got ahead of the singers, but mostly in Act I.

The cast is rather large, the chorus sounded cohesive, and there were notable contributions from bass-baritone Philip Skinner as Count Monterone and soprano Abigail Bush as Countess Ceprano. The former had a palpable pathos and the latter an imperious dignity. I also very much appreciated the siblings Sparafucile and Maddalena,  bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam and mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti Luna, both were very convincing and their low, textured tones were a good contrast to the principal singers with higher voices.

Tenor Edward Graves was a dashing Duke, his bright voice has a lovely lightness. He was a little quiet with the chorus and the orchestra in Act I, but his "È il sol dell'anima" in Act II and "La donna è mobile" in Act III were both strong and pretty. Soprano Melissa Sondhi was sweet as Gilda, her sound can be very pure, though some of her high notes do seem somewhat strained. Her Act II "Caro nome" was beautiful. Best of all was baritone Eugene Brancoveanu (pictured in Act I, photograph by David Allen) as Rigoletto. His warm, round voice is utterly sympathetic, even when he's being cruelly funny as in Act I or unreasonably bent on revenge in the last scene. I was in tears as he discovers his dying daughter, Sondhi does very well here as well, and Brancoveanu's poignancy is undeniable.

*Tattling *
The couple in Row A Seats 2 and 4 did not like sitting next to the service dog with the people in Row A Seats 6 and 8, so they moved to Row B. They talked quite a bit at times, but I found was able to block them out by concentrating really hard on the music.

Worse though was the mobile phone that rang in the quiet part in the last scene right before Rigoletto sings Gilda's name.

I was sad to have to leave before the final ovation, but had to rush off right at 4:48pm right when the music ended, as my spouse needed to get to his own rehearsal by 6:30pm and our household only has one automobile.

SF Opera's 2024-2025 Season

WMOH9_JoelPuliattiSeptember 6–27 2024: Un ballo en maschera
September 14–October 1 2024: Poul Ruders' The Handmaid's Tale
October 19– November 1 2024: Tristan und Isolde
October 26 2024: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
November 13–December 1 2024: Carmen
June 3-21 2025: La bohème
June 14–25 2025 Idomeneo
June 27 2025: Pride Concert

San Francisco Opera's 102nd season was announced today. Only six operas will be presented in the 2024-2025 season, along with one performance of Beethoven's Ninth and a special Pride Concert.

Music Director Eun Sun Kim will conduct the Verdi, Wagner, and Beethoven this fall and returns for Mozart in 2025.

Press Release | Official Site

Erin Morley Recital

Cal-performances-erin-morley-credit-dario-acosta* Notes *
Soprano Erin Morley (pictured, photograph by Dario Acosta) sang a garden-inspired recital Cal Performances this afternoon. Accompanied by pianist Malcom Martineau, we heard a number of unusual pieces by famous composers.

Morley has a lucid toned soprano, she is very clear and precise without being boring. She began the performance with selections from Huit Chansons de Fleurs by Ricky Ian Gordon and then sang pieces by Bizet, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saëns, and Debussy. I particularly liked her rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Rose Enslaves the Nightingale," her voice has such beautiful colors in it. Her "Le Rossignol et la rose" by Saint-Saëns was also lovely, she can sound quite bird-like.

The second half of the performance featured songs in German and English. It was good to hear Zemlinsky's "Vöglein Schwermut" and Berg's "Die Nachtigall." Near the end, Morley gave a beautiful version of the traditional Irish song "The Last Rose of Summer." I found it really telling that despite not knowing most of these songs, and not bothering to grab the program with printed lyrics and translations, I was very much engaged. Morley made every word count and I felt I understood her without effort.

* Tattling *
A cell phone rang in the middle of the first set of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon.

Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring

Cal-performances-the-rite-of-spring-by-maarteen-vanden-abeele* Notes *
The Bay Area premiere of Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring was presented by Cal Performances last weekend at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. It was performed with common ground[s], a duet between Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo.

The duet, choreographed and performed by Acogny and Airaudo, was performed first. Both are septuagenarians. Acogny is the co-founder of École des Sables, a center for traditional and contemporary African dance in Toubab Dialao, Senegal and Airaudo was in Tanztheater Wuppertal from its founding in 1973. The piece is slow and sculptural, and has a meditative quality.

It was a contrast to The Rite of Spring, which featured 38 dancers (pictured, Maarten Vanden Abeele) chosen from across the African continent and has a relentlessness and intensity that is much more frenetic. The piece is done atop a pile of dirt, and the female dancers were white shift dresses that get stained over the course of the performance.

The dancers were clearly fully committed to the work, and the visceral, unprettiness of Stravinsky's music was manifested. It was startling to see all the dancers come together in a circle and throw themselves on the ground perfectly in unison, the sound of the bodies against the dirt was especially evocative. The soloists, Profit Lucky and Gloria Ugwarelojo Biachi both gave strong performances.

* Tattling *
The audience was mostly focused, many stayed in the hall as the stage was set. After the performance, someone came out with a hose to clean up afterward.

The recording used for Stravinsky's La Sacre Du Printemps was Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra.