Angela Gheorghiu

Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca at SF Opera

Tosca-sfopera-gheorghiu-2012* Notes * 
Angela Gheorghiu (pictured left in Act II, photograph by Cory Weaver) sang her fourth complete performance of Tosca at San Francisco Opera last night. Gheorghiu's voice seems a bit thin for the role, though her sound does have a lovely, silvery quality. Gheorghiu looks stunning in the various costumes, but perhaps her acting relies too heavily on her personal beauty. Her jump at the end was particularly lackluster. The audience seemed to adore her regardless.

Massimo Giordano's Cavaradossi was more solid than before, his voice is pretty and reedy. Somehow he did not inspire ovation for "E lucevan le stelle," though he did not sing badly. The duet in Act III between Giordano and Gheorghiu went rather awry. Roberto Frontali continued to impress as Scarpia. Maestro Luisotti had the orchestra were more synchronized with the singers, and overwhelmed them less than before.

* Tattling * 
The house looked quite full, at least on the Orchestra, Box, and Grand Tier levels.

Melody Moore as Tosca at SF Opera

Tosca-sfopera-moore-2012* Notes * 
Last night's opening of Tosca at San Francisco Opera was rather more exciting than expected, given that the 1997 production has been revived three times before. As Tosca, Angela Gheorghiu sang Act I a bit quietly, and was often not with the orchestra. Before Act II, General Director David Gockley announced that Gheorghiu had a bout of intestinal distress and nausea at intermission and was going to the hospital. The cover, Melody Moore (pictured above in Act II, photograph by Kristen Loken), was getting into costume, and Gockley begged our indulgence. All things considered, Moore did an excellent job. Her voice sounds icier in this role than others, which is not inappropriate. Her lower register has a lovely vibrancy, in stark contrast to Gheorghiu.

As for the rest of the cast, Massimo Giordano (Cavaradossi) has warm plaintiveness, but did not always sound secure. His portrayal did not have much nuance, but he certainly did project well. Roberto Frontali sang a threatening Scarpia with grit and power. Christian van Horn sounded robust as Angelotti and Dale Travis delivered a comic Sacristan. Joel Sorensen was completely committed to his role of Spoletta, and the spill he took trying to catch up with Moore at the end looked very realistic.

Maestro Luisotti had the orchestra sounding strong, and there was never a lax moment. The clarinet solo that introduces "E lucevan le stelle" was particularly beautiful. The strings also sounded lovely.

* Tattling * 
Cellular phone alarm went off twice during Act I, once toward the end of the duet between Tosca and Cavaradossi and once near the end of the act. A latecomer brusquely yelled "excuse me" into my ear and pushed herself between me and another standee, right at the end of Act I, just before the alarm went off. Her arm was touching mine, so I gently rested against her. I figured she wanted so very much to be near someone else, I might as well oblige her.

According to a statement issued by San Francisco Opera today, Gheorghiu was feeling ill during Act I. Tests at the hospital revealed that she was severely dehydrated. Gheorghiu is now resting up and feeling better. She expects to perform on Sunday, November 18, as scheduled.

Opening of La Bohème

La-boheme-gheorghiu   * Notes *
La Bohème opened yesterday afternoon at San Francisco Opera with incoming music director Nicola Luisotti conducting. His tempi were quite elastic, though even when he drew out parts, they did not sound sluggish in the least. The singing was all fine, even wobbly Norah Ansellem (Musetta) managed to be convincing, though her high notes were not pretty. Oren Gradus sang Colline's "Vecchia zimarra" beautifully. Quinn Kelsey did well as Marcello, his warm tones were lovely, though his voice was noticeably louder than the others. Piotr Beczala's Rodolfo sounded vulnerable, particularly in "Che gelida manina." I found the big star of the performance, Angela Gheorghiu, a bit difficult to hear over the orchestra at times. When audible, her voice can be sublime, and she does sound better in this than in La Rondine last season.

I did not actually watch this first performance, so I have little to say about the production. The set and costumes are standard fare for Bohème, everything looks as one would expect.

* Tattling * 
It has been a long time since an opera performance was ruined for me, and given that I go so often, it was bound to happen. Everything was going well in balcony standing room for the first 2 hours and 40 minutes, no latecomers tried to speak to me, no one's cellular phones or watch alarms could be heard, and so forth. Then in the last five minutes, two middle aged men started talking aloud right next to me. One had complained of feeling faint, and so, like me, was sitting in the back. His friend apparently had grown tired of standing room as well, and they could not be quiet, they even giggled as Mimi died. Usually when the last notes of the piece ring out, I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach, and some part of my brain is highly annoyed at Puccini for being so manipulative. This time though, these couple of cretins managed to destroy that effect. Even the sing-along woman at SF Lyric was not able to do that!

Final Dress Rehearsal of La Bohème

  * Notes *
The latest revival of La Bohème at San Francisco Opera may be very good indeed, if the final dress rehearsal was any indication. Though I am not crazy about La Gheorghiu, all the signs are good, she may well look and sound completely convincing as Mimi by the opening on Sunday. The rest of the cast is strong, so I actually do look forward to the upcoming performances.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the Grand Tier was quite enthused. I especially enjoyed overhearing that Gheorghiu is "like a cross between one of the muppets and Judy Garland."

Nicola Luisotti had a white sweater draped dashingly over a navy blue shirt that he removed each time he was to actually conduct. It was difficult not to giggle at this.

Gheorghiu Recital at Zellerbach

Gheorghiu * Notes *
Soprano Angela Gheorghiu gave a recital yesterday evening with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by Marco Armiliato. The orchestra sounded fine, the overture to Le Nozze was spirited, and the overture to Cenerentola was absolutely adorable. However, Gheorghiu was overwhelmed by the orchestra, especially near the end. Though one could always hear her voice, the words were simply lost.

Unsurprisingly, the recital was not unlike the one at Los Angeles Opera from last year. Many of the pieces were exactly the same, and Gheorghiu is very consistent, if nothing else. She has the most perfect restraint, a beautiful control of her voice, and it is too bad she is not singing Amelia in the current production of Simon Boccanegra at San Francisco Opera. She started the concert with Giordani's Caro mio ben, which she sang with ease and delicacy. Next came two big Puccini arias, the one from Rondine that we all heard from her last season and "Un bel di." The former she sang in pretty much exactly the same way as she did on stage last year, evidently one of her trademark gestures is to extend an arm above her head at the end of a piece. The Butterfly aria was less convincing, Gheorghiu sang it cleanly and well, but without passion. The first half ended, however, on a high note, with a piercing rendition of "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from La Forza.

The second half consisted of songs rather than arias, some of these were sung nicely, and others were simply not appropriate for Gheorghiu's voice. For example, she sang Les Filles de Cadiz well, but sounded foolish singing "I Could Have Danced All Night." Gheorghiu must really like the latter piece, for she attempted it in Los Angeles as well. Unfortunately, it does not show off her talents and one could not make out the lyrics over the orchestra. Despite this, the audience clapped enthusiastically, and Gheorghiu gave three encores. She sang "O mio babbino caro" and two art songs (as far as style, one sounded Cuban, the other Spanish).

* Tattling * 
The audience loved Gheorghiu, and was much more excited than the opening night crowd at the opera. There was whispering and at least three watch alarms, but no cellular phones rang. Gheorghiu had three costume changes, and she certainly is easy on the eyes. Her first dress, a white sleeveless flowing number with silver sequins at the top, would have looked better if it had been fitted at the waist. The second dress was either black or navy and had a fishtail skirt, an open back, and cap sleeves. The red satin gown at the end was most flattering, though the transparent back with silver sequined details probably should not have been hidden under Gheorghiu's loose hair. One was a bit concerned that Ms. Gheorghiu did not have enough support in any of these gowns.

Bayerische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo

Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.

New Productions for 2008-2009 | Official Site

Deutsche Oper Berlin's 2008-2009 Season

September 13 2008- July 2 2009: Turandot
September 14 2008- March 22 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
September 15-27 2008: Rigoletto
September 20 2008: L'Amico Fritz
September 21 2008- May 2 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 30- October 8 2008: Pique Dame
October 1-5 2008: The Nose
October 2-7 2008: Chowanschtschina
October 3 2008 - February 15 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
October 22-31 2008: Manon Lescaut
October 30- November 6 2008: Lohengrin
November 20 2008- May 8 2009: La Traviata
November 28 2008- April 12 2009: Aida
November 30 2008- May 31 2009: Tannhäuser
December 8 2008- February 12 2009: Daphne
December 13 2008- March 11 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
December 14-28 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- January 9 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
December 18 2008- January 4 2009: La Bohème
January 7- June 24 2009: Tosca
January 18- February 14 2009: Die Ägyptische Helena
January 25- February 10 2009: Salome
January 28- February 13 2009: Cassandra / Elektra
February 8-27 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 8- July 3 2009: Carmen
March 13- April 25 2009: Un Ballo in Maschera
March 26- April 4 2009:
Andrea Chenier
April 9-24 2009: Marie Victoire
April 30- May 9 2009: Eugene Onegin
May 20- June 2 2009: La Cenerentola
May 26- June 18 2009: Der Freischütz
May 27- June 6 2009: Madama Butterfly
June 10-21 2009: Tristan und Isolde
June 17-25 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 26- July 4 2009: Tiefland

Valery Gergiev conducts Pique Dame, The Nose, Chowanschtschina. Bo Skovhus sings the title role of Eugene Onegin. Roberto Alagna sings Fritz in L'Amico Fritz, with Angela Gheorghiu as Suzel. Gheorghiu returns in May for La Traviata, and in June for Tosca. Angelika Kirchschlager sings the title role of Carmen and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Nancy Gustafson sings the Feldmarschallin in the latter, but only in December. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the March performances of Lucia, opposite of Burcu Uyar and Elena Mosuc, who share the title role with Ruth Ann Swenson.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site

SF Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 5-27 2008: Simon Boccanegra
September 6 2008: Angela Gheorghiu in Concert
September 13- October 3 2008: The Bonesetter's Daughter
September 23- October 12 2008: Die Tote Stadt
October 15-31 2008: Idomeneo
October 15-November 15 2008: Boris Godunov
October 29- November 26 2008: L'Elisir d'Amore
November 16- December 7 2008: La Bohème
December 11-14 2008: Three Decembers
January 10, 2009: Salvatore Licitra in Concert
May 29 2009: Verdi's Requiem
June 2-26 2009: Tosca
June 9-27 2009: Porgy and Bess
June 13- July 5 2009: La Traviata

San Francisco Opera's "Grand and Glorious" 86th season was revealed today, there are 78 performances of 11 operas, running from September 5, 2008 to July 5, 2009. Many big names this year, as promised. Angela Gheorghiu returns in La Bohème, Anna Netrebko in La Traviata, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Simon Boccanegra for the first time since he sang Germont in 2004. Samuel Ramey will sing in the title role of Boris Godunov and Frederica von Stade stars in the West Coast premiere of Three Decembers.

Another world premiere this year, no Baroque opera, three operas in English, none in French, but finally an opera in Russian. Inva Mula, the voice of the blue space alien singing Lucia di Lammermoor in The Fifth Element, will have her SF Opera debut as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore. She sings opposite of Ramón Vargas.

I am most looking forward to Kurt Streit and Alice Coote in Idomeneo. I am glad to see that Joseph Calleja is having his San Francisco Opera debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème.

Summer of 2009 will be the first time in three years that I won't feel compelled to spend every spare moment at the War Memorial Opera House. I have seen the Mansouri/Bosquet Tosca several times, though I do find this opera to be one of my favorites by Puccini. Porgy and Bess is intriguing, but I doubt I'll become obsessed. Though La Traviata will be great, and I'm glad it is a new production (from Los Angeles Opera), I am not holding my breath either. Puccini, Gershwin, and Verdi will get people into the opera house, but I'd rather hear Mozart, Gluck, or Händel.

However, perhaps I should go to Bayreuth in 2009, since I will have the time. It is interesting that there will be such a large gap between the San Francisco Opera this production of Das Rheingold and whole Ring Cycle, which is slated for 2011. I had complained about too many Rings, given that LA and Seattle both have them on the schedule for next year. It was reported that Donald Runnicles would end his tenure as music director here with the Ring, just has he began his career here.

Press Release [PDF] | Season Brochure [PDF] | 2008-2009 Official Site | Examiner Article

Speculation on SF Opera's 2008-2009 Season

I've noticed a fair amount of people coming to this blog in search of San Francisco Opera's next season, which will be announced this week. Certainly we have some insight into the programming, Stewart Wallace's The Bonesetter's Daughter will have its world premiere, Qian Yi will be in the lead role with her San Francisco Opera debut. We also know that music director designate Nicola Luisotti is returning to San Francisco Opera this Fall to conduct La Bohème. David Gockley himself said that Angela Gheorghiu is to sing here next in Bohème, perhaps the Met simulcast in April, which has both Luisotti and Gheorghiu, will be a good preview. I wouldn't be surprised if Gheorghiu also gave a concert at some point, when she is over on this coast, as she has in Los Angeles. Inva Mula's official site says she is engaged to sing Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore. The Ring cycle will conclude the 2008-2009 season, conducted by Donald Runnicles. Janos Gereben also reported last month in SFCV that Dmitri Hvorostovsky will sing Simon Boccanegra on opening night and Korngold's Die Tote Stadt has its SF Opera premiere some time between August 26 and October 12, 2008. Torsten Kerl sings Paul and Emily Magee sings Marietta.

Closing of La Rondine

Rondine Act I, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
The last performance of La Rondine was sold-out, but as it is part of my subscription, I attended in my regular spot in Box X. The set looks quite nice up close as well as from afar, though I noticed that the mirror ball in Act II was audible. I suspect it created white noise that dampened the sound of the singers, perhaps that is why I had more difficulty hearing Angela Gheorghiu in Act II. After hearing the music thrice, I still unmoved, though the orchestra and singers were mostly fine.

Gheorghiu looked ravishing from my vantage point. I again noticed her breathing, and that her voice has a certain pretty fragility to it. Misha Didyk continued to sound rough as Ruggero. Anna Christy still sounded bird-like. Gerard Powers sang those high notes in Act III better, strained, but on key.

* Tattling *
Standing room looked terribly full. There was quite a chorus of watch alarms, more than half a dozen at 8pm, perhaps a few less at 9pm and 10pm. Box X had three couples in it, they had come to the opera together. I noticed a person in Box Y was standing for the performance, and that the people behind me retreated behind the curtain of Box X. When I returned after the intermission, one of the people was insisting that he and his friends be moved. He asked where David Gockley was and was very unhappy about the person in Box Y. Flatulence was mentioned. The usher spoke to the offending person, and he did sit for the second half of the opera.

Idle Soprano Gossip

BirdAs you might remember, Angela Gheorghiu (Magda in La Rondine) was fired by  Lyric this season. A little bird told me that Ms. Gheorghiu is very nice and not a diva at all. I heard from someone else that she might have been a little testy about her lodging. It was also suggested that she is like her name, angelic.

More entertainingly, I heard that Georgina Lukács (Lady Macbeth in Macbeth), is as disagreeable as her voice. Slaps and spitting were mentioned. I'll certainly think of this when I listen to her tonight.

4th Performance of La Rondine

Misha Didyk and Angela Gheorghiu, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
I gave La Rondine a second chance, and listened to it in the balcony standing room area last night. The sets and costumes were beautiful from afar as well, and the disco ball in Act II was not visible, so not blinding. Even still, I could see why this opera has only been performed once, before this production, at San Francisco Opera. The plot is thin, no one dies or gets married, and the music, though pretty, is rather light.

Angela Gheorghiu did sound better from the balcony, though she had moments of being overwhelmed by the orchestra in Act II. At times I could not hear which language she was singing in, though I could discern the notes, the words were lost. Perhaps I mistook her delicacy for tentativeness, Gheorghiu certainly has control of her tone, in stark contrast with our other current leading lady and fellow Non-Slavic Eastern European, Georgina Lukács. I still was bothered by Gheorghiu's occasional gasps and her ungainly movements. She is, of course, stunningly beautiful, so even her awkward carriage has a certain charm.

The rest of the cast was consistent with the previous performance I attended. Gerard Powers still missed that one high note in his duet with Anna Christy (Lisette) in Act III, just before the butler enters. Otherwise, his acting and singing were both strong.

* Tattling *
The performance was not full, and I was a little surprised given that the reviews were good and Gheorghiu should be a big draw. I did notice more Romanians than usual. I managed to get a good standing room spot in the balcony behind L 111, which was unoccupied for the whole performance. People were well-behaved, there was hardly any talking, only two watch alarms went off at 10pm, and no mobiles rang. The sets for Acts I and III received applause, as they did for opening night.

David Gockley spoke and answered questions after the performance. We were promised that there would be no microphones used to amplify singers' voices, that SFO would go into movie theaters, and that we should be able to chose our seats online soon. Apparently subscriptions are down, and they are trying to make subscribing more desirable by discounting the tickets by 20% next season. The uncomfortableness of the seats in the War Memorial Opera House was brought up yet again, apparently it is important to the SFWMPAC Board of Trustees that the seats retain their 1930s look and feel. They must always sit in the boxes.