Anthony Dean Griffey

Anthony Dean Griffey at SF Performances

AnthonyDeanGriffey * Notes * 
San Francisco Performances presented tenor Anthony Dean Griffey (pictured left, photo by Harry Heleotis) in a recital of songs in English last Wednesday. The evening began with fiddler Paul Brown playing Fisher's Hornpipe. Brown started out of view, playing Griffey and himself onto the stage, where there were two chairs, three banjos, and another violin waiting for them. Griffey sang this set of four traditional songs whilst seated, each one accompanied by Brown on either fiddle or banjo. It all sounded very natural and easy. The second set, pieces from Old American Songs by Copland (and indeed the rest of the performance) was accompanied by pianist Warren Jones. Jones played Griffes' Barcarolle, Op. 6, No. 1 before the third set, Barber's "Sleep Now" and "I hear an Army." This was all quite lovely, and Jones gave a good explanation of the Griffes piece.

Composer Kenneth Frazelle introduced his work, Songs in the Rear View Mirror, which comprised the second half of the evening. A few photographs of William Christenberry were projected on an upstage screen. The pieces were played and sung well, though some of the text was awkward. The fourth piece, about the vine kudzu (Pueraria lobata), was particularly fun. Griffey always enunciated clearly, and could be understood without the aid of supertitles or program notes. The encore was "This Little Light O' Mine," arranged by John W. Work.

* Tattling * 
The lights came up after the second set, so some audience members might have unintentionally started the intermission early.

Peter Grimes at San Diego Opera

Peter-grimes * Notes *
A revival of Peter Grimes opened at San Diego Opera yesterday evening. The production was originally built for San Francisco Opera and the Lyric in 1973, and the set has a certain grey brutality. Gary Marder's lighting was appropriately stark and moody. The costumes, from the Met's old production, are also perfectly traditional.

Steuart Bedford conducted straightforwardly, the orchestra was together, but not always with the singers. The musicians had some lovely, delicate moments during the overtures. The chorus likewise was not quite together in the beginning, but did focus in at the end of the first act. Their vigor flagged after this, and the following two acts were less precise.

The casting was apt, up and down the line. Priya Palekar and Priti Gandhi sang prettily as the nieces, and their auntie, Judith Christin, certainly embodied her role. Rod Gilfry was a stern but sympathetic Captain Balstrode. As Ellen Orford, Jennifer Casey Cabot began rather coldly, her voice is metallic and a bit light. However, her acting was strong, and her scene with the apprentice in Act II was beautiful. Anthony Dean Griffey proved convincing in the title role. His voice is exceedingly sweet, his volume is good, and yet he can be quite forbidding.

* Tattling * 
There were more young people than usual at San Diego Opera for Peter Grimes. The audience spoke aloud during the music, though more so in the beginning than at the end. There was significant attrition in attendance, a couple next to us left at the first intermission, as did 6 people in front of us.

Peter Grimes Live in HD Met Simulcast

Metpetergrimes* Notes *
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Benjamin Britten's music, I did attend today's simulcast of Peter Grimes. Some of Britten's rhythms in this opera were of interest, particularly the sea shanty at the end of Act I. Unlike the protagonists of Billy Budd or The Turn of the Screw, the character of Peter Grimes is not completely inane. His status as an outsider is rather operatic, of course, and the ambiguity of his tale is intriguing. I was also quite curious about John Doyle's production since I had just heard his interview on the Los Angeles Opera podcast from last year. The production is striking, though Scott Pask's set was tiresome at times. The set is meant to be oppressive, and it certainly was, but it was also a bit like a stark Advent calendar.

Donald Runnicles seemed to have a good handle on the orchestra, and everything sounded very much together. I had no idea our maestro perspired so much, and this is one of the odd things about the simulcasts, they do sometimes show us more than we wish to see. The singing was all at a high level, with fine diction from everyone, I was able to get away with not reading the subtitles. Felicity Palmer was horribly funny as Mrs. Sedley. Patricia Racette's vibrato grated a bit on me, as usual, but she had some brilliant moments as well, and was convincing as the kind Ellen Orford. Anthony Dean Griffey was impressive in the titular role, both acting and singing were great.

* Tattling *
People clapped a great deal for Patricia Racette and Donald Runnicles as the opening credits ran, good thing they are decoupled from the overture.
Natalie Dessay was a cute host for the simulcast, she did brief interviews of Racette and Griffey, Doyle and Pask, the costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, and Runnicles. The picture froze for several seconds during Act I when Peter was singing the words "The storm is here and I shall stay." The sound did go out for a second, but resumed more quickly than the picture.