SF Opera's Arabella

_T8A0778* Notes *
An elegant co-production of Arabella (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera last night. The orchestra and singers were all very strong in Strauss' glittering Viennese comedy.

The huge cast for this opera boasted many familiar faces, from mezzo-soprano Jill Grove (Merola 1995) as the fortune-teller to soprano Hye Jung Lee (Merola 2010) as the Fiakermilli. The only new singer to the War Memorial stage was tenor Daniel Johanssen as the melodramatic Matteo who loves Arabella but is loved by her sister Zdenka who lives as a boy. Johanssen looks the part and sounds terribly plaintive as he longs for even a glance from his beloved.

It was a pleasure to hear mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens (Countess Waldner) again singing something rather less grave than Cassandre from 2015 or Klytemnestra last year. Baritone Richard Paul Fink was perfect as Count Waldner, his diction is clear and he's very funny, so different than his Edward Teller in Doctor Atomic or his Alberich.

Soprano Heidi Stober is a great Zdenka, I remember loving her in this role when I heard it in Santa Fe back in 2012. Her physicality is tomboyish and completely convincing, her voice sparkles and has a beautiful flexibility. Baritone Brian Mulligan too is wonderfully cast as Mandryka, his robust voice is velvety and he is a fine actor. He looks like he could wrestle a bear, as he is purports to do just after receiving Count Waldner's letter. Soprano Ellie Dehn has a white, clean sound as Arabella herself, and  looks as alluring as one would expect for someone sought after by no less than five suitors.

Director Tim Albery's production is very pretty, not least of all because of the set, designed by Tobias Hoheisel. The stylish grey interiors look great with the pops of color from flowers or the bright red jacket of the Fiakermilli.

Maestro Marc Albrecht had a promising debut. The orchestra gleamed, staying together without overwhelming the singers or being too square. I particularly loved hearing all the viola music in Act I.

* Tattling * 
This was poorly attended, and I got standing room ticket 22 only 15 minutes before curtain. The young man in Row J Seat 103 of the balcony blinded me with his phone at one point during Act I, and the young woman next to him in Seat 105 looked at her Apple Watch throughout the performance.

Arabella at Santa Fe Opera

Santa-fe-opera-arabella* Notes *
This season's revival of Arabella (Act III pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) opened at Santa Fe Opera yesterday. Sir Andrew Davis conducted a vivid performance from the orchestra, and the strings were particularly beautiful.

Many of the smaller roles were filled by singers familiar to those of us from San Francisco, such as former Merolini Susanne Hendrix (Fortune Teller) and Jonathan Michie (Dominik). Current Adler Fellow Brian Jagde sang Count Elemer with strength. Dale Travis and Victoria Livengood convinced as Arabella's rather silly parents.

Heidi Stober sounded lovely as Zdenka, and was suitably naive and boyish. Mark Delavan could have sung Mandryka with a bit more heft, but the weight of his voice suits this venue better than the War Memorial. He did inhabit the character and his movements were appropriate to his role. Erin Wall sounded icy yet sturdy as Arabella.

Director Tim Albery's production is fluid, and designer Tobias Hoheisel's work detailed but sedate. The three semi-circle walls arranged in different configurations for each act certainly has appeal.

* Tattling * 
There was again a lot of talking at this performance. The woman in Mezzanine Row G, Seat 107 would not be silent, even when glared at several times.