October 25, 2005
The Canadian Opera Company's production of Norma opened at San Francisco Opera last Sunday. The cast is strong, so it is certainly worth seeing. The production itself is uninspired. Remember those tiny houses you built in 3rd grade with your meticulously saved popsicle sticks? The set, designed by Allen Moyer, is reminiscent of these crafts, but on a larger scale. The haphazard walls made from wooden boards, along with the tree stumps, were apparently metaphor for how the Romans did not care about what the Druids held most dear. I wonder what the dirt-covered hems of Druidic costumes were a metaphor for, also note that the wooden structures were painted black at the bottom, but were light-colored at the top.
The costumes for the Druids were more bizarre than the Roman ones. The priestesses wore gauzy straightjackets that laced up the back and flowing gowns. Some of the Druid men wore loincloths in Act II, which was slightly startling, some put on robes later, others did not. The Romans wore short tunics with breastplates, military belts, and greaves.
Catherine Naglestad is a beautiful Norma, she sang well, though not without great effort. Mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura was more impressive as Adalgisa, her tone is sweet but her voice is powerful.
I spend much of the intermission speaking to the architect-coot from Napa, who introduced himself as Dave. We first met in the standing room line for Rodelinda last month, and he recognized me because of my absurd costume. Dave started going to San Francisco Opera in 1957. His first opera performance was Gounod's Faust, when he was around 20, at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival. He asked me if I was a music student, and when I had seen my first opera.