Don Quichotte at San Diego Opera
February 16, 2009
* Notes *
Massenet's Don Quichotte opened at San Diego Opera on Valentine's Day, after a nearly 40-year absence from that opera's stage. Ralph Funicello's scenic design for this production is much in keeping with a very traditional aesthetic and Missy West's costumes invoked the ineluctable Gustav Doré illustrations of Don Quixote, though the influence of Velasquez and Murillo was also evident. Each scene began with a relevant quote from Cervantes translated into English and projected on the scrim. This was interesting in that the libretto of this opera is fairly different from the novel, for one thing, Dulcinea does not exactly exist in the latter, whereas she is quite present in the Massenet.
Denyce Graves is an arresting Dulcinée, though her voice is breathy and not smooth, she is incredible. She certainly does not sound like anyone else. Likewise, Ferruccio Furlanetto was fully engaging in the title role, completely embodying the long-faced knight. The duet in Act I between the two leads was quite effective, and Furlanetto was plaintive in Act III's "Seigneur, reçois mon âme, elle n'est pas méchante."
The rest of the singing was perhaps not as amazing, but perfectly fine. Eduardo Chama was charming as Sancho Pança, though his French diction was unclear and he did lack a certain resonance. Bryan Register started off sounding a bit distant as Juan, but did well. The French of the chorus members as bandits in Act III left something to be desired.
The choreography from Nicola Bowie was strong, the dancers were together and on beat. Only their hand movements were not completely exact. Karen Keltner kept the orchestra synchronized with each other, though not perfectly with the singers. There were moments that were somewhat sluggish, though the overture to the last act was exceedingly pretty.
* Tattling *
Though there were no watch alarms or mobile phone rings, some audience members seemed to have difficulty being silent. The scene changes took some time to complete, and during the first one the ladies behind us in Row S of the orchestra commented that they should have played music. Naturally once they did play music for the second scene change, they expressed their approval aloud, but once the music stopped, everyone was perfectly quiet.
More alarmingly, the couple in Row Q Seats 7 and 9 not only spoke when Denyce Graves was singing and whenever else they felt like it, but also kissed rather loudly throughout the evening. They left before Act V.