Die Tote Stadt

Der Triumph des Lebens

Totestadtset   * Notes *
The fourth performance of Die Tote Stadt was actually fairly well-attended, though there was noticeable audience attrition after intermission. The set was moved around more quietly and no speaking was heard from backstage, not even from Box Y.

It was easier to appreciate how well all the Adler Fellows did from closer quarters as much of their singing was rather far upstage. Ji Young Yang sang Juliette with great sweetness. I'm quite sad I will miss the last two performances.

* Tattling * 
Everyone was very well-behaved as far as I could tell. Please keep it up.

Unsere Liebe war, ist, und wird sein

Die-tote-stadt-actii  * Notes *
The second performance of Die Tote Stadt at San Francisco Opera only served to solidify my opinion on this work, which surely deserves to be part of the standard repertoire. Willy Decker's production, directed by Meisje Hummel in this revival, has its own complete conception and is consistent throughout. Instead of trying to recapture a fossilized past, the staging is fairly bizarre, to be sure. This does not detract from the music, particularly because most of the action takes place within a nightmare.

Certainly, the set was not perfect. Hardly anything can be seen from the back of the house, I was impressed, actually, how much I had missed during the first performance. I suppose this is an argument for OperaVision, but personally I think it might be nicer to have productions that work for our opera house. The set was also pretty noisy during Act II, again, and someone's voice was heard from back stage. John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer is a poor choice for the purposes of the production, it just looks a cartoon blown up, as the painting is somewhat loose. From closer up, the images looked a little tawdry, though they read well from afar.

The sound is better in the back of the balcony, Torsten Kerl was especially dampened when listening from orchestra standing room. The staging does not help in this regard, much of the singing happens upstage. This physical distance from the audience makes the singers lack immediacy, though one can see how it would work better in a smaller house.

The choreography was strong among the Adler Fellows, for instance, Ji Young Yang and Daniela Mack had their cute dancing kicks perfectly together.

* Tattling * 
There were a few empty seats in the orchestra, and I stood behind someone I happen to know. Needless to say, she was well-behaved. Bloggers were out, Cedric of SFist stopped by to say hello, and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Not for Fun Only at intermission.

Emily Magee did not lose her wig this time, at least, not when she was not supposed to.

Die Tote Stadt at SF Opera

Marietta-emily-magee * Notes *
Nearly 88 years after the world premiere, Die Tote Stadt finally opened in San Francisco yesterday evening. The work is certainly a very pretty synthesis of Wagner, Strauss, and Puccini. It is nostalgic, but also prefigures Korngold's work in film scores. The music sounded effortless under the direction of Donald Runnicles, the orchestra did not overwhelm the singers and the tempi were rigorous. The chorus sounded perfectly lovely as well.

All of the smaller singing roles were filled by Adler Fellows, some familiar to the War Memorial stage, such as tenor Andrew Bidlack, soprano Ji Young Yang, and mezzo-soprano Katharine Tier. The other two, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Alek Shrader, had their main stage debuts. They all did well, sounding and looking the parts. Tier was particularly fine as Brigitta, the maid, her diction was clear and her voice is quite promising.

Former Adler Lucas Meachem was convincing as both Frank and Fritz, his acting strong and his volume good. He sang "Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen" splendidly and without strain. Tenor Torsten Kerl was palatable enough as Paul, there were times when his voice did not quite cut through the orchestra, though he was always audible. On the other hand, Emily Magee's voice soared over the orchestra, she gave a vocally exquisite performance as Marie/Marietta. For the most part her acting was persuasive, though she does not quite have a dancer's self-possession as far as movement is concerned. However, overall the music was gorgeous and everything seemed to come together beautifully.

As I was unable to see much of the production in the balcony, I have little to say about it. From what I could see, it appeared sleek and tasteful. Clearly the set was meant for a different space, and it was annoying when singers' heads could not be seen. The shrine to Mariette was not in evidence as there was almost no furniture, only scattered and badly cropped reproductions of a portrait by John Singer Sargent. The painting of Miss Elsie Palmer looks rather grotesque when blown up to the dimensions necessary for the stage, but was used effectively in the various nightmare sequences. I very much enjoyed the little houses that were moved around upstage, apparently if such stagecraft is used in a dream, it is not considered Eurotrash.

* Tattling * 
There were many empty seats in the balcony, giving me nothing to tattle about as far as audience behavior. However, I did notice, much to my chagrin, that my name appears in the program.

There was a fair amount of banging and crashing as the set was changed, though the aforementioned houses were silent. Emily Magee lost her wig in Act I as she took off her hat, but remained calm, simply smoothing it back onto her head with aplomb.

Die Tote Stadt Panel Discussion

Die-tote-stadt Yesterday evening Kip Cranna moderated a panel discussion on Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, which has a San Francisco premiere tonight. The panelists included baritone Lucas Meachem (Fritz, Frank), the revival director Meisje Hummel, and conductor Donald Runnicles. The discussion was one of the more informative, and it is too bad San Francisco Opera neglected to put the talk on their monthly calendar. As such, the audience had an even higher percentage of donors than usual, perhaps because as the talk was listed on the membership cards.

The panelists were asked how they each became involved in this co-production of the Vienna State Opera and the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Meachem is debuting his two roles in the opera this evening, but is engaged to sing in Die Tote Stadt again at Teatro Real in 2010. Ms. Hummel was the assistant to Willy Decker, the original director, and worked on the production at the Salzburg Festspiele, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Nederlandse Opera, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Runnicles conducted the work in Salzburg and Vienna, but had not known it previously, with the exceptions of "Mein sehnen, mein wähnen" and "Glück das mir verblieb."

Runnicles did get into the history of this opera, explaining that Korngold was the son of Julius Korngold, a vicious music critic who also happened to be an arch-conservative. It was Korngold's father that wrote the libretto, based on Georges Rodenbach's novella Bruges-la-Morte. The fiendishly difficult music is certainly late Romantic, influenced by Mahler and Strauss, both of whom agreed that Korngold was a genius. Strangely enough, the opera debuted simultaneously in Hamburg and Cologne, so great was the demand for this world premiere.

The production itself sounds vaguely Regie, despite all of the promises for no Eurotrash. Both Meachem and Runnicles adore it, saying it is both emotional and cerebral. Meachem mentioned it was his favorite except for the Pique Dame we had a few years ago, and I immediately thought of the oversized skeleton in that production and how much I had to stifle my laughter. Runnicles believes this production is in the top five of the ones he's been involved with for the last 20 years, and that the playing is better with this orchestra compared to Salzburg and Vienna. In any case, this is the only opera besides Idomeneo that I've been truly looking forward to, despite my disdain of Late Romanticism.

ROH's 2008-2009 Season

September 8- October 4 2008: Don Giovanni
September 16-29 2008: La fanciulla del West
September 23- October 10 2008: La Calisto
October 11-18 2008: La Bohème
October 23- November 11 2008: Matilde di Shabran
November 9-24 2008: Elektra
November 25- December 13 2008: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
December 9 2008- January 1 2009: Hänsel und Gretel
December 22- January 23 2008: Turandot
January 20-31 2009: The Beggar's Opera
January 27- February 17 2009: Die Tote Stadt
February 10 -25 2009: Rigoletto
February 23- March 10 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
March 2- April 11 2009: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
March 31- April 20 2009: Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea
April 13- May 7 2009: Il trovatore
April 27- May 16 2009: Lohengrin
May 12-25 2009: L'elisir d'Amore
June 4-20 2009: Lulu
June 19- July 6 2009: La Traviata
June 26- July 18 2009: Un Ballo en Maschera
July 7-18 2009: Il barbiere di Siviglia
July 9-18 2009: Tosca

Simon Keenlyside and Mariusz Kwiecien share the role of Don Giovanni, and Keenlyside also sings Figaro in Il barbiere. David Alden has his ROH debut directing a production of La Calisto from Bayerische Staatsoper. Bryn Terfel is singing in Holländer and Tosca, while Deborah Voigt sings the title role of the latter. Renée Fleming is singing opposite Joseph Calleja in La Traviata and Thomas Hampson sings Germont. Die Tote Stadt has its UK premiere, Ingo Metzmacher will conduct. The production is from Salzburg and is the one that will be at San Francisco Opera this September. Lucas Meachem will be singing Aeneas in his ROH debut.

Bloomberg Article | Press Release [PDF] |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.