Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Il Trovatore at the Met

Trovatore-met-04302011  * Notes * 
The last performance of Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera was Saturday's matinee. Since I have seen seemed David McVicar's production several times in San Francisco, it seemed best to simply listen at a score desk today.

Conductor Marco Armiliato had the orchestra sounding spirited. The racing tempi were infused with energy. The dynamics were not always dramatic, at times pianissimo was not terribly distinct from forte. Stefan Kocán was a dry Ferrando, but with good volume. I had trouble hearing Maria Zichak's musical line as Inez when she sang with Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora) and the orchestra in Part I. The latter interpreted the emotional content of the text with clarity, and could always be heard. Dmitri Hvorostovsky (di Luna) has a lovely timbre but has a tendency to gasp when breathing. While Marcelo Álvarez was plaintive as Manrico, he almost seemed to choke on a note in "Ah, sì ben mio." Perhaps this was intentional, it did give this reviewer a physical sensation of being strangled. Dolora Zajick (pictured above, © Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) was most impressive as Azucena. The madness of the character came through, with passion and without ugliness.

* Tattling * 
Though most of the audience was respectful and silent, someone left his or her mobile phone on and it rang during a rest with a fermata in Part 2. One would think being broadcast live in high definition would be incentive enough to turn off electronic devices.

Walewska in Trovatore

Sfo-trovatore * Notes * 
Malgorzata Walewska took the stage as Azucena in San Francisco Opera's Il Trovatore last night. Walewska certainly came across as crazy, more so than Stephanie Blythe, with whom she is sharing the role. Unfortunately Walewska's voice did not project well over the orchestra, and when she sang with Marco Berti this was especially obvious. Berti's voice soared over the pit, whereas Walewska's simply blended into the sound of the orchestra. Perhaps it is just as well, the way she pushed the top of her voice was not pleasant, though the middle of her voice was very pretty.

The orchestra had a good amount of fire, and Luisotti kept everyone together without being the least bit dull. The chorus sounded gorgeous, and all of the singing was quite fine. Burak Bilgili (Ferrando) was better and sang more fluidly. As the Count, Dmitri Hvorostovsky still was not sounding his best, somewhat gritty and breathy in his last performance of this run. Likewise, Marco Berti and Sondra Radvanovsky were both consistent in their strong performances.

* Tattling * 
The Russian speakers in Box W whispered despite being hushed, but at least the noise was not incessant. Someone in Box V or W was photographing Hvorostovsky as he sang, and the camera being used kept beeping though it did not flash. The person in Row B Seat 3 of the orchestra had her mobile device on for most of "D'amor sull'ali rosee."

Il Trovatore at SF Opera

Sfo-trovatore * Notes * 
The 2009-2010 season at San Francisco Opera opened with
Il Trovatore last night. David McVicar's production is elegant, and Charles Edwards' rotating set made the scene changes straightforward. Maestro Luisotti's debut as music director was effervescent, and the orchestra sounded fine. The chorus was clear and together. Renée Tatum and Andrew Bidlack, the Adlers in the small roles of Inez and Ruiz, both sang well and with warmth.

Burak Bilgili seemed nervous as Ferrando, his notes were a bit choppy and he was slightly off from the orchestra. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was a confident Count di Luna, with lovely phrasing. Hvorostovsky did lack effortlessness at times and his breathing could be rather loud. On the other hand, Stephanie Blythe (Azucena) seemed to have endless lung capacity and a perfect smoothness in her transitions. Her last few notes of the opera were, however, a bit ugly.

The revelation of the evening was undoubtably Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora. Her voice scintillates, her tone is lucid, her control is exquisite. Her Act III aria, "D'amor sull'ali rosee," was beautiful. Marco Berti made a valiant attempt in the title role, his voice being rather loud and not particularly subtle. He was able to match everyone else in volume, and he even managed to convey some pretty, tender moments, along with utter despair, in the last act.

* Tattling * 
Some people kept talking during the famous "Vedi le fosche notturne," despite being repeatedly hushed. A siren was heard in Act I, Scene 2. Someone's cellular phone rang several times as Hvorostovsky sang in Act 4. At least it was during his recitative.

ROH's 2009-2010 Season

September 7-14 2009: Linda di Chamounix
September 15- October 1 2009: Don Carlo
September 19- October 18 2009: Tristan und Isolde
October 3 2009- June 26 2010: Carmen
October 17-28 2009: L'Heure Espagnole /Gianni Schicchi
October 30- November 14 2009: Artaxerxes
November 20- December 8 2009: The Tsarina's Slippers
December 7-22 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
December 19 2009- January 11 2010: La Bohème
January 22- February 3 2010: The Rake's Progress
January 29- February 17 2010: Così fan tutte
February 11-27 2010: The Gambler
March 5-20 2010: Tamerlano
March 19- April 1 2010: The Cunning Little Vixen
April 3-19 2010: Il Turco in Italia
April 26- May 12 2010: Powder Her Face
April 27- May 16 2010: Aida
May 11- July 17 2010: La Traviata
May 17- June 4 2010: La Fille du Régiment
May 31- June 30 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 22- July 10 2010: Manon
June 29- July 15 2010: Simon Boccanegra
July 3-16 2010: Salome

Covent Garden just announced their season this week. Eglise Gutiérrez stars in Linda di Chamounix. Stephanie Blythe sings Baba the Turk in the revival of The Rake's Progress. Kurt Streit shares the role of Bajazet in Tamerlano with Plácido Domingo. Streit also sings in The Gambler, and Domingo sings the title role in Boccanegra. Dmitri Hvorostovsky returns as Germont for the May performances of La Traviata. Natalie Dessay stars opposite of Juan Diego Flórez in La Fille. Erwin Schrott sings the title role in Le Nozze, with Mariusz Kwiecien and Jacques Imbrailo sharing the role of the Count.

Press Release [PDF]| Official Site

SF Opera's 2009-2010 Season

September 11- October 6 2009: Il Trovatore
September 15- October 3 2009: Il Trittico
September 23- October 23 2009: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
October 13-31 2009: La Fille du Régiment
October 18- November 1 2009: Salome
November 8- December 2 2009: Otello
June 5- July 1 2010: Faust
June 9- July 2 2010: La Fanciulla del West
June 10-30 2010: Die Walküre

Sondra Radvanovsky, Stephanie Blythe, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky sing in Il Trovatore, with Marco Berti in the title-role. Diana Damrau makes her SF Opera debut in La Fille du Régiment with Juan Diego Flórez. Patricia Racette returns in Il Trittico, singing opposite Paolo Gavanelli in Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi, and Ewa Podleś in Suor Angelica. Racette also sings in Gounod's Faust with Stefano Secco and John Relyea. Deborah Voigt and Salvatore Licitra star in La Fanciulla del West. Janina Baechle has her San Francisco Opera debut as Fricka in Die Walküre.

Press Release [PDF] | Official Site

Simon Boccanegra Opening at San Francisco Opera

Simon-boccanegra * Notes *
Though lovely, San Francisco Opera's opening night performance of Simon Boccanegra did not quite catch on fire, despite the heat and an apparent earthquake. The production, directed by David Edwards, is pleasantly simple and Michael Yeargan's serviceable set is both attractive and quiet. Peter J. Hall's period costumes are gorgeous, but best of all is the lighting design from Christopher Maravich. Light is very much a unifying aspect of the production, pulling together the set, the music, and the text.

The orchestra sounded lucid under the direction of Donald Runnicles, and for the most part they were synchronized with the singers. There was a moment when the chorus was not quite on beat in the prologue, but the finale of Act I "Sia maledetto!" was perfect. The brass and woodwind solos were all strong and in tune.

For the most part the singing was very good. Patrick Carfizzi (Paolo) was a fine villian, his acting was convincing and his voice is appealing, but still conveys a certain unctuousness necessary for this role. Vitalij Kowaljow was likewise solid as Fiesco, his voice unflinching but also beautiful. Marcus Haddock (Gabriele) has a strong voice though a bit stiff. He did sing "Sento avvampar nell'anima" well. Barbara Frittoli's San Francisco Opera debut was shaky during the cavatina "Come in quest'ora bruna." Her voice has a nice timbre, a pretty warmth, but her vibrato can be overwhelming. She did sound splendidly lyrical during the recognition duet between Amelia and Boccanegra. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was impressive in the title role, displaying the range of his acting ability and singing well throughout. His breaths were somewhat loud, but this is, of course, a minor quibble.

* Tattling * 
The audience whispered too much during the scene changes, but not a phone nor watch alarm was heard. A woman in Row Z Seat 4 of the orchestra was fiddling with her mobile phone during Boccanegra's Act III "M'ardon le tempia." The light from the device was distracting, and she was asked to put it away.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was in attendance, and I walked right by her during intermission on the box level. As for other brushes with fame, I met opera lecturer Evan Baker, who was signing autographs after his pre-opera talk. I also finally had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Hirsch of Iron Tongue of Midnight.

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.

Eugene Onegin at the Met

Onegin* Notes *
Last Saturday's matinee of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera was sold out, but was broadcast in movie theatres in seven countries. The production was done by Robert Carsen, with sets and costumes by Michael Levine. The sets were rather minimal, the first half has a bunch of autumnal leaves on the ground and these are swept around to suggest rooms. The scene changes were swift, expect in the case of the two last scenes in Act III. This one took more time than the others, perhaps because the chairs that had been brought on stage in the transition between Acts II and III had to be cleared. It was a contrast from the switch between acts that was done without the curtain falling. Valery Gergiev conducted well, it was interesting how slowly he took Monsieur Triquet's aria. The chorus did seem somewhat unwieldy, but the orchestra never did.

Renée Fleming sang Tatiana well enough, but didn't seem engaged with the character. She also nearly tripped in the second scene, but not while she was running around throwing leaves around. Elena Zarembra (Olga) had a bit too much vibrato, even for Tchaikovsky. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was fine in the title role, he was both dashing and sullen. His voice is nice, but not as spectacular as Ramón Vargas'. Vargas had beautiful tone and he acted well. On the whole, the acting and singing was at a high level.

* Tattling *
The standing room line was about 100 people deep by 9:00 am. We arrived at 6:40 am and were fifth and sixth. Josephine was there with a bright blue furry headband on and her green coat.

The audience wasn't great, there was some chatter and the girl next to me kept laughing at poor Eugene.

A Pernicious and Corrupt Art

Last Monday I went to see Prokofiev's War and Peace at the Metropolitan Opera. Ordinarily I would avoid Prokofiev (1891-1953) altogether, his music is too modern for my conventional sensibilities. Also, Tolstoy himself despised opera, calling it a pernicious, corrupt art form, an ungainly mixing of different modalities of art. However, my friends wanted to go to the opera, and they could not afford to go to Le Nozze di Figaro, as the inexpensive tickets were sold-out for the particular evening we were in town. The only other option was War and Peace, which P had been reading. The funny thing was that C started reading War and Peace and decided that she couldn't go to the opera after all, because she wasn't finished in time and she loved it too much to spoil it in the middle. They both read it in French, apparently half the book is in French, and they are both native speakers of French, so there you are. Seeing this opera made me want to read the book itself, but it has to wait for now.

The opera was very impressive in scope, as it calls for about 60 roles, a huge chorus and a ballet. Just seeing that many people on stage is really incredible in and of itself. It was also the longest opera I have seen thus far, a mere 4.5 hours. The Metropolitan did the whole thing in one night, with only one intermission, which I thought was commendable. The music was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, it was not particularly memorable though. Anna Netrebko does have a most lovely voice, though I believe her role in Falstaff at SF Opera showed her voice more to her advantage than this opera. Again, the Metropolitan had wonderful singers all around, good staging, clean choreography, and pretty costumes. The sets were very clever, the stage was set at an angle so that upstage was actually up from downstage, and there was a circular part of the stage that could spin about, like a gigantic Lazy Susan, except flush with the rest of the stage, not raised above it. The whole experience wasn't nearly as good as Le Nozze, which goes to show that the music is essential to this opera business.

My favorite part of the opera was when they were having a celebration in the second part of the opera, and they had a huge red chicken made of cloth, it was like an enormous puppet. There were also red sparkles at this part. I couldn't believe I was seeing this in real life, it was awfully surreal.

Naturally, we must include the obligatory complaint about certain audience members. There was a lady and her child who was around 12 or so. The child ate elaborate chocolates that she unwrapped from cellophane for the second half of the first part of the opera. It was very loud, the people in front of her turned around to give her dirty looks, and my companions both noticed and were disturbed. Unfortunately, she was not directly next to me, or else I would have had her stop immediately. I had to wait until the intermission to ask, kindly as I could manage, that they not eat during the opera as it was distracting. One of the ladies in front of them smiled on me approvingly, so I felt a bit more justified in my request. They were quiet the rest of the opera, which was very nice. Why people cannot manage to do one thing at one time boggles the mind. Is there not a time and a place for different things?