Dolora Zajick

SF Opera's Un Ballo in Maschera (Hampson)

Sf-opera-ballo-actiii-scene1-2014* Notes * 
A fourth performance of San Francisco Opera's A Masked Ball this season was held yesterday. The orchestra and singers were more synchronized, but there were times when the former was slightly ahead of the latter. At times this was excitingly chaotic. There were lovely soli from the cello, English horn, and clarinet. The harp was particularly beautiful throughout Act III as well.

The principal singers were consistent. Heidi Stober sang Oscar with an effortless grace. Dolora Zajick has a rich sound as Madame Arvidson. Ramón Vargas sounded sweet as Gustavus III. His high notes were somewhat tepid in the duet with Julianna Di Giacomo (Amelia) in Act II Scene 1. Di Giacomo was triumphant again in her role and garnered much applause and cheering.

Thomas Hampson (pictured above with Julianna Di Giacomo in Act III Scene 1, photograph by Cory Weaver) makes for a grave, measured Anckarström. His "Alla vita che t'arride" was more reserved than Brian Mulligan's and his Act III "Eri tu che macchiavi quell'anima" was more threatening.

* Tattling * 
Standing room was again not crowded, perhaps because San Francisco Opera hardly ever has Monday night performances. A mobile phone rang in Act I at the back of the north side of the balcony, and a woman chose to take the call but at least she hurried out of the hall to do so.

SF Opera's Un Ballo in Maschera (Mulligan)

Sf-opera-ballo-2014-actiii* Notes * 
Last night San Francisco Opera performed A Masked Ball a second time this season. The traditional production is the same as the one seen here in 2006, Jose Maria Condemi's direction is similarly straightforward, if not slightly bland. The ball scene (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver), however, is quite festive. This performance had Brian Mulligan singing Count Anckarström instead of Thomas Hampson, and Mulligan sings again on October 22nd. Nicola Luisotti conducted a rich and lush sounding orchestra. The volume was not overwhelming to the voices, at least from the back of the balcony. The orchestra was often ahead of the singers, this was particularly noticeable in Act II, when Anckarström appears to warn Gustavus.

Dolora Zajick is utterly convincing as Madame Arvidson, her deep, full sound is well-suited to the role. Brian Mulligan sounded strong as Count Anckarström, and his first aria, "Alla vita che t'arride," was gorgeous. Ramón Vargas (Gustavus III) has a pretty, reed-like voice, but was perhaps the weakest of the principals. Heidi Stober made for a dazzling and boyish Oscar. Julianna Di Giacomo (Amelia) sounded clear and sonorous. Her debut on the War Memorial stage certainly seems a success.

* Tattling * 
Axel Feldheim kindly saved me a spot at the railing, though it was not crowded in standing room, perhaps because the San Francisco Giants were playing the Washington Nationals in game four of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park. The opera displayed the scores before the opera and during intermissions. The audience cheered when the results were favorable.

Zajick Withdraws from Dolores Claiborne

DC-Set-ModelMezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick has withdrawn from the world premiere Dolores Claiborne, which opens on September 18, 2013 at San Francisco Opera. Zajick found the title-role of this new opera too challenging given her ongoing knee problems. Patricia Racette is to sing the first four performances of the opera instead, and Catherine Cook will sing the final two performances.

Production Web Site | San Francisco Opera Press Release

Conlon conducts Verdi's Requiem at SFS

Sondra.Radvanovsky_-_Photo_by_Pavel_Antonov* Notes * 
This week James Conlon conducts San Francisco Symphony in Verdi's Requiem. Fabio Luisi was originally scheduled to take the podium, but took over most of James Levine's fall engagements at the Met. Perhaps it is just as well, Maestro Conlon did a fine job with the work, the phrasing was lucid and taut. The pianissimi were especially beautiful. The chorus sounded robust.

As for soloists, tenor Frank Lopardo sounded a bit strange. He has a plaintive voice, but at times he seemed to hum rather than sing. In contrast, the bass, Ain Anger, sang with much less effort and much more confidence. Mezzo Dolora Zajick also gave a powerful performance, her full voice is never lacking in brilliance. Sondra Radvanovsky (pictured above, photograph by Pavel Antonov) however, was still the star of the evening. She never strained for the notes, her voice has a metallic brightness that does not get lost in the orchestration, but is never harsh.

* Tattling * 
There was a magnitude 3.8 earthquake at 8:16 pm, about 10 minutes into the performance on Thursday. A slight murmur was heard from the audience, but the singing and playing simply continued.

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.

LA Opera's Lohengrin

La-opera-lohengrin * Notes *
Yesterday's matinée performance of Lohengrin opened at Los Angeles Opera was the second of six. The new production, designed by Dirk Hofacker and directed by Lydia Steier, is exceedingly silly. The set is on a turntable and appears to be set amidst German ruins in a Prussian army camp. One especially enjoyed the fact that the swan that brings Lohengrin is a bed covered tent (pictured left with Soile Isokoski and Ben Heppner, photograph by Robert Millard). The choreography was not well-motivated and perhaps merely served the set, which was rotated at various points. At times it seemed that people rushed aimlessly around the stage and ended up at their marks too early.

Maestro Conlon kept the music going at a good pace. For the most part the woodwinds sounded pretty. The brass make a few mistakes, especially in Act II, but managed to be effective. The chorus was lovely, though again, as with Rigoletto, there were a few times when synchronization was a problem. "Treulich geführt" came off beautifully, sounding clear and together.

There were many familiar faces in the cast. Robert MacNeil and Greg Fedderly were the First and Second Noblemen, while Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Matthew Anchel and Museop Kim were the Third and Fourth. Baritone Eike Wilm Schulte was the Herald. All sang nicely.

Most of the principal singers were impressive. Dolora Zajick made for the perfect Ortrud, she sang with strength, richness, and with appropriate haughtiness. James Johnson played a tormented Friedrich von Telramund, his voice too is robust. Kristinn Sigmundsson sounded noble as King Heinrich.

Soile Isokoski gleamed as Elsa, and sounded particularly sublime in "Einsam in trüben Tage." Some of her lower notes in Act II were not as lucid as her high ones. In the title role, Ben Heppner struggled. From the start the production did not make him seem heroic. When he emerged from the tent he hardly cut a fine figure, as his coat was unbuttoned, which was not a flattering look. If Heppner was in good voice, this would not have mattered, but unfortunately this was not the case. He had a few good moments, his voice has a warmth to it, and volume. However, he wailed his way up to high notes that were strained and rough. It was painful to hear him hail Elsa in Act II and he even cracked badly in the last act.

* Tattling * 
Nearly every type of unpleasant behavior was on display from the audience members in Balcony B. The couple in K 40 and 41 talked nearly every time a soloist was not singing, so even during the famous Bridal March. The woman in L 37 unwrapped cough drops and incessantly scratched herself during Act I, but had the good sense to leave, as she clearly was not feeling well. Someone in Row M tapped her stiletto heels against the concrete floor distractedly, while someone else in Row L quietly sang along. A mobile phone rang during Act II, but it was on so low that he or she did not even hear it, and did not turn it off. There was periodic beeping, perhaps from a recording device. Flash photographs were taken during the ovation. The worst offender was a person at the back of the house with a very loud phone, which rang at the end of the opera on four separate occasions.

Merola Distinguished Alumni Award 2010

Dolora-zajick-sf-opera-aida2 Mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick was presented the Merola Distinguished Alumni award this evening at a reception in the Wattis Room of Davies Hall. The 5 past recipients of this award include baritone Thomas Hampson, Maestro Patrick Summers, and sopranos Ruth Ann Swenson, Carol Vaness, and Deborah Voigt. Zajick is currently singing Amneris in San Francisco Opera's Aida.

Press Release [PDF] | Merola's Official Site

Opera in the Park 2010

Operainthepark2010 * Notes *
San Francisco Opera's 37th Opera in the Park event was Nicola Luisotti's second as music director. The performance is entertaining every year, and this was no exception. The afternoon began with the overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, and gave us a preview of how this will sound when the latest revival opens on Tuesday September 21st. In keeping with this, Michèle Losier sang Cherubino's "Non so più," followed by Luca Pisaroni in "Non più andrai," and Danielle de Niese in "Giunse alfin il momento...Deh, vieni, non tardar." Dolora Zajick sang "La luce langue" from Macbeth stridently and Brian Mulligan sang "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Faust sweetly. Marco Vratogna sang the Act III aria "Nemico della Patria" from Andrea Chénier, which David Gockley says we will hear soon enough at the War Memorial. "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Werther was sung by Ramón Vargas, and this opera opens for the first time in perhaps 25 years at SF Opera on Wednesday. The first half closed with David Lomelí, Leah Crocetto, Heidi Stober, and Brian Mulligan singing the famous quartet from Rigoletto, "Un di se ben rammentomi...Bella figlia dell'amore."

I had to leave at intermission, but I did hear the rehearsal of this performance earlier in the day. The second half started with the overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia, followed by Lucas Meachem in the famous "Largo al factotum." One does look forward to his Count in Le Nozze di Figaro and his fellow cast members Luca Pisaroni and Danielle de Niese, who sang "Là ci darem la mano." David Lomelí performed "La donna è mobile." Then there was much Puccini with Micaela Carosi singing "Vissi d'Arte," Leah Crocetto and Brian Jadge "Bimba, dagli occhi pieni," and Marcello Giordani in "Nessun Dorma." The performance ended with the usual "Libiamo ne'lieti calici" from La Traviata. I believe the encore must have been "O Sole Mio," sung by David Lomelí, Brian Jadge, Ramón Vargas, and Marcello Giordani.

* Tattling * 
The day started off rather foggy and cold, and the Maestro wore his white sweater instead of having it draped in his normal fashion. The Maestro sang a respectable "Non più andrai," whilst rehearsing the orchestra. The sun did come out, and I was able to convince Axel Feldheim to come to the park and sing the National Anthem with me for the second time in 24 hours.

General Director David Gockley was in his usual spot on stage much of the time and introduced groups of pieces. He inadvertently skipped over the two Mozart pieces after Cherubino's aria, and Luisotti teasingly said that Gockley "didn't know the season."

SF Opera's Aida (September/October Cast)

Dolora Zajick as Amneris, photo by Cory Weaver * Notes *
The 88th season of San Francisco Opera opened in gaudy splendor with Aida last night. The ostentatious production, designed by Zandra Rhodes and directed by Jo Davies, did not fail to delight. The backstage noise of moving the sets was audible to the audience, and the flow of the masses of people was not always well-motivated. However, the dancing children in the first scene of Act II, and the gymnasts and cloth elephant in the scene that followed were absolutely wonderful. Nicola Luisotti conducted with passion. The low strings had some beautiful moments, specifically, the cello solo in "Ritorna vincitor," the violas during the ballet, and the basses near the end of the opera. The woodwinds were pretty, and the trumpets sounded clear. There were a few synchronization problems with the orchestra and singers, especially in the ensembles. Unsurprisingly, the chorus held together best when they did not have to move and sing at the same time. Adlers David Lomelí and Leah Crocetto both made fine contributions as the Messenger and Priestess, respectively. Crocetto's creamy yet metallic voice cut through from backstage with an eerie effectiveness.

Christian Van Horn (King of Egypt), Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis), and Marco Vratogna (Amonasro) all were appropriate for their roles, both in acting and singing. Vratogna was almost beast-like, his voice is sturdy and he certainly seemed dangerous. On the other hand, Micaela Carosi was rather wooden in the title role. Her voice, while warm and resonant in her lower register, is not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard when she pushes too hard for the top notes. Marcello Giordani was infuriating in the same way, his "Celeste Aida" began ravishingly, but the higher, sustained notes, while powerful, lacked beauty. He also showed fatigue during his duet with Aida in Act III, but pulled it together for the very end, which was lovely. Dolora Zajick dominated the second half of the show, her Amneris was incandescent in Act IV.

* Tattling * 
The opening night crowd was ill-behaved. Three young women in ZZ 112-116 would not stop talking, or posting photographs to Facebook on their mobile devices. Three Francophones behind me in standing room also felt it necessary to talk during the first half of the opera, though managed to be silent for the second half. Rather annoyingly enough, my hairdo disrupted Act II Scene 1, somehow I did not secure it properly and a cascade of flowers fell from my head. I could not stop myself from laughing, out of embarrassment, one imagines.

Final Dress Rehearsal of Aida

Aida-coliseum-911   * Notes *
The orchestra sounded lovely under Nicola Luisotti in the final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Aida yesterday afternoon. The woodwinds were particularly good, especially the oboe and clarinet. Zandra Rhodes' bright and colorful production is coming together, and it was nice to see everyone transformed and everything in order after attending three previous rehearsals. There is some beautiful singing, but it might just be Dolora Zajick's show, as her Amneris thus far has been commanding. The opera opens the 2010-2011 season this Friday, and by all indications, it should be a wonderful spectacle.

* Tattling * 
The line to get into the rehearsal formed before noon. Most of the attendees in Box B were rather ill-behaved. Not only did some arrive after the music started, was there even talking, and removal of shoes. The woman next to me wore an enormous floppy hat that she thankfully removed during the actual performance. She may have texted whilst no music was occurring, but it was difficult to discern given that she was on my right side.

There was a shocking amount of hooting and hollering after arias and at the end of scenes. Luisotti had to silence the audience after Act I with "I'm sorry to inconvenience you, but we have to start now." He did not have his customary white sweater on during the performance. Thankfully it was draped over his navy blue shirt when he came out to bow.

Aida at the Metropolitan Opera

Met-aida * Notes * 
A revival of Aida opened earlier this month at the Metropolitan Opera, and the Opera Tattler attended last Saturday's matinée at a score desk. The orchestra sounded tastefully restrained under Daniele Gatti, but not without emotion. The tempi and the dynamic nuances were unmistakable, and the playing was fairly clean and rarely overwhelmed the singers. The chorus was very much in unison, synchronized with each other and the orchestra.

Stefan Kocán sounded both creaky and shaky as Il Re, whereas Carlo Guelfi (Amonasro) was much more authoritative and commanding. Johan Botha's hefty voice is not particularly sweet, and his attempts at dolce and dolcissimo were not exactly on the mark. As Radamès, Botha was able to make distinctions in the dynamics, yet be heard. Dolora Zajick (Amneris) was cold, especially at first, but her "L'aborrita rivale a me sfuggia" was incredible. In the title role, Violeta Urmana had a range of expression in her voice, she could sound completely insane or absolutely delicate. The chorus and the three leads came together beautifully for "Immenso Ftha" at the very end.

* Tattling * 
The seating on the sides of the Family Circle confused more than one person, and I was asked more than once if I was in a given person's seat. I tried my best to explain that I was at a score desk, and that it was unlikely that he or she would want to sit where the stage could not be seen anyway. There was a minor altercation between a young lady and an elderly one, it seems that people can be quite cantankerous about the seating.

There was lots and lot of applause at the beginning of the Triumphal March, perhaps because of the horses used in this production. One is tempted to see The Met: Live in HD broadcast of Aida this Saturday.

Il Trovatore at LA Opera

RadvanovskyfarinafrontaliStephen Lawless' production of Il Trovatore at Los Angeles Opera, designed by Benoit Dugardyn, was rather dark and oppressive. Thankfully, the principal singers were adequate and the music is wonderful, so the performance came off well. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky has pretty voice that is neither piercing nor shrill. Mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick was strong and clear as Azucena. Tenor Franco Farina was fairly good as Manrico, he had enough volume at least. Disappointingly, baritone Roberto Frontali as Count di Luna was too quiet.