* Tattling *
A very enthusiastic couple were in Row L Seats 13 and 15 of the orchestra level. At least one of them was crying during the performance and they were among the first to stand during the ovation. They screamed "bravo," "brava," and "bravi" at every opportune moment. Normally I hate hearing the audience during a performance, but something about their love of opera made it not bother me.
* Tattling *
* Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony recently recreated a 1808 concert at the Theater an der Wien of Beethoven works. The engaging performance on Saturday night lasted four hours and forty minutes with three intermissions and required a chorus, two different versions of the orchestra, seven vocal soloists, and a pianist.
Undoubtedly a high point of the evening came when soprano Karita Mattila (pictured left, photograph by Lauri Eriksson) sang Ah! perfido, Opus 65, the second piece on the program. Her voice is gloriously resonant from top to bottom and her performance was riveting.
The other major soloist, Jonathan Biss, played Piano Concerto No. 4 with precision. He is not without passion, but channels the emotions of the piece with subtlety. Later, in place of where Beethoven improvised on the piano in the original concert, Biss took the stage for Piano Fantasy in G minor, which showed his virtuosity.
The concert began with one set of personnel making up the orchestra, playing the first half starting with Beethoven's Sixth. It was strange to hear this piece without William Bennett playing the oboe soli, though both clarinetist Carey Bell and bassoonist Stephen Paulson played beautifully. The horns were not clear. Somehow the phrasing of the music did not have a nice arc. The Fifth, which came after the second intermission, was significantly stronger.
The chorus sounded cohesive in the selections from the Mass in C major. Of the four soloists, tenor Nicolas Phan was a stand out, though they all sang well. Everyone did wonderfully in the Choral Fantasy that ended the concert, and the piece made sense as a finale for this epic performance, as it brought back our piano soloist, most of the principal singers, the chorus, and the orchestra.
* Tattling *
Someone behind a friend of mine in the Right Terrace kicked his chair and insisted he was being disrespectful for not applauding enough.
* Notes *
The second performance of The Makropulos Case (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera) at the Met this season was held yesterday. The production, by Elijah Moshinsky, is fairly static. Some scene changes are made when only the orchestra is playing, and most of these are not strictly necessary, though perhaps elucidating the plot. The offices of Kolenaty and wherever Marty is staying are stylish enough. The sphinx in Act II was not terribly clever. Howard Harrison's lighting was perhaps the best element of the production.
The orchestra showed dynamic range under Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek. The cast is even. Emalie Savoy's Kristina was a touch too mature, but her sound contrasted with Karita Mattila's. Johan Reuter does not have much warmth to his voice, but as Jaroslav Prus, he does not need it. Richard Leech sounded bright and loud as Albert Gregor. Karita Mattila was again splendid as Emilia Marty, searing but beautiful.
* Tattling *
This was the worst audience I have observed at the Met. Latecomers sat on the steps of Family Circle, and one particular woman coughed and coughed. She got into an altercation with the woman next to her, and much violent discussion was heard. Another woman with a standing room ticket tried sitting in the aisle for Act II and was scolded by an usher. My companion noted that the people in Family Circle K 116 and 115 were looking at pornography on a mobile phone during Act III.
* Notes *
A revival of Elijah Moshinsky's 1996 The Makropulos Case opened last night in New York. The performance marked the Met role debut of Karita Mattila (pictured left in Act III, photograph by Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera) as Emilia Marty. Mattila is somehow completely convincing as Marty, her voice is otherworldly and icily perfect. Since I was reading the piano score, I did notice that Mattila may have come in at the wrong time twice in Act I. This hardly mattered, and it was almost difficult to focus on the other singers, as Mattila is so compelling. The rest of the cast all seemed fine, only occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra. Conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, the musicians in the pit played powerfully and with a beautiful transparency.
* Tattling *
The few people that sat in the Family Circle Boxes were silent. I was told by my friends on the orchestra level that snoring and flatulence were noted.
* Notes *
The third recital of the 2011-2012 vocal series at San Francisco Performances featured soprano Karita Mattila (pictured left, photograph by Lauri Eriksson) accompanied by pianist Martin Katz. Yesterday evening's performance started with Poulenc's Banalités, a set of five songs using texts by Apollinaire. The pieces did not readily relate to one another. Mattila sang them with a sense of humor, "Hôtel" and "Voyage à Paris" were particularly charming. Next we heard Debussy's Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire, which were a good deal more disturbing, especially the fourth one, "Recueillement." Mattila has a strong, beautifully supported voice and was complemented by Katz's tasteful playing. The singer exudes a serene confidence and was completely unruffled by the various small snags of the performance, which included sheet music forgotten backstage, untimely applause, and electronic noise.
After the intermission came Neljä laulua unesta (Four Dream Songs) from Sallinen. It was exciting to hear Mattila sing in her native language. The pieces were rather dark and strange. The program ended with five songs in German by Joseph Marx. Mattila coughed before "Waldseligkeit" and even after singing the first half, but one was never in doubt that her sound would still be perfectly gorgeous. Katz was able to show more bravura in these songs. The first encore was a highly idiosyncratic version of "I Could Have Danced All Night," complete with dancing. The second encore was a Finnish folk song, "Minun kultani kaunis on," arranged by Ralf Gothóni. Mattila ended the evening by singing the last verse of "Tonight" without accompaniment.
* Tattling *
The audience was rather quiet, no talking was noted. Unfortunately, someone's mobile phone rang at the end of "Le jet d'eau," while Mattila sang the very last line.
* Notes *
The opening performance of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case was spectacular. The co-production with Finnish National Opera, from Frank Philipp Schlössmann, is stylish, the set design employs cross-hatching that recalls the work of Edward Gorey. The set is on a quiet turntable that was spun during the first overture. The use of over-sized clocks worked nicely with the main theme of this opera. Olivier Tambosi's direction was straightforward, only Emilia Marty moved strangely, but given that she is 337, one imagines she may have picked up rather odd habits.
The orchestra sounded lucid and intent under Jiří Bělohlávek. The brass sounded particularly fine, especially the off-stage banda in the beginning. The string and wind soli were all lovely. The male chorus at the end of the opera was haunting.
The cast was incredible. Maya Lahyani sounded great as both as the cleaning woman at the beginning of Act II alongside Austin Kness' stagehand, and the maid in Act III. Brian Jagde was suitably naive as Janek. Matthew O'Neill was completely convincing as the mad Count Hauk-Šendorf, and even charming. Susannah Biller (Kristina) likewise embodied her role, she was awkward and mousy, and her voice sounded young and flexible.
Thomas Glenn (Vitek) fared well, even singing whilst perched on a ladder, twisting himself toward the audience. Both bass-baritones, Dale Travis and Gerd Grochowski, fit their parts. Travis blustered suitably as Dr. Kolenaty. Grochowski showed his range as an actor, and portrayed various emotions vividly through his voice. Miro Dvorsky was fervid as Gregor, but with the right amount of clumsiness to be plausible. Dvorsky had a just brief moments of being overwhelmed by the orchestra in Act I. Karita Mattila was utterly devastating as Emilia Marty, ruthless yet with unearthly beauty. Her movements were oddly graceful and beastly at the same time.
* Tattling *
The curtain came down after the singing in Act I, but before the music ended, and this caused people to clap prematurely. There was some talking in the first half, as Janáček is incomprehensible to some, and the audience attrition after intermission was noticeable. Watch alarms were heard at 9pm.
September 10- December 5 2010: Aida Dolora Zajick shares the role of Amneris with Guang Yang. Plácido Domingo sings the title role in Cyrano, Ramón Vargas is Werther, and Karita Mattila is the lead in The Makropulos Case. Noteworthy debuts at San Francisco Opera next season include Danielle de Niese as Susanna in Figaro and Elīna Garanča as Charlotte in Werther.
September 15- October 1 2010: Werther
September 21- October 22 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
October 12- November 27 2010: Madama Butterfly
October 24- November 12 2010: Cyrano de Bergerac
November 10-28 2010: The Makropulos Case
June 14-July 3 2011: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Dolora Zajick shares the role of Amneris with Guang Yang. Plácido Domingo sings the title role in Cyrano, Ramón Vargas is Werther, and Karita Mattila is the lead in The Makropulos Case. Noteworthy debuts at San Francisco Opera next season include Danielle de Niese as Susanna in Figaro and Elīna Garanča as Charlotte in Werther.
September 26 2009- January 29 2010: Tosca
October 5- November 7 2009: Faust
October 27- November 23 2009: Ernani
November 22- Deceumber 12 2009: Katya Kabanova
December 5 2009- January 16 2010: The Merry Widow
January 23- February 22 2010: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 20- March 17 2010: La Damnation de Faust
February 28- March 27 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
René Pape and Kyle Ketelsen share the role of Mephistopheles in Faust. Salvatore Licitra sings opposite of Sondra Radvanovsky in Ernani. Karita Mattila will sing the title-role of Katya Kabanova. Susan Graham, Paul Groves and John Relyea star in La Damnation. Le Nozze features Joyce DiDonato and Mariusz Kwiecien.
The Met's simulcast of Salomé this Saturday will not show Karita Mattila nude in the Dance of the Seven Veils.
October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot
Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.
I am going to skip out on tomorrow's Live in HD Met Simulcast of Manon Lescaut, as there is quite enough of Puccini in my future. It is tempting, as the cast looks good. I heard Mattila sing the title role several times in 2006, and that production was one of the best that season. Marcello Giordani will sing Des Grieux, I found his voice somewhat strained the only time I heard him in Simon Boccanegra, but certainly many complimentary words have been written about him as well. Dale Travis will be Geronte, Dwayne Croft sings Lescaut, and Sean Panikkar has the small part of Edmondo, as he did in San Francisco as an Adler Fellow. The performance at the Met is sold-out.
* Notes *
The last opera of the year at San Francisco Opera will be Manon Lescaut this Sunday. Overall, this production was the best of the seven, because the cast is strong and the set design is neither distracting nor nonsensical. It is interesting to note that Carmen sold out for the last three performances, and the singers sharing the title role are both newcomers. Manon Lescaut was not completely full yesterday, nor is the final performance sold out, despite Karita Mattila. Perhaps this opera is too obscure, when I've mentioned it in passing, many people have not known of it, nor of Abbé Prévost's book.
I am quite curious to hear Karita Mattila sing in Wagner, I have only heard her sing music that I am not particularly interested in, Puccini this time and Janáček a few seasons ago. Her voice has such beauty and intensity. This time around I noticed that tenor Misha Didyk has a lot of vibrato, but not so much to ruin his intonation. He also sounds better when warm, his Act I performance is certainly not as good as in the others.
* Tattling *
Someone came to the stage when the curtain was supposed to rise, and he assured us that Karita was fine, but some orchestra members were stuck in Bay Bridge traffic. Subsequently, the curtain time was pushed back 20 minutes.
Because of the late start, there were no latecomers in the boxes. However, some girls decided to come into Box X toward the end of the intermezzo between Acts II and III. I was sitting at the back of the box as to not crowd anyone, and one of the girls sat directly in front of me and perched on the chair so that all I could see was the back of her head. To add injury to insult, the girls whispered throughout Act III, though they did leave after the act was finished.
* Notes *
Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Manon Lescaut opened with a matinee performance yesterday. The production, designed by Frank Philipp Schlössmann, was completely traditional, rather unlike the 2004 Der Fliegende Holländer, which was the last Lyric production to come here.
This production, taken as a whole, has been my favorite thus far this season, and I cannot say it is because of Puccini's music, which I do not find particularly lyrical. Puccini's third opera is chock-full of different musical ideas, features a bizarrely disjointed plot, but somehow it came together beautifully. Donald Runnicles conducted well and with great sensitivity, he will be sorely missed when his tenure ends in 2009. Karita Mattila's voice was ravishing in the title role, so sweet and girlish at the beginning and filled with desperation at the end. Tenor Misha Didyk also sang well as Des Grieux, passionately and with enough volume and control. However, his diction was not always clear. John Hancock (Lescaut) and Eric Halfvarson (Geronte) both seemed competent, both vocally and dramatically.
The most obvious flaw in the production was the minuet, the music was there, but the dance seemed to consist of Mattila making curtsies as everyone else sits in a circle around her. Mattila looked awkward in the whole of Act II, she holds her head a bit too forward and her movements seemed somewhat erratic. Manon is supposed to be bored, but the fidgeting was excessive.
* Tattling *
Stanford professor Giancarlo Aquilanti gave a somewhat maniacal talk before the performance, declaring that Puccini was politically incorrect and that Des Grieux was a loser. Definitely worth hearing, Aquilanti certainly wasn't dull. He talked over most of his musical examples and seemed entirely smitten with Puccini.
The opera house looked completely full, and there were no latecomers of note, people were much more well-behaved than usual. The only annoyance of the performance were a couple who got up in-between Acts III and IV to stretch their legs, even though there was no intermission at this point. This should have been clear from the program and from the fact that Runnicles was still in the pit, baton aloft. Unfortunately, they didn't return to their seats before the music began again, and the ushers did not allow them to sit. Thus, we in standing room were left to hear them complain aloud during the music.
* Notes *
Despite having a subscription to San Francisco Opera for 3 seasons, I only managed to attend my first Opera Insight Panel Discussion yesterday. The hour-long panel discussion on Puccini's third opera was moderated by music director Donald Runnicles and included soprano Karita Mattila, bass Eric Halfvarson, baritone John Hancock, and the stage director Olivier Tambosi.
Much was made of the fragmentation as far as plot goes in regards to Puccini's libretto. Apparently at least seven people worked on it, which seems rather excessive, no? Also, a rather lot of comparisons were made between Puccini's work and Massanet's, and both were compared to the source text by Abbé Prévost.
The production of Manon Lescaut from Lyric Opera of Chicago opens this Sunday at 2pm and it shows 6 more times until December 10th.
* Tattling *
This last opera panel discussion of the year did not seem particularly well-attended, but everyone was rather well-behaved. There was a bit of hilarity regarding Wagner, when Tambosi suggested he was a mountain to get around or through or to subsume.
So in the last week of December, I finally watched a television program in its entirety for the first time in seven years. It was a broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Fidelio. I suspect that part of the reason I do not watch television is because I have no idea what is on and at what time. Some solicitor for the Met called me on a rare day where I actually answered the phone and asked for a donation for the television broadcast, and I was, of course, compelled to actually send them money. But I decided that it might be nice to see this program, if I could figure out the channel and time. After much deliberation, it was possible.
Leonora was sung by Karita Mattila, who I saw recently as the lead in Kat'a Kabanova. Her voice is beautiful, and it had a damp sweetness in Janacek, but it is surprisingly strong, and she was able to sing Beethoven well also. Florestan was sung by Ben Heppner, who is supposed to be one of the greatest tenors at the moment, and he was quite good, a nice rich voice, but I would like to hear him in person. Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Marzelline was still birdlike sweet, and her acting is not bad and her German diction is pretty good. René Pape was good as Rocco, I had heard him before as an Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila, but he didn’t make much of an impression then, since Olga Borodina was so incredible as Dalila. Falk Struckmann was an adequately evil Pizarro.
The production had its good points, the choreography was pretty good, though I was disoriented with how the camera moved around, as it was a television broadcast, so I’m not sure I could experience the staging exactly properly. As an aside, I found it strange to be looking at James Levine conducting from what would be an orchestra member's point of view. The set was ugly, very modern, but convincing.
The music was wonderful, and I must remember to look for a good recording of it.