Reviewers found both casts of San Francisco Opera's La Bohème (Act IV pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) wonderful.
* Notes *
A second cast appeared in San Francisco Opera's La Bohème (Ellie Dehn as Musetta, Brian Mulligan as Marcello, Giorgio Berrugi as Rodolfo, and Leah Crocetto as Mimì in Act III pictured left; photograph by Cory Weaver) on Saturday night. Again, Maestro Giuseppe Finzi conducted an orchestra that sounded grand and vivid, but was often ahead of the singers. The oboe and clarinet gave particularly lovely performances.
Brian Mulligan sounds warm and rich as Marcello. Ellie Dehn is a surprising sassy Musetta, her nice clean voice taking on a certain voluptuousness for this role. Giorgio Berrugi's Rodolfo is not consistent, there are times when it sounds as if he is winding up his voice to hit high notes, and other moments in which he is vibrant and clear. While Leah Crocetto is not the most dainty Mimì, she sounded stunning. Her voice is creamy and her phrasing is exquisite.
* Tattling *
I managed to position myself behind an affectionate and talkative couple at the back of the balcony.
* Notes *
A new production of La Bohème (Nadine Sierra as Musetta, Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo, Alexia Voulgaridou as Mimì, and Alexey Markov as Marcello in Act IV pictured left; photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera last night. David Farley's production design consists of fairly flat scenery arranged such that a new scene is revealed with simple rotation of the set. Though not substantial, this did facilitate the graceful transitions between acts. John Caird's humorous direction read well from the very back of the house, the movements may have been hyperbolic when taken closer at hand.
The performance, conducted by Maestro Giuseppe Finzi, sounded a bit rough at first. The volume and speed of the orchestra was overwhelming at times in Act I, but certainly improved over the course of the evening. The harp sounded especially beautiful throughout the opera. The whole orchestra sounded splendid in the finale.
The youthful, attractive cast members looked and sounded perfectly believable in their roles. Hadleigh Adams (Schaunard) was difficult to hear over the orchestra in Act I, but his Act IV performance was poignant. Christian Van Horn sang Colline with tenderness and jocularity. Alexey Markov is a vigorous Marcello.
Nadine Sierra's Musetta is charming. Her voice seemed pleasantly chirpy compared to the darker hues in Alexia Voulgaridou's soprano. Voulgaridou makes for a sympathetic Mimì. Her lower notes sound grounded and her higher ones are secure yet have a nice fragility as is appropriate for the character. Michael Fabiano is a dashing Rodolfo, his bright voice can be slightly brash but is distinctive and warm. His "Che gelida manina" was touching, though the high note had a tinsel-like quality.
* Tattling *
The audience was chatty but enthusiastic. A few watch alarms noted.
In his Latin Quarter garret, Rodolfo contrives to hold the hand of Mimì. This is from Act I of La Bohème, naturally.
* Notes *
This second cast of San Francisco Opera's current production of La Bohème is impressive. For one thing, the youthfulness of the singers certainly was fitting for the roles, no one looked out of place in that regard. Brian Leerhuber was the only one of the Bohemians in both casts, and he seemed comfortable with this new set of singers Leerhuber has good comic timing, and he was particularly good in the Act IV quartet. Kenneth Kellogg (Colline) was just a bit more stiff, but he sang well, especially in "Vecchia zimarra." Tamara Wapinsky was rather loud as Musetta, something about her vibrato pains me. Her acting was strong, and her voice is better than Norah Amsellem's, with whom she shared this role. As Marcello, Brian Mulligan played off of Tamara nicely. He has a fine voice, very pleasant. Marius Brenciu was completely convincing as Rodolfo. His bright voice had volume without sounding strained. Maija Kovalevska also turned out a lovely performance, her Mimì was very flirtatious and a touch too robust in the beginning. Kovalevska sounded less pretty and less delicate than either Angela Gheorghiu or Melody Moore, but her voice had better volume and resonance than Gheorghiu, and her acting was superior to Moore's. Conductor Giuseppe Finzi's tempi were fairly speedy, and there were a few moments in the first half when the singers and orchestra were not together.
* Tattling *
The house looked completely full, even standing room looked crowded. People talked quite a bit. A woman in Box U spoke loudly during Musetta's Act II waltz, "Quando me n'vò," possibly alerting her companion to the importance the aria. Either that or she was noting that it was an important aria for Ms. Wapinsky.
The usual watch alarms were heard, in addition to some humming.
* Notes *
The eighth performance of San Francisco Opera's La Bohème starred Melody Moore instead of Angela Gheorghiu as Mimì. Ms. Moore sounded lovely, her voice is warmer than Gheorghiu's, and louder, but also has the necessary delicacy. Her voice blended beautifully with Piotr Beczala's, especially during "Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!" However, Moore seems somewhat uncomfortable in her own skin, her acting was less than convincing.
The balance between singers was improved, no one stuck out as being underpowered. OperaVision was actually pretty compelling, I did like being able to see details that would have been otherwise lost from so far away.
* Tattling *
The young couple in L 5 and 7 of the balcony were particularly ill-behaved. Not only did they cough, sneeze, and talk, they also shared some messages on a Blackberry, which they need to discuss 5 minutes before the end of Act III. Thank goodness we were in standing room and could just move to the north side of the building, where it was quieter.
Tenor Joseph Calleja is not making his debut at San Francisco Opera after all. He has withdrawn from the three performances as Rodolfo in La Bohème he was scheduled for due to illness. He will be replaced by Marius Brenciu, who will be having his US debut with the performance on November 29.
* Notes *
La Bohème opened yesterday afternoon at San Francisco Opera with incoming music director Nicola Luisotti conducting. His tempi were quite elastic, though even when he drew out parts, they did not sound sluggish in the least. The singing was all fine, even wobbly Norah Ansellem (Musetta) managed to be convincing, though her high notes were not pretty. Oren Gradus sang Colline's "Vecchia zimarra" beautifully. Quinn Kelsey did well as Marcello, his warm tones were lovely, though his voice was noticeably louder than the others. Piotr Beczala's Rodolfo sounded vulnerable, particularly in "Che gelida manina." I found the big star of the performance, Angela Gheorghiu, a bit difficult to hear over the orchestra at times. When audible, her voice can be sublime, and she does sound better in this than in La Rondine last season.
I did not actually watch this first performance, so I have little to say about the production. The set and costumes are standard fare for Bohème, everything looks as one would expect.
* Tattling *
It has been a long time since an opera performance was ruined for me, and given that I go so often, it was bound to happen. Everything was going well in balcony standing room for the first 2 hours and 40 minutes, no latecomers tried to speak to me, no one's cellular phones or watch alarms could be heard, and so forth. Then in the last five minutes, two middle aged men started talking aloud right next to me. One had complained of feeling faint, and so, like me, was sitting in the back. His friend apparently had grown tired of standing room as well, and they could not be quiet, they even giggled as Mimi died. Usually when the last notes of the piece ring out, I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach, and some part of my brain is highly annoyed at Puccini for being so manipulative. This time though, these couple of cretins managed to destroy that effect. Even the sing-along woman at SF Lyric was not able to do that!
* Notes *
The latest revival of La Bohème at San Francisco Opera may be very good indeed, if the final dress rehearsal was any indication. Though I am not crazy about La Gheorghiu, all the signs are good, she may well look and sound completely convincing as Mimi by the opening on Sunday. The rest of the cast is strong, so I actually do look forward to the upcoming performances.
* Tattling *
The audience in the Grand Tier was quite enthused. I especially enjoyed overhearing that Gheorghiu is "like a cross between one of the muppets and Judy Garland."
Nicola Luisotti had a white sweater draped dashingly over a navy blue shirt that he removed each time he was to actually conduct. It was difficult not to giggle at this.
October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo
Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.
September 13 2008- July 2 2009: Turandot
September 14 2008- March 22 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
September 15-27 2008: Rigoletto
September 20 2008: L'Amico Fritz
September 21 2008- May 2 2009: Die Zauberflöte
September 30- October 8 2008: Pique Dame
October 1-5 2008: The Nose
October 2-7 2008: Chowanschtschina
October 3 2008 - February 15 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
October 22-31 2008: Manon Lescaut
October 30- November 6 2008: Lohengrin
November 20 2008- May 8 2009: La Traviata
November 28 2008- April 12 2009: Aida
November 30 2008- May 31 2009: Tannhäuser
December 8 2008- February 12 2009: Daphne
December 13 2008- March 11 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
December 14-28 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- January 9 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
December 18 2008- January 4 2009: La Bohème
January 7- June 24 2009: Tosca
January 18- February 14 2009: Die Ägyptische Helena
January 25- February 10 2009: Salome
January 28- February 13 2009: Cassandra / Elektra
February 8-27 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
March 8- July 3 2009: Carmen
March 13- April 25 2009: Un Ballo in Maschera
March 26- April 4 2009: Andrea Chenier
April 9-24 2009: Marie Victoire
April 30- May 9 2009: Eugene Onegin
May 20- June 2 2009: La Cenerentola
May 26- June 18 2009: Der Freischütz
May 27- June 6 2009: Madama Butterfly
June 10-21 2009: Tristan und Isolde
June 17-25 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 26- July 4 2009: Tiefland
Valery Gergiev conducts Pique Dame, The Nose, Chowanschtschina. Bo Skovhus sings the title role of Eugene Onegin. Roberto Alagna sings Fritz in L'Amico Fritz, with Angela Gheorghiu as Suzel. Gheorghiu returns in May for La Traviata, and in June for Tosca. Angelika Kirchschlager sings the title role of Carmen and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier. Nancy Gustafson sings the Feldmarschallin in the latter, but only in December. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the March performances of Lucia, opposite of Burcu Uyar and Elena Mosuc, who share the title role with Ruth Ann Swenson.
* Notes *
A charming production of La Bohème opened at San Francisco Lyric Opera at Cowell Theater last night. The orchestra was not quite together, and at times the singers were not with the orchestra either. For the first act I was unable to stop listening to the orchestra, as it was on the same level as the audience and I was only in the second row. By chance I was right by the violas, which brought me back to the days of being in my high school's orchestra. Kim A. Tolman's set was artful and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the opera. The changes of scene went smoothly and the background projections were not distracting. Most of the costumes were good, though the blue gown Mimi wore in Act IV looked like it was borrowed from Romeo and Juliet. All the singers were fine, especially Shawnette Sulker as Musetta. Sulker was quite the actress as well. Tenor Vincent Chambers (Rodolfo) and baritone Nathaniel Hackmann (Marcello) both showed promise.
* Tattling *
The person next to me in Row E Seat 104 must have been under the impression that this was a sing-along opera, for she sang with nearly every famous aria. She was rather flat, but certainly she knew many of the words. Notably she did not sing Colline's aria in Act IV, nor did she announce the title beforehand, but thankfully she conducted, swaying her right hand back and forth.
October 18-26 2008: Samson et Dalila
November 15-23 2008: The Grapes of Wrath
February 7-15 2009: Don Pasquale
March 28- April 5 2009: La Bohème
May 2-10 2009: L'Italiana in Algeri
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is singing Dalila, which should be interesting. Vivica Genaux and William Burden sing the lead roles in L'Italiana, as they did in San Francisco a few seasons ago, and it is the same cute Santa Fe production as we saw here. Former Adler Fellow Sean Pannikar will sing Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath.
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.