Le Nozze di Figaro

LA Opera's Le nozze di Figaro

IMG_0441* Notes * 
Los Angeles Opera is nearly done with a run of a new Le nozze di Figaro, with a final performance this Sunday. The charming co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra national de Lorraine, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, and Opéra de Lausanne features a ladder into the orchestra pit and ramps on either side of the stage so that many entrances and exits happen right next to the audience.

The staging, directed by James Gray, has a great immediacy to it, the physicality of all the singers is impressive, everyone was very believable in their roles. The singing was especially good in the ensembles and I like how distinct the voices were. Last night's performance was the first opera I've gone to outside of the Bay Area since 2019, and I questioned myself why I was there until Maestro James Conlon started up the overture. It was so lovely to hear this music played by a fine orchestra, there were some breathtaking tempi but everything seemed well in hand and controlled too.

Soprano Janai Brugger is a sweet sounding Susanna, her voice is warm and round. Her face and body are both expressive, she did a rather lot of hitting, especially of Figaro when he pretends he thinks she is the Countess. Soprano Ana María Martínez (Countess) is the perfect contrast to Brugger, with an icy, incisive tone that is unmistakable. She has the appropriate gravity for this role and while her "Dove sono" wasn't the most beautiful I've heard, it was very moving.

Bass-baritone Craig Colclough is winsome as Figaro, his voice has power and grit. His Act IV "Aprite un po' quegli occhi" was heartfelt. Baritone Lucas Meachem did well, his smooth, strong sound suited the Count and it was hilarious when he tried using a crowbar to open the Countess' closet in Act II. He looked so uncomfortable and inept, the staging was really done perfectly. I was shocked when Meachem tried to hit Cherubino with a bottle in Act IV but struck Figaro instead, shattering glass on the stage. It was funny when he gingerly threw the neck of the bottle into some plants.

Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb is a wonderfully breathless Cherubino, terribly in love with love. Chaieb has an especially good physical presence, boyishly imitating the Count and committing fully to the various sight gags she was assigned. It was amusing to see that the Barbarina here was the Cherubino up at Opera San José last fall, mezzo-soprano Deepa Johnny. Her full, pretty sound is resonant, and she sang her mournful "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was touching. She didn't seem to have any problems singing the role, even though it is normally cast with a soprano.

Soprano Marie McLaughlin made for an almost over-the-top Marcellina, and got a lot of laughs, as did the flamboyant Don Basilio played by tenor Rodell Aure Rosel. He missed most of Act III, as the Count doesn't let him make an entrance at the beginning. It was a good way to make the transition to Act IV, Basilio comes back onstage and realizes the festivities are over, which gives the audience a bit of narrative to watch as the set is changed. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson was also amusing as Dr. Bartolo.

* Tattling * 
I got an aisle seat in the first row of the Dorothy Chandler, so I was right at one of the ramps onto the stage. Everyone around me was very quiet and I did not hear any talking or electronic noise near me. I was glad that the person behind me asked if I would deal with my unruly puffer coat before the music started, it really did impinge on his personal space and I need to remember to fold it away properly next time.

Just before the second half started, a man realized he had come in the wrong door and ran up a ramp and across the stage to get to his seat. He got light applause for this feat and the staff seemed concerned he might have gone backstage.

SF Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro

_37A0260* Notes *
Le Nozze di Figaro opened at San Francisco Opera yesterday in a fresh new production, the first in decades. The performance marks the start of revamps for all three Mozart/Da Ponte operas from director Michael Cavanagh and set designer Erhard Rom, each set in the same American estate over the course of 300 years.

"Well, I hope it doesn't have screen savers" was my spouse's comment as we drove over to the War Memorial, after I mentioned this. As the overture played a few hours later, we looked at each other and silently laughed, the graph paper scrim showed architectural drawings that bounced around during the music.

Thankfully, that was it for animated projections, and the set (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) is easily and quietly maneuvered. The scene between Marcellina and Susanna in Act I ("Via resti servita, madama brillante") was moved into and out of a kitchen and was particularly deft. Placing the action in the Mid-Atlantic states but still in the late 18th century works perfectly well, Contance Hoffman's costumes are eye-catching, I loved the bright pink with Prussian blue accents that Cherubino initially wears, and enjoyed Barbarina's complimentary bodice in a similar pink with blue stripes and polka dots. You could tell at a glance who she was even though she stood with the chorus.

_T8A0382Maestro Henrik Nánási, who had such a memorable debut in Elektra a few seasons ago, conducted a rapid and transparent orchestra. Bryndon Hassman's fortepiano continuo was very amusing, wittily commenting on the comedy unfolding on stage.

The opera is cast well, suiting each role quite convincingly. From Natalie Image as a cute-as a-button Barbarina (her "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was utterly lovely) to dependable Bojan Knežević as her drunken father Antonio, everyone looked and sounded pretty fantastic. Mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi is an adorable Cherubino, I loved hearing her legato sound in "Non so più cosa son" and "Voi che sapete che cosa è amor."

Soprano Nicole Heaston is a stately presence as Countess Almaviva, while baritone Levente Molnár very much embodied a blustering and jealous Count.

Soprano Jeanine De Bique (pictured with Michael Sumuel, photograph by Cory Weaver) is a perfectly sweet and bubbly Susanna, and though her stature is not unlike Ms. Heaston's, her voice is a complete contrast, which made the Act IV shenanigans all the more realistic. Bass-baritone Michael Sumuel's beautifully burnished sound occasionally got lost in the orchestration, but is very pleasant. He is charming in the title role, and his Act IV aria "Aprite un po' quegli occhi" was one of the best of the evening.

* Tattling *
There were a lot of people in attendance for the opening performance of this new production, but there was noticeable attrition at the intermission. Box X was reduced by one third by the last act, which I didn't mind at all since one person that left rustled paper more than once during Act II.

SF Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro Media Round-Up

Sf-opera-figaro-2015Production Web Site | SF Opera's Blog

San Francisco Opera was clearly less well-rehearsed for Le Nozze di Figaro (Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) than for Troyens and Ciociara, but turned out a sparkling performance nonetheless.

Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | San Francisco Examiner | San Jose Mercury News | San Francisco Classical Voice | Examiner.com

SF Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro

Ig-sf-opera-figaro-2015* Notes *
My review of San Francisco Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro is on San Francisco Classical Voice.

* Tattling *
Since this performance was in the afternoon, there were even more watch alarms at each hour than usual. An excited older couple sat next to me in Row T Seats 5 and 7. They loved the piece and there was extended commentary after nearly every aria.

The Second Cast of SF Opera's Figaro

Stober-Heidi * Notes *
The last three performances of San Francisco Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro this season features four new cast members. In the back of the balcony for the second performance on Saturday everyone could be heard, unlike during matinée I attended a week before in the side balcony. Dale Travis was perfectly funny as Doctor Bartolo. Trevor Scheunemann certainly seemed jealous and tyranical as the Count, and sang well, though his vibrato was rather prominent at the end of the opera. Kostas Smoriginas had a lot of energy as Figaro. His voice is not as reedy as Luca Pisaroni's, but is also not as pretty. Smoriginas did have a warmer, more baritone-like sound. The star of the show was Heidi Stober (Susanna). She sounded full and strong, yet very beautiful. Her acting and movement may not have been quite as sassy as Danielle de Niese's, but it was fascinating to compare the two sopranos.

* Tattling * 
There was much talking from a pair of young women around Row L Seats 115 and 117. One of them even used her mobile device during the second half of the opera. Otherwise, it was the usual parade of latecomers milling around in standing room before the first 4 minute pause between the first two acts.

At intermission I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few friends, one of whom was at the opera for the very first time.

Humorous Observations on SF Opera's Figaro

Dehn-meachem * Tattling *
Yesterday's matinée performance Le Nozze di Figaro at San Francisco Opera started late and was rather chaotic. There was much traffic coming into the city, perhaps because of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the annual free music festival held in Golden Gate Park. Several latecomers were sent to the back of the balcony to stand, and most were not very happy about it. One person in the balcony, I could not tell if he was in standing room or in the last row, lost his temper. He practically yelled "Stop talking, shut up" at the offending people. Just before Act I ended, a member of the house staff came by and repeatedly announced that they should go to the appropriate level of the War Memorial to that their seats.

I accidentally arrived half an hour before my volunteer shift and ended up making the coffee for the SF Opera Guild Coffee Service for the first time. I did not get it done quite in time for an Adler Fellow mezzo-soprano, but I hope she got some later. During intermission I had a very quick conversation with the principal trumpet player, and an even speedier one with Bojan Kneževiċ. I wandered up to watch John F. Martin take photographs of Danielle de Niese and Ellie Dehn, he may have even convinced the Opera Tattler to have her portrait taken too.

* Notes * 
This time I paid special attention to just what Maestro Luisotti was interpolating into Figaro. Besides Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in Act I Scene 6, there was a tiny bit of "Treulich geführt" from Lohengrin two scenes later. The beginning of the third entr'acte of Carmen in Act III, before Scene 13 showed up briefly. Might have also heard Mozart's Sonata Facile in the eighth scene of the last act.

A Second Look at SF Opera's Figaro

Figaro-actiii-bartolo-marcellina * Notes *
The fourth of nine performances in San Francisco Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro revival this season was last night. From the back of the balcony everyone sounded robust. Maestro Luisotti's conducting highlighted the subtitle of this opera, ossia la folle giornata, and his playing of the fortepiano was filled with vim. I was better able to appreciate all the interpolated bits and pieces whilst reading the score. Much deserved praise has been given to the new principal oboe and clarinet, but the bassoons also sound lovely. The chorus sounded clear and pretty, except for in the Act III contadinelle, which seemed slightly off from the orchestra.

I was surprised how much of the humor comes through the voices and playing without the visual aspect of the performance. Luca Pisaroni (Figaro) was particularly funny, and all the character roles were very strong. I still did not care for Michèle Losier's "Non so più" and noticed the horns were not perfectly in tune in her second aria. Danielle de Niese's breathing was evident at times, especially in Act II's "Venite, inginocchiatevi!" and Ellie Dehn occasionally gasped in Act III. All these quibbles aside, I throughly enjoyed learning more about this piece by listening to this performance.

* Tattling * 
As I was volunteering in the gift shop, I only made it up to the balcony just before curtain. Thankfully, SFMike was saving me a spot on the bench beneath the light. No one bothered me during the music, though I had to explain more than once that I was not a singer and was only looking at the score for fun.

The supertitles were timed well, and all the laughter happened just at the right time. I believe there was applause for the Act IV set, or else something delightful happened onstage before Barbarina's aria that I missed.

At intermission the Last Chinese Unicorn was kind enough to bring me a beverage and afterward she waited patiently for me with tiny strawberry cupcakes. By the time we left they had locked most of the doors, and it was commented that we might as well be locked in, since we are at the War Memorial all the time.

LA Opera's Figaro

Figaro Act I, photo by Robert Millard * Notes * 
A revival of Le Nozze di Figaro at LA Opera opened this afternoon. Plácido Domingo kept the orchestra at a good clip, though not exactly brisk, the tempi were comfortable. There were many synchronization problems with singers and the orchestra. The bridesmaid duet in Act III went especially awry, either the singers were out of tune, or the brass was. The chorus held together, however, and the character roles were all perfectly fine. Daniel Montenegro was all but unrecognizable as an elderly Don Curzio, Philip Cokorinos seemed suitably confused as Antonio. Valentina Fleer made for a girlish Barbarina, and her "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was lovely and mournful. Christopher Gillett (Don Basilio) was reedy and unctous, Alessandro Guerzoni (Doctor Bartolo) was stuffy and silly, and Ronnita Nicole Miller (Marcellina) was sassy and a touch too youthful.

Renata Pokupic was winsome as Cherubino, breathlessly enamored. Her "Non so più cosa son" was slightly quiet, but her "Voi che sapete" was clear. In contrast, Martina Serafin sounded loud and full as the Countess and her "Dove sono i bei momenti" lacked a sense of yearning. She could overpower the other singers, but did rein in her volume in "Sull'aria...Che soave zeffiretto." Bo Skovhus was delightful as the Count, his voice is warm but not too heavy. Marlis Petersen was sweet and airy as Susanna, but always audible and her Figaro, Daniel Okulitch, sounded robust and facile.

The production was odd, Ian Judge's direction involved a lot of pacing and reclining. The big dance number in Act III was a hybrid of flamenco and lindy hop that was funny and well-excuted, but it did not really tie together with the rest of the choreography. Some of the costumes were Rococo and some of them looked very fifties. Tim Goodchild's set made for seamless set changes, and looked clean and pretty until the last act. For some reason, this last scene has a wide open stage, so that timing for the ensembles was compromised, as there is nowhere to stand without being seen. Then there was a haunted house in the background with a giant moon, completely at odds with the sleek elegance of the other scenery. At least the spectacle ended with onstage fireworks.

* Tattling * 
The audience talked, but at least people were quiet when hushed. Watch alarms were heard at each hour. A cellular phone rang three times during Act I starting from when Figaro says "Chi suona? La Contessa."

The production garnered much laughter at inappropriate moments, sometimes simply because of the timing of the supertitles. I, for one, laughed very hard at the fireworks.

I had the good fortune to be invited backstage after the performance, and was able to deliver a commissioned cupcake pirate painting.

SF Opera's Figaro

Luca Pisaroni (Figaro) and Danielle de Niese (Susanna) with members of the chorus, photo by Cory Weaver * Notes *
The most recent revival of Le Nozze di Figaro opened last night at San Francisco Opera. Zack Brown's Goya-inspired set is nearly thirty years old, but is perfectly serviceable. Though the scene changes are awkward between acts, everything does look quite nice. The direction from John Copley is thoughtful, he handled the chorus especially deftly. The motivation for every movement was apparent.

Maestro Luisotti conducted the 42 musicians of the reduced orchestra, and played the fortepiano. The sound was verdant. The strings and woodwinds sparkled, and the brass was pleasant but hazy. The tempi were fast, and there was never a dull moment.

The cast was uniformly impressive, both in singing and acting. The chorus sounded particularly pure and clear in Acts I and IV. Adler Sara Gartland had a promising debut as Barbarina, her aria that starts Act IV went well. Robert MacNeil made the most of Don Curzio and was funny. Likewise, Bojan Kneževiċ sounded great as a rather wild-eyed Antonio. John Del Carlo (Doctor Bartolo), Greg Fedderly (Don Basilio), and Catherine Cook (Marcellina) were spirited and had perfect comic timing.

Michèle Losier (Cherubino) did not win me over in her first aria, her voice had a hysterical edge to it instead of sounding breathlessly youthful. Her "Voi che sapete" was pretty, and she does look convincingly boyish. In the title role, Luca Pisaroni started off slowly and lacked punch. By "Non più andrai" he did sound lovely, and looked comfortable on stage. Pisaroni's voice has taken more weight since we last heard him as Masetto in 2007. Danielle de Niese made for a sweet but sassy Susanna. Her "Deh, vieni, non tardar" seemed effortless. Lucas Meachem and Ellie Dehn were both strong as the Count and Countess. Meachem was warm and vibrant. Dehn can sound perfectly brilliant, and there was only the slightest roughness in "Dove sono i bei momenti."

* Tattling * 
Before the performance I had the pleasure introducing Axel Feldheim to Adler Leah Crocetto, the cover for the Countess, in the press room. We found we were seated in the same row as Adler David Lomelí, who got an introduction as well.

There was light talking during the music. Some audience members did not heed the request to remain seated during the brief pauses between acts. At least one person even made a telephone call during the first one. A watch alarm was heard during "L'ho perduta, me meschina."

John Copley was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal by David Gockley after the performance. Copley told an anecdote about Marilyn Horne being picked up at SFO. He also expressed his pleasure of being placed on the "diva list," as many renowned divas have received the aforementioned award.

Le Nozze di Figaro at Unter den Linden

Figaro-unter-den-linden * Notes *
The Saturday performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was utterly delightful. The production was simple, but cunning, and the scene changes happened fluidly. Herbert Kapplmüller's set was descriptive without being too elaborate, and Yoshi'o Yabara's costumes were in keeping with it.

The orchestra sounded pleasant under Frank Beermann, though there were some synchronization problems between the playing and singing. There were more than a few horn mistakes, but most of these were drowned out by the strings. The cast was very even, and the singing lovely. The weakest was Ulrike Helzel (Cherubino), who looked the role, but lacked sweetness, especially in her higher range. Alexander Vinogradov was funny and sympathetic as Figaro, and Sylvia Schwartz (Susanna) was likewise. Arttu Kataja was a brash, swaggering Count, and Anna Samuil also did well as the Countess, her intonation was fine and she had some very pretty moments.

* Tattling * 
The audience spoke during much of the performance, and watch alarms rang at each hour. I was overwhelmed by the heavily perfumed woman who sat next to me in Tier 3, Right Middle Row 4 Seat 19. After the intermission, her date switched seats with her, and perhaps he did not enjoy her fragrance either, as he angled himself toward me.

After the show, we were convinced to go on a tour of the opera house with our Belgian friends. The hour-long tour gave us a bit of history about the opera house and took us from the Königsloge, past the dressing rooms, back stage, into the Dienstloge, and all the way back to the Apollo-Saal. It was impressive to be able to stand on the stage and to preview the set for Agrippina, which we saw the next day.

Bayerische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

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.

New Productions for 2008-2009 | Official Site