Leah Crocetto

SF Opera's Luisa Miller

Luisa-miller-lc-mf-2015* Notes * 
The 93rd season of San Francisco Opera opened Friday with Luisa Miller, a Verdi rarity only seen on the War Memorial stage a dozen times before. The opera has a quintessentially Verdian plot: a protective father, an innocent daughter, a secret identity, and a love triangle that ends in a protracted death scene. Part of Verdi's middle period, Luisa Miller does not have the lively tunes of Rigoletto, La Traviata, or Il Trovatore that followed soon after. But there was some beautiful singing in last night's performance.

The two leads (pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver) were clearly strongest. Local favorite Leah Crocetto sang the title role without a hint of strain. Her pianissimi were gorgeous. Tenor Michael Fabiano is a dashing Rodolfo, and his voice is similarly attractive, very bright and pretty.

As Luisa's father, baritone Vitaliy Bilyy had a fine San Francisco Opera debut. Bilyy's voice has a pleasant weight, the right mixture of heft and lightness. Mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk (Federica) also had a good first performance on the War Memorial stage, her dark tones contrasting nicely with Crocetto.

Daniel Sumegi wobbled as Count Walter, while Andrea Silvestrelli was a powerfully evil Wurm.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducted the orchestra with grace and as usual the woodwinds sounded great. The members of the chorus pulled together well.

Francesca Zambello's production, directed here by Laurie Feldman, involves background panels that make up a dreamy forest scene. The panels can move vertically and help change scenes. There is also a very weird beam crosswise above the stage that holds a large panel depicting various images, including a cottage and a hunting tapestry. This was less successful than the background panels, often it seemed awkward and in the way.

Ungainliness might have been inevitable for this opera, the plot is truly absurd and the final death scene was not convincing, despite the lovely singing.

* Tattling * 
I was shocked to be the first person in the standing room line when I arrived after 8am with my 1.5 year old in tow.

The remarks by San Francisco Opera's General Director, President, and Chairman of the Board were uncharacteristically brief and articulate. The audience was mild this year, and most of the extraneous noise heard during the performance came from the lobby after intermission.

SF Opera's La Bohème (Crocetto, Berrugi)

Sf-opera-boheme-castb-2014* 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.

Luisotti Conducts Verdi's Requiem

Luisotti-baton* Notes * 
Last night Nicola Luisotti conducted Verdi's Messa da Requiem at the War Memorial Opera House with the combined orchestras and choruses of Real Teatro di San Carlo and San Francisco Opera. The volume was occasionally deafening, especially the repeated part when the chorus sings "Dies irae" and the trumpets play. The piece felt a bit chaotic, but there were lovely moments, as with the bassoons.

The soloists had to sing with a lot of power to be heard. Vitalij Kowaljow sounded grave and authoritative. Michael Fabiano was strong and bright. Margaret Mezzacappa's voice could have been richer, she sounds rather soprano-like in this work. Leah Crocetto sounded celestial and well-supported, and sang beautifully with the chorus in the "Libera me."

* Tattling * 
The War Memorial was completely full; the stage, seats, and standing room areas seemed at capacity. The mayor of San Francisco, Edwin Lee, gave a halting speech before the performance, while Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris gave a more fluid one, translated by the Consul General of Italy, San Francisco, Mauro Battocchi. Someone in one of the choruses took a flash photograph of the scene.

The audience on the orchestra level was rather silent and still. The ushers, who had no place to sit, felt it was appropriate to talk to each other during the music.

Maometto II at Santa Fe Opera

Maometto-santa-fe-opera* Notes *
The opening of Santa Fe Opera's Maometto II (Act II pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) occurred a few weeks ago. The third performance yesterday evening had much appeal, in no small part because of Rossini's music, which was conducted by Frédéric Chaslin and played with spirit. The volume of the orchestra was held in check, and the singers were always audible.

The singing was less consistent, at least on this particular Friday night. The chorus had a few diffuse moments, but sounded lovely by the end of the opera. Patricia Bardon looked convincing as Calbo, and while she does have plenty of power, her singing is not beautiful. Likewise, Luca Pisaroni is a strong actor, but did not seem vocally suited to the title role. His is a pretty voice, but the low notes lack richness. His big aria ("All'invito generoso") in the second half had more vitality than his singing in Act I.

On the other hand, Bruce Sledge (Paolo Erisso) sounded bright, his voice seems to have the right weight to it for this music. There were a few moments of constriction in a few of his high notes, but this was easy to overlook. The obvious star of the performance was Leah Crocetto. Though her voice is a touch robust for Anna, she sang with ease and deftness. Her legato is gorgeous.

David Alden's production is economical, and works well with the scenic design from Jon Morrell. The staging, dancing, and music come together delightfully when the Turks make their entrance at the end of Act I.

* Tattling * 
There was much talking at this performance. A child seated in Row B of the mezzanine conducted with both hands during the opera, and his father simply joined in, and gestured as the music played.

SF Opera's Turandot (Opening Night 2011-2012)

Turandot-sf-opera-actiii* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's 89th season opened last night with a revival of Turandot (Iréne Theorin, Marco Berti, and Joseph Frank in Act III pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver). David Hockney's production is as garish as ever, but quite functional, as the sets only move minimally for the scene changes. This keeps the backstage noise negligible, and lighting made for smooth transitions. The choreography was not synchronized, and oddly, the dancers as acrobats made the most glaring errors of this type.

Musically, this performance of Turandot was rather robust, especially in volume. Even still, the orchestra, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti, only occasionally overwhelmed the singers. The playing was florid, but shimmered when necessary. The chorus sounded strong and even.

Our Ping, Pang, and Pong (Hyung Yun, Greg Fedderly, and Daniel Montenegro) were winsome. Yun's baritone is warm, and for the most part, Fedderly and Montenegro have sufficient brightness to be heard over the orchestration. Raymond Aceto seemed an ideal Timur. Though the staging for his exit with Liù's corpse in Act III was awkward, Aceto sang with beauty and feeling.

Leah Crocetto (Liù) gave perhaps the finest performance of the evening. Her pianissmi were breathtaking in "Signore, ascolta!" and she sang "Tu che di gel sei cinta" exquisitely. Marco Berti sang Calaf loudly, yet without strain. He sang "Nessun dorma" cleanly, but did not sustain his last note for its full value. In the title role, Iréne Theorin was not particularly sympathetic. Her powerful voice is unsettling, which is appropriate for portraying the cruel princess.

* Tattling * 
Opening night's audience is invariably ill-behaved. The family in front of me in the last row of the balcony, Seats 112-118 passed a pair of binoculars back and forth the entire opera. At least they seemed engaged in the experience. The apparent mother of this family unwrapped a candy for nearly all of Crocetto's first aria, and spoke during "Nessun dorma" because she was so excited about recognizing the music. Afterward, she said she loved the "theme song" of the opera.

SF Opera's Cyrano de Bergerac

DomingoCake * Notes *
Sunday's matinée of San Francisco Opera's Cyrano de Bergerac opened a run of seven performances. Petrika Ionesco's production, from Théâtre du Châtelet, is attractive, but does not make for the most elegant set changes. There was much delightful spectacle, and the staging was not entirely old-fashioned either, despite looking fairly traditional.

The orchestra sounded lushly chaotic under Patrick Fournillier, it was unclear if this was because of Alfano's music or because of the playing. In fact, I had a fairly difficult time getting a grasp on the music, it seemed all over the place. Some of it sounded like Debussy, and some rather more like Puccini.

The chorus did a respectable job, and the singing overall was wonderful. Even in their small roles, Martin Rojas-Dietrich (Montfleury) and Bojan Knežević (Lignière) shone. As did the three Adler Fellows participating in this opera, Austin Kness, Maya Lahyani, and Leah Crocetto. All sang more than one role. Kness was most striking as Vicomte de Valvert, sounding strong and warm. Lahyani's acting was impressive, she was convincing the Duenna and Sister Marta. Crocetto was an alluring Lisa, the wayward wife of pastry chef Ragueneau. As Ragueneau, Brian Mulligan was wonderful as ever, his rich voice has such a lovely bloom to it. Lester Lynch (Carbon) sang well and with power.

Thiago Arancam seemed the embodiment of Christian de Neuveville, singing with forcefulness. Likewise Ainhoa Arteta was absolutely gorgeous as Roxane. Arteta pierced through the orchestra without the least bit of effort and could float notes beautifully. She had moments of harshness, but these were few and far between. In the title role, Plácido Domingo was ill, and General Director David Gockley made an announcement begging our indulgence in the second half of Act II. Domingo was somewhat gravelly, some of his lower notes were less than perfect, and he did cough a few times. However, his timbre is so pleasing and still had such an ease, our indulgence was hardly necessary. Domingo sang the last aria superbly, communicating the text with such a directness, rendering the supertitles superfluous.

* Tattling * 
On Sunday morning I awoke before dawn as I was so excited for this performance. I dragged Opernphrenologe out of bed and we made our way to the opera house 1 hour before anyone else arrived. Perhaps because of the rain, even by 10 am the standing room line was not much greater than usual. The opera was kind enough to provide us with both coffee and donuts, and by the time we were allowed in a great crowd had developed.

The throng of Domingo aficionados was intimidating. There was some light talking but not a great deal of electronic noise. I did hear a staff member's walkie talkie in orchestra standing room during Act II. At the end of the opera, someone went through his two plastic grocery bags, and someone gave him a talking to as she seemed irritated by all the noise.

Leah Crocetto's Salon at the Rex

Crocetto * Notes *
Soprano Leah Crocetto gave a recital of her favorite songs with pianist Tamara Sanikidze for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. Crocetto began with "Ain't it a pretty night?" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. She learnt this piece at the age of 18, and it sounded very natural for her. This was followed by 3 Rachmaninoff songs, 2 from the Opus 21 Song Cycle and the Vocalise (Op. 34, No. 14). Sanikidze milked Richard Strauss' lovely "Morgen," Crocetto sounded pure and clear. Her "O mio babbino caro" was spine-tingling. The rest of the program was in English and included "Sure on this Shining Night," "From Seamus," "The Boy Next Door," "The Man that Got Away," "When Did I Fall in Love," "Fly Me to the Moon," "All the Things You Are," "The Girl in 14-G," and "You'll Never Walk Alone." There were times when her volume was a bit much for the smallness of the room. She did sound equally comfortable singing art songs, arias, or standards.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, we were packed in fairly tightly, and I was between Axel Feldheim and John Marcher. The audience was well-behaved, though some expressed their enthusiasm by calling out "whoo-whoo" several times in a row during the applause. The clanking of silverware was heard during "Morgen" and Crocetto joked that this was her percussion section.

Leah Crocetto's Schwabacher Debut Recital

Headshot_Crocetto-bw* Notes * 
Soprano Leah Crocetto gave her Schwabacher Debut Recital, accompanied by pianist Mark Morash, last Sunday evening. The eclectic program included works from Bellini, Rachmaninoff, Barber, Obradors, Liszt, Gregory Peeples, Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Crocetto sings with an impressive effortlessness. Bellini's Sei Ariette were very beautiful, and Crocetto's phrasing was lovely and fluid. She did sound the slightest bit compressed in the very highest note of Rachmaninoff's "Zdes' khorosho," but given how high it was, this is reasonable. The selections from the Canciones Clásicas Españolas of Obradors were very cute, especially "Chiquitita la novia." Crocetto is flexible, she sounds convincing singing jazz, and she explained she used to sing Gershwin and Cole Porter as much as she could in New York, supplementing her income by working at The Olive Garden. Morash and Crocetto did not seem as together in this repertoire, though otherwise the playing and singing were both strong. The encores were wonderful, the first being a song in Spanish, and the second an aria from La Rondine.

* Tattling * 
There was some minor whispering, but the audience was well-behaved. During the last part of the program, Crocetto tipped Morash, saying he only agreed to do a jazz set under such conditions. Afterward, someone rushed to the stage with a couple of bills in hand as tips.

Most of the other Adler Fellows could not attend this event, as they were performing with the Alonzo King Lines Ballet at Yerba Buena.