Nina Stemme

SF Opera's Die Frau Ohne Schatten

_DSC2744* Notes *
Richard Strauss' Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Act I Scene 2 pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) returned to San Francisco Opera after an absence of 34 years. The vibrant production by artist David Hockney premiered at Covent Garden way back in 1992, but still has much to recommend it, and the singing and playing were all wonderful.

The plot of this opera, as with so many of Strauss' operas, was written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is basically a fairy tale about a magical empress who has no shadow, meaning she is barren, and she must find a shadow or the emperor will turn to stone. She descends to the human realm with her nurse, and tries to gain a shadow from the wife of Barak the Dyer. There is much talk of the unborn. The empress eventually decides it is wrong to harm Barak, as his wife will unable to have children if she gives up her shadow, and in the end she is granted grace and given a shadow. This folktale is consider to be of Aarne-Thompson type 755, about forgiveness and redemption, and has origins in Scandinavia.

Hockney's set is as colorful as the music is, the many scenes are switched up with ease. I really loved how the earthly realm of Barak the Dyer and his wife looked like a rainbow salt mine, even the mortals live in technicolor. The costumes, from Ian Falconer of Olivia fame, looked to be influenced by Rajasthani or Mughal miniature painting.

_DSC2439The cast included 25 principals and not only the regular chorus but a children's chorus. Soprano Nina Stemme (pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) sounded as powerful and glittery as ever as Barak's Wife (Die Färberin). It was fun to hear her with soprano Linda Watson (Nurse/Die Amme), since they are both known for performing Brünnhilde. Watson has a more strident tone, but it works for this role, which was written for mezzo-soprano, and the two singers did sound very distinct. The Empress (Die Kaiserin), sung by soprano Camilla Nylund, seemed like a very challenging part, there were dizzying heights that were frankly shrill. But there was no mistaking Nylund for the other two sopranos. Baritone Johan Reuter was a very human Barak, and sang with warmth. Tenor David Butt Philip was certainly more otherworldly as the The Emperor.

The orchestra sounded magnificent under Maestro Donald Runnicles, there were so many colors and textures in the music that came out rather beautifully. This is definitely an opera to return to, and I'm very curious to read the score.

* Tattling *
The people in Box D Seats 7 and 8 arrived slightly late and left a few minutes before the end of the opera. We inconvenienced them by being in their seats at the start, as the person in Seat 4 kept going in and out of the box. The person in Seat 4 also spent a little time texting, but this was relatively brief. The person in Seat 8 smashed her plastic water bottle in order to drink, and this happened 2 or 3 times. She also left the bottle at her seat after leaving the performance.

Otherwise it was pretty quiet, most of the people in attendance very much wanted to be there and were listening intently.


Fidelio at SFS

Nina-stemme* Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony are concluding a three-week Beethoven Festival with a semi-staged Fidelio. The opening performance last night featured grand singing and an austere, but effective staging.

The opera boasts a stunning cast. Nina Stemme is a searing Leonore, her sound is luminous and clear. She pierces to the core but is not harsh. Brandon Jovanovich is a robust Florestan. His first notes in Act II had much vibrato but he seemed to settle in and his performance was strong. Alan Held is a gripping villain and he sang Don Pizarro with power.

Kevin Langan is a believable Rocco, he has a tendency to creak, but it works for this role. Nicolas Phan (Jaquino) has a warm sound and Joelle Harvey (Marzelline) is bright and pure. Luca Pisaroni sings Don Fernando with authority.

The orchestra played with enthusiasm as the production unfolded around them. The staging makes cunning use of upstage platforms, the terraces, and the small portion of the downstage area available. The chorus sounded together and did a wonderful job with the choreography, filing in with a great deal of intention and opening scores in a well-timed and deliberate fashion.

Dialogue from Tatjana Gürbaca was included, and thus begins with Nina Stemme's Leonore speaking rather than the duet between Jaquino and Marzelline. Stemme's speaking voice is resounding and rather deep. The spoken parts do help tell the story, given the lack of set or elaborate costuming. The supertitles also spelled out locations and other relevant information. The humanity of this opera came through in the simplicity of the production and the beauty of the singing.

* Tattling *
The person next to me in Row A Seat 112 was an avid and excited viewer, so much so he would occasionally lean over me to try to see what was going on upstage.


WNO Ring 2016

Nina Stemme photo by Tanja NiemannWashington National Opera just announced principal casting and performance dates for its first complete presentation of Wagner's Ring cycle. Three full cycles will be presented from April 30 to May 22, 2016 and will be directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Philippe Auguin.

Nina Stemme (pictured left, photograph by Tanja Niemann) and Catherine Foster share the role of Brünnhilde. Daniel Brenna sings Siegfried in the United States for the first time. Alan Held is Wotan. Subscription packages will be available Spring 2015.

Production Web Site


SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 3

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-prologue2 * Notes * 
Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera came to a spectacular conclusion with Götterdämmerung (Prologue pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) today. The orchestra played beautifully for Maestro Donald Runnicles. There were only two or three sour moments, and even these were fleeting and did not detract from the overall brilliance of the performance. The horn and harp were striking. The music of Siegfried's funeral march was incredibly moving, as was the very end of the opera. The chorus sounded strong and the greeting of Gunther and Brünnhilde was gorgeous.

The principal singers gave performances consistent with their previous ones, only with greater focus and intensity. Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum may have looked like they had seen better days as the Rhinemaidens, but they sounded great. They held it together for the wild part of the music that starts with "So weise und stark verwähnt sich der Held." Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton were memorable as the Norns, each voice distinctive, but singing together. Daveda Karanas also made the Waltraute/Brünnhilde scene in Act I very human and believable. Andrea Silvestrelli was menancing as Hagen, singing with force and richness. Ian Storey was only overwhelmed a few times as Siegfried, his voice has warmth and was particularly effective in Act III. Nina Stemme was truly a wonder as Brünnhilde, going from strength to strength.

* Tattling * 
Every seat was sold, and even standing room was at capacity. I heard there were altercations in the balcony over places at the rail. It was noted that the person seated in the balcony with the service dog was late today, and her dog was allowed to roam freely around the standing area.

As for the orchestra level, there was the usual talking, laughing, clapping, and electronic noise. People were all too amused by the remote control used in the first scene of Act II.


SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 3

Sfopera-siegfried-act-2-7 * Notes * 
The third Ring cycle at San Francisco Opera continued yesterday with Siegfried (Act II, Scene 3 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver). The orchestra sounded better than ever under Donald Runnicles. The brass was particularly clean, especially in the Act I Vorspiel and before Brünnhilde makes her vocal entrance in Act III, Scene 3. A clarinet squeaked once in Act II, but overall playing of the clarinet and the rest of the woodwinds was gorgeous, the Woodbird music was very pretty. Again, the fire music at the end of Act III, Scene 2 was wonderful.

The singing was strong. Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried) sounded young and sweet, his voice is more open and has a fuller bloom to it than when he debuted the role more than a month ago. His acting skills are evident, I especially liked watching him mimic the movements of Mime, sung by David Cangelosi. The latter gave a performance with great physicality and a full range of colors in the voice. Cangelosi enunciates well, yet maintains a bright lyricism. Mark Delavan (Wanderer) would occasionally be overwhelmed when we got to brass-heavy parts of the music, though perhaps this was only because my seat was right in front of that section. He did sing beautifully. Nina Stemme is a stunning Brünnhilde. At this point, it is hard to imagine anyone else in this role, as Stemme embodies the character so perfectly.

* Tattling * 
The audience had a hard time being quiet during the music that did not include singing, but because the performance was so engaging, the talking was easy enough to ignore. At least no electronic noise was heard, at least, not on the orchestra level where I was seated. The person next to me in Row L Seat 6 took photographs of the projects at the top of Act II until the woman in M 4 hissed at him to stop.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 3

Sfopera-walkuere-act-2 * Notes * 
Cycle 3's Die Walküre (Act II, Scene 1 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) at San Francisco Opera was performed yesterday with Heidi Melton debuting the role of Sieglinde. Melton has a warmth to her voice, but also conveys the fragility of the character. She did sound a bit rough early on in Act I, Scene 3, but she recovered well. Her last notes of the opera, in Act III, Scene 1, were lovely.

Brandon Jovanovich's Siegmund was better than ever, sounding stronger and more legato. Mark Delavan (Wotan) sounded especially poignant in Act II, and his interaction with Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka) were profoundly human. Nina Stemme consistently is arresting as Brünnhilde. The orchestra, conducted by Donald Runnicles, is resplendent.

* Tattling * 
The house was full. A seeing-eye dog barked once in Act I. There was talking and laughing during the music, and the woman in P 8 of the Orchestra Level even finished a Facebook comment during the Act III Prelude. There was also lots of clapping over the music, first for the piggyback ride Wotan gave Brünnhilde in Act II, then for the entrance of the Walküren, and finally when the Walkürenritt ended.


SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 2

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-act3-final * Notes * 
Cycle 2 of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera concluded with Götterdämmerung (final scene of Act III pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) today. The orchestra was in fine form under Donald Runnicles. The bass clarinet, harp, and trumpet sounded especially wonderful. The chorus did well, and the male chorus sounded more together in Act III.

It was less easy to discern which words Andrea Silvestrelli continued to impress as Hagen. Ian Storey's voice did not disappear this time as he sang Siegfried. He seemed flat at times, but he did sound warm. Nina Stemme was simply amazing as Brünnhilde. There were times when she might have been difficult to understand as far as the enunciation of her words, but the emotional import was never lost. The last scene was splendid, Stemme and orchestra sounded incredibly beautiful.

* Tattling * 
There were no seats left in the house, and standing room was crowded. Because of the Pride festivities, there were many late-comers, most of whom seemed very irritated that they could not take their seats during the 1 hour and 50 minutes of the Prologue and Act I. A watch alarm was noted during Act I. Snoring was also heard in both Acts I and II.

As part of my Rheinmaiden costume I carried a fishbowl with gold marbles in it. One of the ushers deliberated on whether I would be allowed into the standing room area in the balcony with the marbles, as I was told I might make noise with them, and I was told I had to be very careful. After entering the balcony I was immediately asked if the marbles were food by another usher. Ironically, the usher in the center aisle spoke a great deal, as she told people they could not take their seats (if they were late), return to their seats (if they went to the restroom), or stand in the aisle unless they were ushers (as they would be a fire hazard). Obviously she was just trying to do her job and follow the rules, but the amount of talking aloud was distracting.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 2

Sfopera-walkuere-act1 * Notes * 
The second cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera continued Wednesday night with Die Walküre (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver). The orchestra sounded cleaner than last week. Donald Runnicles seems to be leading an understated, subtle rendering, which is rather beautiful. The strings played especially well, the violin soli were gorgeous. Mark Delavan's Wotan is vulnerable and human. He was especially hard to hear at the end, as he is rather far upstage, but he does have a lovely voice. Most impressive were Brandon Jovanovich as Siegmund and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde. Jovanovich sounded bright and robust. Stemme produces a rich, full sound, and never yelled or screeched.

* Tattling * 
There were lots of people in the balcony for standing room. Most were quiet. Someone's hearing aid made a terrible sound in the first act. One of Hunding's dogs may have barked, or at least yelped. I was told that one of the projections did not work for the last scene in Act I, but did not witness this as I read the score during the performance.


SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 1

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-act2-trio * Notes * 
Cycle 1 of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera concluded with Götterdämmerung (final scene of Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) yesterday evening. Francesca Zambello's production went more smoothly than at the prima earlier this month. The final scene had more impact, and Brünnhilde's torch did not go out before she lit the funeral pyre. Hagen's exit to dispose of Gunther's corpse in Act III read better from the orchestra level, but it was still unclear why he simply turns upstage and waits motionless whilst Brünnhilde and Gutrune interact just before this. There were a lot of laughs for the beginning of Act II, as Hagen watches television on the lowered scrim. There were also giggles for the Rheinmaidens, they sort recycling at the top of Act III, and this mundane task is apparently very amusing. Perhaps these gags were entertaining, but the audience response interrupted the music.

Jan Hartley's projections could be pretty. The clouds, flames, and birch forest all were attractive enough. At other times, the layered images did not look like anything at all, as it was difficult to pull apart what exactly was being shown. The motion of the projections could be clunky. The set changes were quiet, but the plastic trash bags used at both the beginning and end of Act III were not. Michael Yeargan's sets looked modern and sleek, and Mark McCullough's lighting design showed them to their best advantage. The costumes, by Catherine Zuber, were consistent and pushed the narrative forward. Gutrune's wardrobe was elegant, and the colors were used artfully. Brünnhilde's awkward gown revealed her lack of comfort in the world of the Gibichungs.

The playing under Maestro Donald Runnicles was expressive and vibrant. Though some of the brass was shaky in Act I, the playing improved, and Act III was very moving. The clarinet and bass clarinet were particularly good, as were the strings. The chorus also was wonderful to hear, even though the male chorus was not exactly together in Act III. The Rheintöchter (Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum) were charming, but the Norns (Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton) were even more impressive. Karanas' scene as Waltraute was vivid both vocally and dramatically. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) sounded hearty. Melissa Citro (Gutrune) was squeaky, but one had no trouble hearing her.

Gerd Grochowski's diction as Gunther was clear, his voice also has good volume. It was less easy to discern which words Andrea Silvestrelli was singing as Hagen, but his rich, deep voice is seems to have no bottom. Ian Storey (Siegfried) sounded warm but a bit flat in both the Prologue and Act I, and his voice completely gave out in Act II. San Francisco Opera's General Director came out to beg our indulgence before Act III. Storey was treated during the second intermission and agreed to sing up until the end. Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde) also had trouble in the Prologue, screaming her last note. Nonetheless, the rest of the performance went better for her, and the Immolation Scene was otherworldly.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the orchestra spoke a little bit, but there was a lot of electronic noise. A watch alarm beeped 20 times and someone's mobile phone rang. Snoring was also noted.

Zambello was reportedly booed from the balcony.


SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 1

Siegfried-act-3-scene-3 * Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's current Ring cycle continued with Siegfried (Act III, Scene 3 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) last night. The production, from Francesca Zambello, portrays the title character as an artless, troubled youth in an urban fairytale. The comedy of the work is clear, but other aspects of the production are baffling. The Waldvogel as a girl rather than a bird is an interesting idea, however this conceit ultimately weakens the final scene. When Siegfried sees Brünnhilde for the first time, he has already seen the rather dainty Waldvogel, so his surprise at seeing a woman seems unwarranted. Another muddle was evident after Siegfried drags Mime's body over to the dead Fafner. As Siegfried sings he pours gasoline on the corpses and threatens to light them on fire. The nice Waldvogel vehemently gestures to him that this is unacceptable. This makes little sense since Siegfried can understand her singing as speech, why wouldn't she just vocalize her disapproval? The very end of Act II was moving, having Siegfried run off and then return to take one last look at the only parent he has known made this hero seem less callous.

The changes in staging have been positive. The Wanderer no longer enters from the raised catwalk above where the Waldvogel spends most of her time later. This lends more drama to the Waldvogel's entrance, and Mark Delavan was easier to hear when he did not have to worry about being suspended above the stage. The scene with the Wanderer and Erda is markedly less violent, which distracts less from the music.

Whether from the orchestra or the balcony, Jan Hartley's projections set each scene, and yet were often a confused, overworked jumble. The layering of images only made for further visual disorder. In general, Mark McCullough's lighting design is restrained in comparison, but the green used in Act II was a bit tacky. Michael Yeargan's set added to the humor of Act I, Mime's trailer complete with Rheingold beer and trash strewn about was funny. The other settings may have not been as entertaining, but were servicable. The costumes, by Catherine Zuber, distinguish the characters. Siegfried's costume, a mid-length coat with scarf, looks awfully similiar to director Zambello's attire. It seems that Sieglinde's turquoise dress was transformed into said scarf, as the latter did not appear in Die Walküre.

The orchestra played smoothly under Runnicles. The woodwinds and harps sounded especially great. There were some errors, but it does seem petty to enumerate the specifics. The singers were less overwhelmed by the orchestra than two weeks ago at the prima, especially Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried). Morris was more confident, and his voice sounded fuller, never on the verge of cracking. His high, sweet tenor is very pretty. Mark Delavan's Wanderer also sounded richer and more authoritative.

David Cangelosi continued to impress as Mime. His voice is attractive, has a pleasant, baritonal quality, but his high notes are still brilliant. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) is vocally distinct enough from Delavan to contrast the Alberich and Wotan nicely. Daniel Sumegi (Fafner), Stacey Tappan (Waldvogel), and Ronnita Miller (Erda) gave performances consistent with their appearances at the opening. Nina Stemme continues to be one of strongest contributors to this Ring, her fresh voiced Brünnhilde is exceptional.

* Tattling * 
I attended in Orchestra level standing room, feeling I could get the full impact of the projections from here. There was some talking whenever the singing ceased, which was unfortunate given how some my favorite parts of the opera are precisely these moments. I even took a particular music critic's offer for his seat in Act III, just to escape a dreadful woman standing behind me. At least there was little electronic noise this time.


Götterdämmerung at SF Opera

Goetterdaemmerung-act2 * Notes * 
Today's premiere of Götterdämmerung (Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) at San Francisco Opera was arresting. Maestro Donald Runnicles had the orchestra sounding vivid and beautiful. There were bad notes and cloudiness here and there in the brass, but nonetheless it hardly mattered. The woodwinds were evocative, the strings shimmering. The balance of orchestra and singers was not always favorable to the latter. For the most part the singing was audible and it was a great pleasure to hear the chorus sing this music.

The cast was strong. The Rheintöchter (Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum) sounded pretty and plaintive. The Norns (Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton) were well matched yet completely distinct from one another. Karanas also sang Waltraute convincingly, her pleading with Brünnhilde was poignant. Gordon Hawkins was suitably haunting as Alberich. Melissa Citro was a piercing Gutrune, and she channeled hysteria appropriately in the last act. Citro's mincing steps and girlishness read clearly even at the back of the house.

Gerd Grochowski played the consummate Gunther, plainly conveying the cowardice of the character. Andrea Silvestrelli (Hagen) was nearly faultless. He was brilliantly evil, and the texture of his voice worked to his advantage. His rich sound does seem to have an endless depth to it. Ian Storey (Siegfried) has some fine heft and volume to his voice, but he did sound somewhat sour. His control is somewhat imperfect, and he cracked at least one note in Act II. This said, his death scene was captivating. However, the obvious star of the performance was Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde. Her voice is powerful without being strained, her low notes have strength and warmth, and her high notes ring out with clarity.

Francesca Zambello's production ran out of steam by the end. For one thing, the torch Brünnhilde used to set the funeral pyre alight went out before she made it all the way upstage where this to take place. It was also confusing as to why Hagen exited the stage only to return much later to deliver his last line and meet his deserved demise. Zambello did infuse some humor into the early scenes with the Gibichungs, and if nothing else, she engaged the audience. Again, the projections from Jan Hartley seemed stylistically incoherent, and the overlap of images only created more of a muddle. Unfortunately, the noise of the set changes and some of the staging could be distracting. On the other hand, Michael Yeargan's sets looked nice and simple, and the Gibichung Hall was particularly elegant.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the balcony had some restless members. There was some quiet talking, and someone's mobile phone chimed during the first scene with the Norns. Axel Feldheim and SF Mike were silent and attentive.

The orchestra and crew all took their ovation onstage along with the maestri, principal cast, chorus, and supers.


Siegfried at SF Opera

Siegfried-act2-fafner * Notes * 
Francesca Zambello's production of Siegfried (pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) opened today at San Francisco Opera. Though this opera is nearly 4 hours of music, it breezed by this afternoon. The orchestra was luminious under Donald Runnicles. The brass was warm with only a bit of haziness, and most of the horn calls were clear and lovely. The woodwinds sounded gorgeous, especially the clarinet. The orchestra did seem to overwhelm the singing at times, but it was hard to care too much about this since the playing was so pretty.

The singing was solid. David Cangelosi was perfect for Mime. His voice is bright, and he was both slippery and sniveling. He was able to cartwheel, somersault, and dance. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) has a rich voice with a good deal of vibrato. Daniel Sumegi was a grave Fafner. He was gravelly at times, but it worked for the role. Stacey Tappan was charming as the Woodbird, her movements were bird-like, as is her voice. Ronnita Miller was a determined Erda, the top of her voice shines, and the bottom has an attractive warmth.

Mark Delavan was fine as the Wanderer, though perhaps light. He was more detached than in Die Walküre, as is suitable. He was funny in the first act, somewhat mocking in the second, and even menacing in the third. Nina Stemme was brilliant as Brünnhilde, her first lines in Act III were particularly evocative. In the title role, Jay Hunter Morris paced himself carefully. There were times when he seemed somewhat quiet, but he never came off as harsh. His Siegfried was youthful but not childish.

At the very least, the innocuous production did not get in the way of the music. Jan Hartley's heavy-handed projections lacked aesthetic cohesion, and the ones used during the Act III overture were ridiculous. Michael Yeargan's sets were quiet and benign. At times the approach was brutal, as with the Woodbird. She simply appeared as a studious young lady who used a lot of hand gestures, even after Siegfried could understand her language. Zambello handled the dragon amusingly, using a huge trash compactor robot to good effect. In general, the humor of Siegfried came through, and one could not fault Zambello for being boring.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the balcony seemed silent enough. There was some whispering, but no electronic noise. Axel Feldheim was, as usual, an ideal opera companion. During the ovation, we saw that SF Mike had joined us, and together we met Patrick Vaz at the stage door.

I helped the SF Opera Guild with tea and coffee service for the musicians, and did standing room in balcony. This meant I ran up and down the stairs of the War Memorial 4 times.


Die Walküre at SF Opera

Mark Delavan (Wotan) and Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde) with the Valkyries, photo by Cory Weaver * Notes * 
Die Walküre had a stunning opening last night at San Francisco Opera. There was never a dull moment from the orchestra pit, and Donald Runnicles kept the tempi apace, and rarely overwhelmed the singers. There were some notes that were out of tune or not perfectly clear from the brass, but for the most part, the sound was warm and full. The singing was intensely beautiful. The Walküren included many current and former Adlers and Merolini: Maya Lahyani (Siegrune), Tamara Wapinsky (Helmwige), Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gerhilde), Daveda Karanas (Waltraute), Suzanne Hendrix (Schwertleite). Joined by Priti Gandhi (Rossweise), Pamela Dillard (Grimgerde), and Molly Fillmore (Ortlinde), they sounded hearty.

Raymond Aceto was a mean little bully as Hunding, perfectly appropriate for the role, he did not sound heroic at all and was very believable. Janina Baechle likewise filled the role of Fricka rather perfectly. Mark Delavan did well as Wotan, his voice is pretty, though perhaps slightly light. Christopher Ventris sang Siegmund with conviction, and sounded lovely with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. Ventris sounded somewhat ragged by the end of Act I, but sang Act II gorgeously. Westbroek had a lot of power, and very little strain. Nina Stemme was also incredible, she has a wonderful control of her voice, and her timbre is pleasing.

Francesca Zambello's production, on the other hand, was at best inoffensive. The projections, designed by Jan Hartley, started off with a watery screen saver and then took a turn toward The Blair Witch Project. The repeated use of lightning was painfully cliché. The sets, from Michael Yeargan, are serviceable enough. The first scene was exceedingly predictable, one could see right away that the front of the house would lift up and the sides would come apart. The second half of Act II looked very familiar, I believe Bayreuth's current Ring has a freeway scene as well. The third act was a crowd pleaser, and while I enjoyed the absurdity and theatrics of parachuting Walküren, it did not seem appropriate to distract from the orchestra at this point in the music.

* Tattling * 
The audience was fairly attentive, though the women in Row T Seats 5 and 7 of the Orchestra Level spoke at two points during Act II, both times when the orchestra was playing. They did not return for Act III. There were some watch alarms at each hour, but they were not close to me, and I could barely hear them. There was an electronic sound, either a phone, watch, or hearing aid, that intoned a noise as Siegmund sang about the circumstances of how he lost his weapons. There were also shrill noises during when Siegmund sings about Sieglinde ("Ist es der Blick der blühenden Frau"). I could not tell if they were coming from the stage or behind it.

John Marcher was kind enough to take me to this performance, and we happened to sit next to Lisa Hirsch, who has, charmingly enough, tattled on herself. SFMike was seen at the intermissions, as were many others.