Opera Parallèle's The Shining
June 03, 2023
* Notes *
Opera Parallèle made a triumphant return to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater with a chamber version of Paul Moravec's 2016 opera The Shining (beginning of Act I pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) last night in San Francisco. The piece is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King and features a lushly creepy score.
Maestra Nicole Paiement conducted with nuance and precision, the tiny chamber orchestra sounded absolutely full and robust. The music references Berlioz and Wagner, and made me curious to hear Paiement conduct a Ring cycle. The pacing of Act I seemed somewhat slow, there was a lot of plot to get through, but Act II was completely engaging. Director Brian Staufenbiel put together a visually rich production, the set moved smoothly, the scenes switching easily with artful use of video projections and set pieces pushed about by ensemble members.
There were about as many singers in the cast as musicians in the pit, it was a bit dizzying. Girl sopranos Perri So and Kiyomi Treanor were particularly chilling as the Grady Girls, their grotesquely large baby bonnets in lurid pink only heightened the scariness. Tenor Nathan Granner sounded great as Bill Watson, Lloyd the Bartender, and part of the vocal ensemble, his diction is always perfectly intelligible and he has a charismatic stage presence even in these supporting parts. Tenor David Walton was also a delight to hear, his bright voice cut through the orchestration and he was able to be distinct in his roles as Stuart Ullman, the general manager of the Overlook Hotel and the ghost of Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker of the Overlook who murdered his family.
My favorite singer in this was bass-baritone Kevin Deas as cook Dick Halloran (pictured with Michael Thompson in Act I, photograph by Cory Weaver). It's a sympathetic character, to be sure, and Deas brought a warm richness to the role, his rapport with Tenzin Forde as Danny Torrance (who shares the role with Thompson) was clear. Forder does not sing but is very convincing, it is interesting that this child with special powers is the only one who does not have a singing part.
Soprano Kearstin Piper Brown (Wendy Torrance) has an icy, flexible voice. She has an effortlessness that never comes off as harsh. Her early seventies outfits were a lot of fun and she rocked bellbottoms and platform shoes with a disarming ease. Baritone Robert Wesley Mason as Jack Torrance has a powerful sound, though not terribly varied. He did unraveled rather dramatically and had impressive stamina for this marathon of a role, he was onstage for nearly all of the opera.
* Tattling *
There was quite a lot of talking at the beginning of Act I, but eventually everyone quieted down as they were drawn into the narrative and stagecraft. Electronic noise was not noted, though a few people did briefly have their mobile phones out and illuminated.
It was nice to see dozens of people I know at this performance, as I hadn't been to this venue since 2017 for Opera Parallèle's Flight.