Orpheus at San Francisco Opera

Medallion Society Luncheon 2012


* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Medallion Society Luncheon was held Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton. George Hume, the president of the San Francisco Opera Association welcomed the donors before they partook of a meal of cauliflower bisque, barbeque chicken, and pear cake. David Gockley presented Sylvia Lindsey (pictured left, photograph by Drew Altizer) with an apron signed by the opera staff and this year's Spirit of the Opera Award.

San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald introduced Adler Fellows David Hanlon, Marina Boudart Harris, Brian Jadge, Laura Krumm, Ryan Kuster, Ao Li, Robert Mollicone, and Renée Rapier. Pianists Hanlon and Mollicone switched off accompanying the singers, starting with Hanlon playing for Jadge and Li in "In un coupé...O Mimì, tu più non torni" from La Bohème. Harris and Rapier sang "Prenderò quel brunettino" from Così fan tutte. Kuster sang "Le veau d'or" from Faust. All the singers joined in for the opening scene from La Cenerentola. The afternoon ended with a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Ao Li, who turned 23 today.

* Tattling * 
There were the usual mobile phone rings at lunch. Mr. Feldheim and I were seated at the Orpheus table, which was a nice change from last year.

Orpheus Luncheon 2011

Seacliff_District_SF * Notes * 
Adler Fellows tenor Brian Jagde, baritone Ao Li, and pianist Tamara Sanikidze gave a delightful performance at San Francisco Opera's Orpheus luncheon yesterday. Jagde started with the grave "Ah, la paterna mano" from Macbeth. Li gave us some humor by singing one of Don Magnifico arias from La Cenerentola, I believe it was "Sia qualunque delle figlie," but I could be mistaken. Jagde and Li sang the Act IV duet between Marcello and Rodolfo from La Bohème. One was grateful this short recital was squeezed in after both Sanikidze and Jagde were at the final dress of Walküre until quite late the previous night.

* Tattling * 
The audience was rapt and quiet. Somehow I barely made the performance on time, and they started just as I took a seat.

Drew Landmesser Orpheus Event

Wagon-fanciulla * Notes * 
Orpheus hosted an event with Drew Landmesser, San Francisco Opera's Director of Production yesterday before the matinée of Fanciulla. After a lovely brunch in the Littlefield Intermezzo Lounge, Landmesser spoke about his involvement with SF Opera, and his previous posts at Lyric Opera Chicago and Houston Grand Opera. It sounds like he truly loves his job, even when speaking about the various challenges backstage, especially as far as space is concerned. The worst part of Landmesser's job is certainly having to organize the parking.

Landmesser took us on a backstage tour, and we even got to stand on the set of Fanciulla. We learnt that they were not entirely sure they were going to get the set until April 2 of this year, when it was shipped from Palermo. The set looked nice from close up, the rock wall is sculpted nicely, one side being red, the other being white, for the different acts. We had to leave the stage so that the ballroom brawl could be rehearsed, evidently they rehearse it each time before the performance.

After the event, some of us stayed for the opera, though most Orpheus members had heard it before earlier in the run. I read the score at the top of house, and noted that the harp I had seen backstage was marked in the score as "arpa interna." Everyone sounded great from back there, the three principal singers are quite loud, as is the orchestra, but the balances are pretty good. The orchestra only obscured the singers two or three times. It also became more obvious to me how Andrew Lloyd Webber had stolen a melody from Fanciulla for "Music of the Night."

* Tattling * 
The group of about 30 that showed up for the Orpheus event was characteristically well-behaved. Unfortunately this was less true of the opera audience, and during a quiet part in Act II a cellular phone rang several times. The usher tried her best to get the person in L 102 to turn off the phone, but the latter did not even hear the ringing, and did not know how to operate it. At the second intermission Axel Feldheim was kind enough to help the person in question, who was very embarrassed and apologetic.

Gregory Henkel Orpheus Event

Greg-henkel * Notes * 
Orpheus hosted an event with Gregory Henkel, San Francisco Opera's Director of Artistic Adminstration yesterday evening at Credo. Henkel certainly has quite a C.V., having worked at Los Angeles Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also was a guest judge at the Met auditions this year.

For this talk, he spoke about his job, about how casting comes about, and how we induce singers to come out all the way to San Francisco. We got a first hand account of how Molly Fillmore, currently singing in Die Walküre, flew in from Arizona to fill in for Nadja Michael. Fillmore had never performed the role before, and though she had some rehearsal time before the opera opened in San Francisco, she was, of course, not completely prepared. We also heard about how Andrea Silvestrelli sang for Peter Rose when the latter went to the UK for his father's funeral service. Silvestrelli had to learn all that English dialogue with in a very short period of time.

It was most interesting to hear Henkel's impressions of the best up and coming talent. He praised our current and former Adlers highly, especially Leah Crocetto, David Lomelí, Ryan Belongie, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton. As far as other singers under 40, he mentioned Albina Shagimuratova, Heidi Stober, Stephanie Blythe, Stephen Costello, Brian Mulligan, and Quinn Kelsey, all of whom we will hear in coming seasons. It was mentioned that Costello's wife, Ailyn Pérez, had no rehearsal time with the orchestra before her one Traviata performance last summer.

* Tattling * 
The audience was engaged, quietly snacking on fried olives and other hors d'œuvre. After the talk, Henkel mingled with the guests before taking a taxi to the fourth performance of Faust.

Orpheus Luncheon 2010

* Notes * 
Adler Fellows tenor David Lomelí, soprano Sara Gartland, and pianist Allen Perriello performed at San Francisco Opera's Orpheus luncheon yesterday. Lomelí is covering Faust this summer, and he sang "Salut! demeure chaste et pure" very impressively. Gartland followed by singing "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante," Micaëla's aria from Carmen, with strength. Together they sang the Act I duet between Gilda and the Duke from Rigoletto. This was gorgeous. Perriello played beautifully as usual.

* Tattling * 
The rather young audience was silent and attentive. It was well worth the effort to make this event, I was very pleased to have arrived on time, since I was in Houston the night before and had to fly in rather early in the morning.

Ailyn Pérez in SF Opera's Traviata

Ailyn Pérez in La Traviata, photo by Chris Hardy * Notes *
Ailyn Pérez's turn at Violetta in San Francisco Opera's La Traviata yesterday night was impressive. She was a better match for Charles Castronovo (Alfredo) and did not overwhelm him, he did not seem nearly as quiet. Pérez had an appealing vulnerability, her performance was nuanced, and her high notes were never shrill. She had a few gasps here and there, but her breathing was generally under control. Castronovo sang with great sensitivity, he was a bit underpowered at the top of the Brindisi, but was otherwise fine. Dwayne Croft (Germont) still rushed a little, but sounded less strained than during opening night.
The supporting cast sounded lovely as well, particularly Andrew Bidlack as Gastone and Renée Tatum as Annina. The chorus might have been the slightest bit off from the orchestra a few times, but continued to sound very pretty.

It was interesting to note the differences in staging. Pérez did not hang her legs out of the fancy car for her entrance, nor did she pull Castronovo into her bed at the end of Act I. Her costume for the first half of Act II was not a dressing gown, but a velvet dress with lace trim. She did not provoke inappropriate laughter as Netrebko and Futral did, despite the inane super-titles, perhaps because her performance was more engaging somehow.

* Tattling * 
There was almost no electronic noise in balcony standing room, a few hearing aid noises or stray microphones for OperaVision were heard. There was a little whispering.

The Orpheus Group was given a pre-performance tour of the Media Suite. There are eight robotic cameras in the house that are controlled backstage, as well as two fixed ones. Video editing is even done during the performance. We were taken to the stage just before curtain and were greeted by Castronovo himself.