Painfully Absurd

Day at Merola 2010

Schwabacher2010cast * Notes * 
This year's Day at Merola was Tuesday, beginning with a lunch in Lower Level Café of the War Memorial Opera House. A couple of members of the Opera Standees Association who are also sponsors of tenor Alexander Lewis kindly invited me to join their table. Mr. Lewis conversed with us about how he stayed in Jane Eaglen's house as a kid, his voice changing, The Ring, countertenors, and Mozart. It was especially endearing when he related his realization that as a tenor rather than a baritone there was no role for him in Le Nozze di Figaro. Alex is going to move to New York soon, to participate in the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. At lunch I also had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Thompson, the one bass of the Merola Program this summer.

It was difficult to decide between the L'Elisir d'Amore rehearsal, Sheri Greenawald's master class, and Mark Morash's master class, as all of these occurred in the first time slot, starting at 1:30pm. I ended up in the Chorus Room for Greenawald's master class, accompanied by Jenna Douglas. Colleen Brooks sang "Wie Du Warst" from Der Rosenkavalier, Eleazar Rodríguez sang "Here I Stand" from The Rake's Progress, and Kevin Thompson sang "O, wie will ich triumphieren" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Everyone sang well, but with Rodríguez, one could only feel regret for not making it to his performances as Tom Rakewell for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Greenawald had Rodríguez concentrate on where the rests were in the music, and illuminating the text.

Kathy Cathcart gave a master class accompanied by David Hanlon that started with Ryan Kuster singing the "Abendlied" from Das Rheingold. Kuster's voice is very bright. Janai Brugger-Orman sang Menotti's "Steal Me, Sweet Thief," from the one act radio opera The Old Maid and the Thief. Cathcart got Brugger-Orman to sing with a good deal more energy, and difference was very clear. Dan Kempson sang "Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen," Harlequin's aria from Ariadne auf Naxos with beauty.

For the second half of the day, I went up a flight of stairs to the Ballet Studio for master classes with Martin Katz and Steven Blier. Katz focused on Bel Canto. Natalia Katyukova accompanied Robin Flynn, who sang "Deh! tu, bell'anima" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Ryan Kuster, who sang "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni" from La sonnambula. For both of these, a lot of time was spent on the recitative before the arias, and Katz got a good laugh out of the audience by translating "E vicin la fattoria," then having Kuster sing the line. Renée Rapier sang "Cruda Sorte" as she did for the Auditions for the General Director, but with Michael Spassov as her accompanist instead of David Hanlon. Rapier's dark sound was very sassy, and Katz got her to sound lighter and more bubbly.

Blier's master class involved art song, as one would imagine, and he joked that the day's event should have been called "Death by Aria." We heard Colleen Brooks sing Schoenberg's "Galathea," which she wrote her thesis on, with Jenna Douglas playing piano. At one point Blier had Michael Spassov lie on the ground so that Brooks could sing to him, and this worked well, though might have been somewhat embarrassing. Spassov certainly was a good sport. Accompanied by David Hanlon, Daniel Montenegro sang "Canción al arbol del olvido." Abigail Santos Villalobos sang "La tarántula é un bicho mu malo" from Giménez's La tempranica and Reynaldo Hahn's "La lune blanche." Her voice is pretty, and Michael Spassov's playing was pleasantly dry. The final song of the evening was "Pierrots Tanzlied," which Dan Kempson sang with great beauty. Natalia Katyukova's playing was also impressive.

* Tattling * 
As soon as I walked into the lunch room I was asked if I was from Korea, and can only imagine I was mistaken for Hye Jung Lee. Even though I answered in the negative, it was still assumed I was a Merolina, and I was directed to the person with the name tags. Evidently only Merolini and Amici di Merola get them, as I was bluntly informed.

The attendees of this event are, for the most part, the die-hard, obsessive fans of opera. There was aggressive jockeying for the front row seats of each master class, such that we were made to leave the room before Blier's class, for safety purposes.


SF Opera Ring Costume Contest on Facebook

Charlise as Erda, the goddess of the earth. Photo by Scott Wall San Francisco Opera's Facebook page has photographs of the contestants for the Ring costume contest that occurred on Sunday. If you "like" San Francisco Opera on Facebook, you may even vote for your favorite costume. Whichever photo gets the most "likes" by Friday at 12 pm will win a production photo from Die Walküre signed by the cast.

SF Opera on Facebook | SFCV | Not For Fun Only


SF Opera Ring Costume Contest

Schumannheinkerda San Francisco Opera is holding a costume contest today before the matinée performance of Die Walküre. The contest involves dressing up as characters from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The judges include David Gockley, Kristina Flanagan, Christopher Verdosci, and Terri Stuart.

The potential for utter ridiculousness seems pretty high here. Though sophisticates such as John Marcher and Axel Feldheim are certain not to partake in such silliness, I will be making some sort of attempt to participate.

Press Release [PDF] | San Francisco Opera | WSNC


Standing Room Adventures in Paris

Facade-opera-bastille * Notes *
Standing room at Opéra national de Paris is a fairly organized affair. I arrived at Opéra Bastille at around 4:30pm, asked where the standing room line was from the person at the information counter by the box office, and was directed to the main door. Outside near the gift shop door were four people, and it was clear they were the opera-goers I was looking for. After a few minutes some ladies also showed up and started organizing us by number. A sheet of paper was folded into 32 pieces, numbered, and cut into slips. I was given number 5, and then most everyone went their separate ways to get out of the cold, just leaving a few people to distribute numbers as they arrived.

The other opera standees were concerned by my lack of gloves, and after an hour I was encouraged to sit inside the gift shop to wait. Evidently, the time they open the doors varies from day to day. At around 6:15pm the 24 of us all got into line and were herded into the building to the two standing room ticket machines in the lobby. We went up two at a time, told the person supervising us if we wanted one or two places, and paid using coins or credit cards.

The standing places are not numbered, but there did not seem to be a mad dash for the best spots along the railing. As at the Met, there are layers of railings on the orchestra level. In Paris, however, the ushers are extremely helpful in finding standees seats. After the first intermission of Don Carlo I was given a seat in the middle of the rear orchestra, and was asked to climb over seat to take it.


SF Opera Costume Sale 2009

Sfopera-sale * Notes * 
The fourth San Francisco Opera Costume Sale continues today from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, and was clearly well-publicized. The queue started well before 9 in the morning yesterday and extended south on Indiana Street, and then west on 22nd Street all the way under the freeway (280). People waited in line for more than 3 hours to get inside, as they only allowed a certain number in at a time. One imagines and hopes that today it must be more calm, as it was an absolute circus yesterday.

There certainly was a bizarre assemblage of items within the San Francisco Opera Scene Shop. It was fun to see the costumes up close, especially those of operas one has seen on the War Memorial Stage. It is odd to think one could own the costume of Ruth Ann Swenson wore as Ophelia in Thomas' Hamlet from the 1996 season, or a fluttery gown worn by Precious Auntie from The Bonesetter's Daughter. It was humanizing to read the measurements of the various singers and dancers, giving the proceedings a bit of a museum-like aspect.

If one was invited to the Costume Sale Preview on Friday evening, as donors at a certain level were, this was definitely preferable. This event had no lines and cocktails were even served. I tried on four gowns in an hour: ones from La Traviata (Nelly Miricioiu as Violetta, I believe), L'Africaine (Evelyn Mandac, Ruth Ann Swenson as Inèz, 1972 and 1988), Le Nozze di Figaro (Jill Grove as Marcellina, Merola 1995), and Die Fledermaus (Sara Catarine as Adele, Western Opera Theater 1993).

* Tattling * 
I mistakenly went through an unattended box that was evidently part of the rather long line to purchase items on Saturday, and was scolded roundly by the indignant woman to whom this box belonged despite the fact that she was on her mobile phone.


Star-Spangled Sing-Off 2009

San Francisco Opera and Classical 102.2 KDFC are having a competition for who is to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the simulcast of Il Trovatore this September. Video submissions can be uploaded to KDFC's Web site from August 10-17, and listener voting will begin the week of August 24. The three finalists will be judged by David Gockley, Nicola Luisotti, and Bill Leuth.

Official Site | SF Opera