Patricia Racette

Houston Opera's 2009-2010 Season

October 23 - November 7 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
October 30- November 15 2009: Lohengrin
January 22- February 7 2010: Tosca
January 29- February 13 2010 : Turn of the Screw
April 16- May 1 2010: The Queen of Spades
April 30- May 14 2010: Xerxes

Patricia Racette sings the title role in Tosca opposite of Marcus Haddock. Susan Graham and David Daniels star in Xerxes.

Chronicle Article | Official Site

San Diego Opera's 2009 Season

January 24- February 4 2009: Tosca
February 14-22 2009: Don Quixote
March 28- April 8 2009: Rigoletto
April 18-26 2009: Peter Grimes
May 9-20 2009: Madama Butterfly

Perhaps I should take my mother to the Madama Butterfly in San Diego next year, instead of the Los Angeles production this Fall, as the stage direction will undoubtedly be more conservative. Patricia Racette is singing Butterfly in San Diego. Anthony Dean Griffey is singing the title role of Peter Grimes, as he did at the Met. Marina Domashenko, who was great as Carmen at San Francisco Opera, was to Dulcinea in Don Quixote. She has decided not to add the role to her repertoire, and will be replaced by Denyce Graves.

Official Site | LA Times Article

Peter Grimes Live in HD Met Simulcast

Metpetergrimes* Notes *
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Benjamin Britten's music, I did attend today's simulcast of Peter Grimes. Some of Britten's rhythms in this opera were of interest, particularly the sea shanty at the end of Act I. Unlike the protagonists of Billy Budd or The Turn of the Screw, the character of Peter Grimes is not completely inane. His status as an outsider is rather operatic, of course, and the ambiguity of his tale is intriguing. I was also quite curious about John Doyle's production since I had just heard his interview on the Los Angeles Opera podcast from last year. The production is striking, though Scott Pask's set was tiresome at times. The set is meant to be oppressive, and it certainly was, but it was also a bit like a stark Advent calendar.

Donald Runnicles seemed to have a good handle on the orchestra, and everything sounded very much together. I had no idea our maestro perspired so much, and this is one of the odd things about the simulcasts, they do sometimes show us more than we wish to see. The singing was all at a high level, with fine diction from everyone, I was able to get away with not reading the subtitles. Felicity Palmer was horribly funny as Mrs. Sedley. Patricia Racette's vibrato grated a bit on me, as usual, but she had some brilliant moments as well, and was convincing as the kind Ellen Orford. Anthony Dean Griffey was impressive in the titular role, both acting and singing were great.

* Tattling *
People clapped a great deal for Patricia Racette and Donald Runnicles as the opening credits ran, good thing they are decoupled from the overture.
Natalie Dessay was a cute host for the simulcast, she did brief interviews of Racette and Griffey, Doyle and Pask, the costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, and Runnicles. The picture froze for several seconds during Act I when Peter was singing the words "The storm is here and I shall stay." The sound did go out for a second, but resumed more quickly than the picture.

2008 National Council Auditions Grand Finalists

Carolina Castells, soprano from Miami, Florida
Simone Osborne, soprano from Vancouver, British Columbia
Jennifer Johnson, mezzo-soprano from St. Louis, Missouri
Daveda Karanas, mezzo-soprano from Mandeville, Louisiana
Dominic Armstrong, tenor from Kirksville, Missouri
René Barbera, tenor from San Antonio, Texas
Christopher Magiera, baritone from Lake Forest, Illinois
Edward Parks, baritone from Indiana, Pennsylvania
Stephen A. Ray, baritone from Sherwood, Arkansas

The nine finalists will sing next Sunday with the Met Orchestra conducted by Stephen Lord. Interestingly, one of the new Adler Fellows, Daveda Karanas, is among the finalists. Patricia Racette will host the concert, and there will be a special performance by mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, who won the contest in 1992.

Press Release | Official Site |Tickets

End of 2007 Tattling

SfoperafirealarmSomeone one pulled a fire alarm just a few minutes before yesterday's performance of The Rake's Progress was to begin, so we all had to file out and everything started half an hour late. This hasn't happened in awhile, but I remember a rash of fire alarm pulling in 2005. Later, everyone laughed at the recorded message reminding us to locate the nearest exit in case of an emergency. The cast still sounded very good, despite the delay.

Today standing room was quite full for Racette's last performance of Madama Butterfly this season. Before the performance, David Gockley came on stage, and reassured us everyone would still be singing. He lead us in applause, recorded for a possible DVD or some such thing. He used the word vociferous more than once. I don't think I can convey how absurd this was. The performance itself was strong, and I was able to appreciate Racette and Jovanovich more, having seen the second cast.

There were signs that informed the audience the would be recorded, the language used was really quite amusing, and thankfully I got a photograph of it. I especially like the sentence "By attending this event, you are consenting and hereby grant permission to San Francisco Opera or its designees, and its employees, successors, and assignees, licensees and agents to utilize your appearance, image, voice, and likeness, in perpetuity, in any and all manner and form and format of media throughout the world, now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to recordings, broadcasts, or webcasts of the event you are attending."


Opening of Madama Butterfly

Act I, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
Yet another revival of Madama Butterfly opened today at San Francisco Opera. When I heard this opera was added to the season, I wondered if I would avoid it. I was pretty bored by it already the last time it was here in the summer of 2006, despite not having seen it for 9 years. Puccini generally is too mawkish for me, and Butterfly especially so. Additionally, I am indifferent to Patricia Racette, despite her personal beauty, fine acting, and strong voice. Nonetheless I found myself first in the standing room line this morning, for completeness sake, as a certain Prussian opera-goer I know would say.

The orchestra sounded quite fine, Runnicles took the tempi fast from the start. Racette was lovely, though at times her vibrato makes me feel uneasy. Her shoulders were slightly slumped, but otherwise her performance was splendid. Brandon Jovanovich had a promising debut as Pinkerton, he was suitably brash and vulgar in Act I, and remorse was certainly heard in Act II.  Stephen Powell (Sharpless) played well off of Jovanovich, exuding avuncular kindness. I've never heard anyone besides Zheng Cao as Suzuki, and she was as I remembered, warm and sympathetic.

The opera talk was unusual, as Rose Theresa discussed the Japanese melodies used by Puccini, and even used some koto music as her first example.

* Tattling *
The house looked quite full, and there were at least 50 people in line for standing room when we filed in at 10:50 am. Before the performance began, I was admonished for taking up too much room and was told I could not stand with both my elbows on the railing. This was pantomimed for me by a woman who wanted to squeeze in with her husband next to another couple next to me. It was strangely combative, considering I was perfectly willing to move. It turns out it didn't matter, one of the people next to me got a seat.

At intermission an usher told me I must really like opera, because she sees me so often. She also informed me that my outfits are entertaining, and asked if I was a designer.

There was a fit of loud beeping from the back of the orchestra section during the humming chorus. There was much sniffling for Butterfly, though I cannot say I was among those so moved. At the end Racette received a standing ovation, and a few audience members mockingly booed Kate and Pinkerton.

Milk-Punch, o Wisky?

Madamabutterfly1A revival of Madama Butterfly opened 27. May at San Francisco Opera. Directed by Ron Daniels and designed by Michael Yeargan, the production involves shoji screens that slide across the stage. This device was used quite a lot, and it was slightly tiresome. Also, the paintings and calligraphy on the screens in Act I were not good, and there were too many of them all bunched together without any regard. The stage creaked a bit, but at least the screens were mostly quiet. The choreography was not thoughtful, particularly ridiculous was when the chorus sang "Rispondi, Cio-cio-san!" and they all turned around and pointed their fans at Butterfly each time they repeated these words.

The singing was consistent, no one stood out, but no one sang poorly either. Everyone acted well. Pinkerton was sung by tenor Franco Farina, who had good volume but was somewhat late during a duet with Sharpless in Act I. Everyone was crazy for Patricia Racette, the Merola alumna who sang the title role. She received a standing ovation. Her voice isn't bad, she has too much vibrato when singing loudly, betraying a lack of control. Her voice is pretty but neither angelic nor sweet, and cold.

I must admit that Madama Butterfly is not my favorite, there is a lot of dissonance and only one aria, Un Bel dì, vedremo, that doesn't bore me. The snippets from The Star-Spangled Banner and the various orientalist motifs are tiresome. I do enjoy the interspersed English, including "America for ever," "Butterfly," and "Whiskey."

The audience was incredibly stupid. They laughed at the various interactions between Sharpless and Butterfly in both Acts I and II. The Act I laughter is understandable, when Sharpless asks if Butterfly has sisters and she responds that she does not, but she has a mother, but they laughed when they saw the supertitles, now both above the stage and on the sides, not when the words were sung. They also laughed when Sharpless guessed Butterfly's age as 10. However, in Act II, they laughed when Butterfly asked when the robins nest in America, and when she tells her child to say his name is Dolore, or "sorrow." I suspect many were there because of the geisha aspect of the plot.

Act I
E ci avete sorelle?
Non signore. Ho la mamma.

Quant' anni avete?
Quindici netti, netti;
sono vecchia diggià.
Quindici anni!

Act II
Mio marito m'ha promesso
di ritornar nella stagion beata
che il pettirosso rifà la nidiata.
Qui l'ha rifatta per ben tre volte, ma
può darsi che di là
usi nidiar men spesso.

Oggi il mio nomè Dolore. Però
dite al babbo, scrivendogli, che il giorno
del suo ritorno,
Gioia, Gioia mi chiamerò.

Uccidere non voglio l'anima tua.

A production owned by the Washington Opera of Verdi's Otello opened at San Francisco Opera last Wednesday. Tenor Ben Heppner was to sing the titular role, but withdrew earlier in the year. Consequently, the part is now being shared by Jon Fredric West and Timothy Mussard. West's voice is not particularly stunning. West sounded cold especially next to baritone Sergei Leiferkus' fiery Iago. Patricia Racette was an adequate Desdemona, her voice is neither sweet nor passionate, but has a watery quality that is neither here nor there.

The sets were gorgeous and included beautiful arches devised to look like grey stone. The costumes were what one would expect, mostly Renaissance Venetian in character, with some of the chorus in Orientalist garb.

The choreography was carried off well, there was much swooning and Desdemona was thrown to the ground a few times by Otello, and these movements were staged nicely. Catherine Cook as Emilia seemed as though she were on the verge of a seizure even from the dress circle. Her movements were too big and sharp.

A nice production, but not inspired. Maybe I simply do not like Verdi as well as Mozart or Händel.

Perché un dì nella reggia m'hai sorriso.

Opening night of the opera is splendid event. Everyone dresses up in a most lavish manner, and there are flowers everywhere. This year red roses decorated the boxes and filled enormous vases in the halls. I spent a half hour before the performance and both the intermissions simply gaping and tittering at all the splendid gowns and so forth. I particularly liked a muted gold gown that resembled an egg carton, but more pointy. I laughed every time the lady who wore it came within my view, which probably was extremely rude, but I really could not help myself.

Turandot is not my favorite opera, and Puccini is not my favorite composer of operas. For one thing, Puccini's overtures are incredibly quick affairs that only confuse me, and Turandot's were no exception. The set design and costume design of this production was absolutely lurid, perhaps because of the oriental aspect of the setting. The backgrounds that were meant to look faux Chinese were very flat and not unlike paper cut-outs. Everything was very red and green and pink. There were absurd death heads hanging from rafters above in the first act that were a special annoyance to me for some reason.

Nonetheless, the singing was very good. Jane Eaglen (Turandot), Patricia Racette (Liù), and Jon Villars (Calaf) all had gorgeous voices. I found the music for Ping, Pang, and Pong rather adorable, and Hernan Iturralde, Jonathan Boyd, and Felipe Rojas did a fine job with the choreography, acting, and singing. They had a good dynamic together.

The libretto is full of holes. In this production Turandot intially looked quite joyed by Calaf's correct answer to her last riddle, and then frightened and enraged only later, which seems like an attempt to make her change of heart in the end more plausible.

I liked the acrobats. This was something that simply thrilled my blood.