Paul Groves

Iphigénie en Tauride at the Met

Iphigenie-met * Notes * 
The latest revival of the Metropolitan Opera's Iphigénie en Tauride on Saturday seemed under-rehearsed, but still has potential. There were many instances when the singers were not with the orchestra, especially as far as the chorus was concerned. Perhaps the elaborate choreography was to blame. The dancers here were more together than in Seattle Opera's 2007 version. Thomas Lynch's set does look more open from the last row of the Met than in orchestra standing room at McCaw Hall. Thomas Wadsworth's production is cluttered, and one gets the sense that he is worried his audience either does not understand what is going on or is in danger of becoming very bored. In any case, the orchestra sounded fluid under Maestro Patrick Summers.

The main cast had a lot of power, and everyone could be heard. Susan Graham may have had poor start in the title role, but did sound lovely in "Ô malheureuse Iphigénie" at the end of Act II. There were moments of roughness later in the evening, but Graham does have a glowing, beautiful sound. Plácido Domingo was strong as Orest, his reediness as a tenor was not distracting, and he was distinct from Paul Groves (Pylade). Groves sang "Unis dès la plus tendre enfance" particularly well. As Thoas, Gordon Hawkins managed to sing his high notes smoothly, and was robust throughout his range.

* Tattling * 
Standing room in the Family Circle was nearly empty, as most everyone could take a seat in the last few rows, which were far from full.

I am sorely tempted to hear the Met in HD broadcast of this opera on February 26th.

Lyric Opera's 2009-2010 Season

September 26 2009- January 29 2010: Tosca
October 5- November 7 2009: Faust
October 27- November 23 2009: Ernani
November 22- Deceumber 12 2009: Katya Kabanova
December 5 2009- January 16 2010: The Merry Widow
January 23- February 22 2010: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 20- March 17 2010: La Damnation de Faust
February 28- March 27 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro

René Pape and Kyle Ketelsen share the role of Mephistopheles in Faust. Salvatore Licitra sings opposite of Sondra Radvanovsky in Ernani. Karita Mattila will sing the title-role of Katya Kabanova. Susan Graham, Paul Groves and John Relyea star in La Damnation. Le Nozze features Joyce DiDonato and Mariusz Kwiecien.

Tribune Article | Official Site

Paris Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 6-11 2008: Eugene Onegin
September 24- November 2 2008: Rigoletto
October 11- November 2 2008: The Bartered Bride
October 13- November 12 2008: Cunning Little Vixen
October 30- December 3 2008: Tristan und Isolde
November 17- December 23 2008: Die Zauberflöte
November 25- December 21 2008: Fidelio
January 17-30 2009: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
January 24- February 8 2009: Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne
January 29- March 4 2009: Madama Butterfly
February 27- March 22 2009: Idomeneo
February 28- March 26 2009: Werther
April 4- May 8 2009: Macbeth
April 10- May 23 2009: Un ballo in maschera
May 4-18 2009: The Makropulos Affair
May 20- June 5 2009: Tosca
June 13-21 2009: Demofoonte
June 18- July 2009: King Roger

Riccardo Muti conducts Demofoonte. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde opposite of Clifton Forbis. Paul Groves sings the title role of Idomeneo, with Joyce DiDonato as Idamante and Camilla Tilling as Ilia. Rolando Villazon shares the role of Werther with Marcus Haddock. Deborah Voigt shares the role of Amelia with Angela Brown and Ulrica Elena Manistina.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site

Lucas Meachem's Schwabacher Debut Recital

Lucasmeachem_2* Notes *
The Schwabacher Debut Recital Series continued yesterday with baritone Lucas Meachem singing selections from Dvořák's Zigeunermelodien, Poulenc's Chansons Gaillardes, Schumann's Zwölf Lieder, and Copland's Old American Songs. Meachem certainly is amiable, talking to the audience before each set of songs. His singing is vigorous enough to fill a small hall like the Martin Meyer quite well. The recital showed Meachem's dramatic range, he sang each composer's music distinctly, and did not sound like an opera singer when he sang a piece from Disney's Beauty and the Beast as an encore. For the most part his diction was good, though there were a few small missteps. His voice is strong, but perhaps lacks beauty, except in his rendition of Copland's "Long Time Ago," which was lovely.

* Tattling *
This time the Schwabacher Recital was competing against the Academy Awards, and the turn out was still good, even General Director David Gockley deigned to attend. Somehow I was recruited to usher in the balcony, where I sat a total of three people, but the main floor looked full. The audience in the balcony certainly was well-behaved. There is definitely something humming in that hall, it is either the lights or the climate control system.

Lucas Meachem was rather more formally dressed than Philippe Castagner was for the last recital. Meachem wore a black suit with vest and tie, but alarmingly, seemed to keep shedding layers as the evening wore on. Meachem is also an amusing raconteur, the best story was an account of how he met Susan Graham. Paul Groves introduced Meachem to Graham in Paris, and they went out to karaoke. Later when Simon Keenleyside withdrew from Lyric's production of Iphigénie en Tauride, Graham convinced William Mason to hire Meachem, saying she had heard him sing "American contemporary."

Wer so wie du nur zangen kann, den sieht man mit Verazhtung an!

Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail opened last night at San Francisco Opera, with Peter Schneider conducting, and a whole gaggle of singers, and one actor, from the Germanic realms.

The production seemed to not have confidence in either Mozart's music to enchant or the audience's ability to attend to this music, and the beautiful opening overture was marred by Belmonte coming out onstage and disrobing with the assistance of two servants, and changing into other attire. Other examples of this lack of confidence was seen in the five lines of English given to Blonde, one of which was "Here I am, an Englisher, speaking German to a Turk." These interspersed lines delighted the audience in a certain way, but they were distracting. There was also a ridiculous use of a cut out moon during Belmont's aria Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen in Act II, in which the moon was lowered all the way down, and Konstanze leaned against it as she was listening.

However, the singers all had pleasing voices. Paul Groves was the best tenor I've heard at SF Opera all season, and he sparkled as Belmonte. His voice had good volume and was sweetly supple. His spoken German stood out as non-native compared to the others though. Regina Schörg as Kontanze, on the other hand, had being Viennese to her advantage. Her voice was a pretty one, though at times it was strained and slightly brittle. Schörg did well in her back-to-back arias in Act II (Welcher Wechsel herrscht in meiner Seele and Martern aller Arten), she held back a little in the first one, but the second was simply beautiful.

Peter Bronder (Pedrillo), Jennifer Welch-Babidge (Blonde), and Michael Eder (Osmin) all were adequate in their parts. Welch-Babidge has a bird-like voice that was suited for Blonde. Eder's voice was just didn't quite carry perfectly, just a touch quiet, and he didn't quite get his low notes. Frank Hoffman was a fine Pasha Selim, a speaking part, and they were able to integrate the speaking and singing parts just so, never leaving one horribly confused on why this part is only spoken.

The staging was fairly good. The palace was a cross between a dollhouse and a wedding cake, which was cute, but the peach color added to a cultivated falseness of the set. The outer wall used in Act I was too dark of a mahogany for the lightness of the palace, the colors were not harmonious. The floor was done wonderfully though, blue tile with a vine pattern. The outer screen they used was painted showing the setting from afar, the sea with ships and the land with palace. It looked a bit like a tapestry with hues reminiscent of Chagall.

The choreography was artificial, lots of spinning and dancerly movements. Unfortunately the singers, save for Welch-Babidge, were not good enough dancers to carry this off well. Schörg looked uncomfortable wearing sandals in Act II, as if she didn't know she had feet before. Bronder shuffled and skipped like a young bird who couldn't stay still. However, Eder had a certain gravity of movement that was particularly good when he was praying. Just with slight but very graceful motions he was able to silence everyone.

The costumes were quite pretty, as usual. One would think that if they could get the costumes in harmonious hues, that they could make the set match.