Final Dress of SF Opera's Meistersinger

Meistersinger-rehearsal-sfo* Notes *
It was a distinct pleasure to see and hear the final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Brandon Jovanovich and the cast pictured left) was held last night at the War Memorial Opera House. The cast is great, and I'm sure they will be even better once everyone is singing out for the first performance on Wednesday.

The orchestra beautiful and I loved hearing the musicians, despite Maestro Mark Elder's very slow tempi. It was so nice to see the violist carefully make notes in their scores and I appreciate sitting in the side boxes as to observe the members of the orchestra. The production is tame, there's some cute dancing, and the jugglers need to work on their act.

* Tattling *
It was fun to attend an Orpheus (the young people's donor program) event in the Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Intermezzo Lounge. I heard that the programming for the theater in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera will be announced this week and while there is no Baroque opera, Matthias Goerne will be singing Schubert.

Also, it seems that some members (a violist and hornist?) of San Francisco Symphony are part of Orpheus, which is lovely to see.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Dolores Claiborne

Dolores-claiborne-racette-promo* Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Dolores Claiborne (Patricia Racette as Dolores Claiborne pictured left, photograph by Scott Wall) was held this afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House. The pacing of Tobias Picker's music is good, the drama does not lag, and J.D. McClatchy's libretto is much less clumsy than other recent contemporary commissions by San Francisco Opera. The orchestra sounds fine, as do the singers. The staging is particularly impressive as well. Catherine Cook sang the title role, while Patricia Racette did all of the acting on stage. This was a little surreal, especially when the assistant stage director was visible, carefully watching Racette's every move and giving her notes.

* Tattling *
Arriving two hours before curtain was overkill and I was alone by the north doors for a very long time.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Nixon in China

Nixon-in-China-Poster-SFOpera * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Nixon in China (Michael Schwab's poster pictured left) was held yesterday at the War Memorial Opera House. The music seems quite challenging, but is sounding strong. Maestro Lawrence Renes stopped the orchestra in Act II as the playing was too loud, even though all the singers are amplified. It is hard to believe this orchestra has two other operas opening in the coming week, and just gave a concert of symphonic music last Sunday. The cast is excellent, and one looks forward to the local premiere on this Friday at 8pm.

* Tattling *
Box K was designated for live tweeting. I did not join in, as I am not skilled enough to listen and write at the same time, at least, without feeling strain.

Ensemble Parallèle's Great Gatsby Rehearsal


* Notes *
Ensemble Parallèle held an open rehearsal of The Great Gatsby (Marco Panuccio as Jay Gatsby and Susannah Biller as Daisy Buchanan pictured left, photograph by Steve di Bartolomeo) at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center in San Francisco yesterday. The opera opens next Friday, and though the rehearsal process is always chaotic, the cast and crew have made great progress thus far. We heard and watched Act II, Scene 4; Act I, Scene 4; Act I, Scene 3; and Act II, Scene 2. Keisuke Nakogoshi accompanied the singers on piano. The chorus and many of the principal singers were present. Director Brian Staufenbiel worked out the staging and Maestra Nicole Paiement made sure the singers were on beat. As Staufenbiel focused on certain specifics, Paiement would address us, revealing that one of her favorite parts of the opera is when Gatsby and Nick meet in Act I, Scene 3.

After the rehearsal Susannah Biller, Jason Detwiler (Nick Carraway), Marco Panuccio, Daniel Snyder (Tom Buchannan), Julienne Walker (Jordan Baker), Jacques Desjardins, Staufenbiel, and Paiement answered questions about working on this opera. The work is cut, runs 2 hours and 10 minutes, and Paiement takes speedy tempi for the dialogue. All the cuts had to be approved by the composer, John Harbison.

* Tattling *
Some members of the audience whispered throughout, and a few cellular phones were heard.

PBO Summer Festivals Tour 2011

Pbo-deyoung * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra left San Francisco today to start a tour of summer festivals. The ensemble plays Händel's Orlando at the Ravinia Festival tomorrow, at Mostly Mozart on Saturday, and at Tanglewood next Tuesday. The semi-staged opera was performed by PBO in the Bay Area last year, with many of the same soloists.

PBO had a rehearsal in Berkeley yesterday, and the orchestra sounded bright and together under the direction of Maestro Nicholas McGegan. The cast shows a lot of promise. Wolf Matthias Friedrich (Zoroastro), Diana Moore (Medoro), and Dominique Labelle (Angelica) were consistent with their previous performances, and will undoubtedly do well. Yulia van Doren sang Dorinda very prettily. The Act I Scene 12 trio with van Doren, Moore, and Labelle was especially splendid. In the title role (written for Senesino), Clint van der Linde has his work cut out for him. Van der Linde sounded absolutely lovely in the Adagio part of Act II, Scene 11.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Walküre

Sf-opera-walkuere-final-scene-2010 * Notes *
If yesterday's final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Die Walküre (Mark Delavan and Nina Stemme pictured left; photo from the 2010 production by Cory Weaver) is any indication, the cast is disconcertingly strong. Given how gorgeous last year's Walküre was, the promise of an even better run now is remarkable.

* Tattling *
The traffic getting to the Bay Bridge heading west was heavy, as someone suspected of being under the influence of alcohol threatened to jump from the upper deck.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Das Rheingold

Das-rheingold * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Das Rheingold (Mark Delavan, Jennifer Larmore, Tamara Wapinsky, Charles Taylor, and Jason Collins pictured left; photo from the 2008 production by Terrence McCarthy) was yesterday. Nearly 70% of the cast has changed from the opening San Francisco performances of this production three years ago, so it was fascinating to watch how things have developed thus far. Many of the projections have been changed, but the essentials remain the same.

* Tattling *
I find the aesthetic of the Gods in Francesca Zambello's production very amusing for some reason. When Donner is to clear the air with his hammer, marked "Ein starker Blitz entfährt der Wolke; ein heftiger Donnerschlag folgt." in the score, I could not stop giggling. Something about how this is staged is simply hilarious.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Götterdämmerung

Goetterdaemmerung-prologue * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Götterdämmerung (Heidi Melton, Daveda Karanas, and Ronnita Miller pictured left; photo by Cory Weaver) was last Thursday. According to Miss LCU, there was still a great deal of chaos as far as the staging is concerned, but parts were quite strong. Much of the singing was out, and Nina Stemme was particularly brilliant. Ian Storey (Siegfried) seems more robust than Jay Hunter Morris. Hopefully it will all come together tomorrow for the production opening.

* Tattling *
One of the norns mentioned that the Prologue pictured above has been challenging. It had been difficult for them to see, as the goggles had been fogging up and the terrain is not smooth.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Siegfried

Siegfried-act1-scene1 * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Siegfried (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) was last Thursday. There was a little roughness in the brass, but the orchestra generally sounded quite pretty under Maestro Runnicles. The production is consistent with both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. There were some elements of the staging that were very entertaining, and others worked less well. Most of singing was not at full volume, but what we heard showed promise. One is especially curious to hear Jay Hunter Morris, his acting was strong, and he projected youth convincingly.

* Tattling * 
Unfortunately, I was late to this rehearsal, taking a seat as quietly as I could. I did sneak away at the second break, as to leave the ending a surprise for the opening tomorrow.

Final Dress Rehearsal of Aida

Aida-coliseum-911   * Notes *
The orchestra sounded lovely under Nicola Luisotti in the final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Aida yesterday afternoon. The woodwinds were particularly good, especially the oboe and clarinet. Zandra Rhodes' bright and colorful production is coming together, and it was nice to see everyone transformed and everything in order after attending three previous rehearsals. There is some beautiful singing, but it might just be Dolora Zajick's show, as her Amneris thus far has been commanding. The opera opens the 2010-2011 season this Friday, and by all indications, it should be a wonderful spectacle.

* Tattling * 
The line to get into the rehearsal formed before noon. Most of the attendees in Box B were rather ill-behaved. Not only did some arrive after the music started, was there even talking, and removal of shoes. The woman next to me wore an enormous floppy hat that she thankfully removed during the actual performance. She may have texted whilst no music was occurring, but it was difficult to discern given that she was on my right side.

There was a shocking amount of hooting and hollering after arias and at the end of scenes. Luisotti had to silence the audience after Act I with "I'm sorry to inconvenience you, but we have to start now." He did not have his customary white sweater on during the performance. Thankfully it was draped over his navy blue shirt when he came out to bow.

Muti at NY Philharmonic

Muti * Notes * 
Riccardo Muti conducted the New York Philharmonic in a program of Lizst, Elgar, and Prokofiev last Thursday, and I attended a lively open rehearsal in that morning. The orchestra was in street clothes, as one would expect, and Muti himself was perfectly coiffed, looking foppish in his hot pink sweater. Lizst's Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3 began the day, and it was surprising how much stopping and starting there was, it truly was a working rehearsal. This was followed by a rather lovely performance of Elgar's In the South (Alassio), which Muti explained was a odd title for him, since Alassio is north of where he is from. The trumpets sounded beautifully clear, and the viola solo came off very nicely. After a brief intermission, we heard selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The orchestra played with exuberance. After one movement Muti commented "What is missing is a sense of dance, a sense of the body that moves," and it was obvious he had a fine rapport with the musicians.

* Tattling *
A hearing aid screeched a few times at the beginning of the Liszt. There was some talking from the students in attendance, and a mobile phone rang during the Prokofiev.

Final Dress Rehearsal of La Bohème

  * Notes *
The latest revival of La Bohème at San Francisco Opera may be very good indeed, if the final dress rehearsal was any indication. Though I am not crazy about La Gheorghiu, all the signs are good, she may well look and sound completely convincing as Mimi by the opening on Sunday. The rest of the cast is strong, so I actually do look forward to the upcoming performances.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the Grand Tier was quite enthused. I especially enjoyed overhearing that Gheorghiu is "like a cross between one of the muppets and Judy Garland."

Nicola Luisotti had a white sweater draped dashingly over a navy blue shirt that he removed each time he was to actually conduct. It was difficult not to giggle at this.

Final Dress Rehearsal of Boris Godunov

This account of the final dress of Boris comes from Upstairs Tenor, who is an usher and supernumerary at San Francicsco Opera.

  * Notes * 
After sitting through both the dress rehearsal and premiere, and being lulled nearly to sleep by both, I can say without hesitation that this production of Boris Godunov is one of the dullest I've ever seen, partially due to the very version of the opera performed. I question the choice of the 1869 edition of the opera, without Mussogorsky's effective rewrites. I suspect the choice of edition was due partially to showcase Sam Ramey (who fared significantly better on the dress than he did on opening night, both vocally and dramatically) and partially to spare the expenditure of hiring a mezzo to sing Marina. In any case, the production itself needs a firmer hand at the wheel than Julia Pevzner, who allowed the dramatic tension (of which, when the opera is done right, there is plenty) to lag almost constantly. Reports from friends and involved in the production indicated that the rehearsal period was extremely chaotic, and it showed. The Coronation scene needed to be re-thought entirely, as did the scene between the Tsar's children and the nurse. (I hated the use of the giant map.) On the positive side, the inn scene crackled with energy, and I for one enjoyed the "build-up" of the Simpleton as an observer; He is such an important character that seems to come from nowhere in the opera, having him as a silent observer actually made sense.

I share everyone's enthusiasm for Andrew Bidlack, who I have been impressed with in the past, especially in The Little Prince. His performance was exemplary Vladimir Ognovenko was another obvious standout; his years of experience with the part, which he does often with the Kirov Opera, paid off gloriously. One must credit Vitalij Kowalijow and Vsevolod Grivnov for doing what they could with the dramatically dead Cloister scene, a prime example of what I call "Gurnemanz Syndrome," in which a bass gives exposition for about twenty minutes. Both sang well, Grivnov marking slightly, as did Kenneth Kellogg as the Police Officer. Jack Gorlin, the treble singing Fyodor was amplified unobtrusively on opening night but left to hold his own at the dress, which he was unable to do.

I noticed one change in staging between dress and performance: at the dress, both of Boris' children came onstage to say their farewells, and Xenia (who does not sing in the scene), spent her time onstage quietly sobbing. This was cut on opening night, and only Fyodor was present for his father's last address.

* Tattling * 
I heard a watch alarm or two in the orchestra, but no cell phones went off. That is not to say they weren't on, as a man sitting a few seats down from me kept looking at his messages or getting the time or checking his mail or something. Whatever it was, it was irritating, and no matter how long I gave him a look, he kept doing it. He finally stopped in the middle of Act II, which turned out not to be enthralling enough for a man several rows behind me, who fell asleep and let out a loud snore before being nudged awake by a small girl sitting a seat down from him.

There were plenty of onstage mishaps and errors: a super's hat fell off during the inn scene and the lighting effect for the Simpleton's aria didn't work correctly when one of the floor panels containing light banks didn't pop up in time. To the enjoyment of the entire audience, when Mr. Ramey died with a tremendous fall to the stage, he did not account for the stage's slope and fell too far downstage, and was forced to roll upstage after the music stopped so they could bring down the curtain. During the curtain call, Ognovenko bowed out of costume and Grivnov emerged without his wig.

An error in the program noticed both at dress and performance: Matthew O'Neill plays two roles, Missail and the Boyar-in-attendance, but is only listed as playing Missail.

Final Dress Rehearsal of Idomeneo

The Opera Tattler was not able to attend the final dress for Idomeneo last Saturday, so sent one Dodaro in her stead. Below are Dodaro's comments.

Idomeneo-streit   * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Idomeneo was promising. The singing was generally strong.

Neptune's wrath included an awful lot of strobe light flashes. If all the flashes were indeed scripted, the authorities might do well to post a warning, in big red text, on the website.

* Tattling * 
The atmosphere in the Grand Tier was markedly relaxed. Before the performance started, many unfolded newspapers were in evidence. I was surprised, however, when my neighbor opened and began eating a single serving of Häagen Dazs. Looked like vanilla. Possibly yoghurt.

There was some Runnicles-related whispering as the second act started. Other than that, the group was generally well behaved.

The Blue Angels were not as considerate. They made quite a few passes over the opera house during Elettra's "Idol mio" aria and the embarkment scene.

The Bonesetter's Daughter Final Dress Rehearsal

Bonesetter-rehearsal I'm afraid that final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's The Bonesetter's Daughter has left me nearly speechless, and considered summing up my reaction in exactly two words. But I certainly don't want to ruin it for you, gentle readers. Instead, I offer some images that came to mind whilst watching the production.