Salome at San Diego Opera


* Notes * 
Yesterday evening's opening performance of the 2012 season at San Diego Opera was Salome. Seán Curran's production (pictured left with Irina Mishura as Herodias and Lise Lindstrom as Salome, photograph by Ken Howard) was seen in San Francisco two years ago, with the same sets and costumes designed by Bruno Schwengl, and elegant lighting by Christopher Maravich. There were some differences from the earlier performances in 2009, most notably in Salome's dance. The San Diego version sounded strong, the orchestra seemed restrained under Steuart Bedford, the brass only a bit ragged.

The principals were all impressive. Sean Panikkar sang Narraboth with a painful loveliness. Greer Grimsley gave a powerful performance as Jochanaan. Allan Glassman acted and sang the role of Herodes with complete conviction. As Herodias, Irina Mishura was both visually and vocally complementary to Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Lindstrom was viscerally disturbing, with devastatingly gorgeous high notes. Her movements were rather girlish, and her dancing, aside from a slight awkwardness with her second veil, was graceful.

* Tattling * 
There was some limited whispering from the audience. Two chirps were heard when Salome was singing without much accompanying orchestration.

Molly Fillmore in Salome

Molly-fillmore * Notes * 
Last Friday Molly Fillmore replaced Nadja Michael as San Francisco Opera's penultimate performance of Salome this season. Evidently Michael had a throat infection, and Fillmore had to be flown in from Phoenix. I was not in attendance, but by all accounts, Ms. Fillmore sang well, she was less flat than Michael. However, her acting was less convincing, as was her movement, and I heard she may have had some trouble with a veil.

I believe I heard Molly Fillmore at the piano dress rehearsal on October 10th, as the person singing Salome that day was certainly not Michael. Luisotti and someone else both told her "Good job, Molly" at the end of the rehearsal. A good portion of the rehearsal was taken up by Maestro Luisotti trying to place the sawed-off bell of a sousaphone to best effect for Greer Grimsley's off-stage singing. Luisotti did not want to use non-acoustic amplification, and he worked with Giuseppe Finzi to get it just right.

Obviously, it was a piano rehearsal, so take my comments on all this with a grain of salt. Not everyone sang out, particularly because there was another Salome rehearsal that evening with the orchestra. Fillmore did not project youth, her hands were dead, and she fiddled with her costume. All understandable given that she probably had very little rehearsal time. The Dance of the Seven Veils was skipped over. Fillmore's singing was a bit shrill at the top of her tessitura. She was quite loud, and her intonation was good. Fillmore sings Salome at Arizona Opera on November 14 and 21.

* Tattling * 
Rehearsals can be very goofy. It was charming to hear the back and forth between Luisotti and Finzi. Kim Begley did some very funny ballet moves at one point as well.

Salome at SF Opera

Nadja Michael, photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's Salome had a second performance last night, after opening last Sunday. Maestro Luisotti was more restrained in this than in Il Trovatore or the Brahms he conducted across the street. The orchestra never overwhelmed the singing, but still had a florid quality.

The sleek production, designed by Bruno Schwengl, is elegant and has gorgeous lighting. Oddly, the costumes were attractive for everyone but Salome, Herodes, and Herodias. Salome's first costume was a flowing evening gown whose cut emphasized the length of Nadja Michael's torso, a contrast to the typical coltish look of an adolescent girl. This dress did move splendidly, unlike the third costume, a heavy gold-toned velvet sack. Herodes and Herodias looked fond of sequins. Director Seán Curran's choreography was straightforwardly modern, though the Dance of the Seven Veils was not entirely convincing, the ridiculous bat-like movements Salome made with her arms draped in a black veil was laughable. Michael was entirely committed to both the acting and dancing, and she was terrifying. Her singing almost didn't matter. She could sound scarily sweet or shriek like a banshee, bringing to mind Diamanda Galás.

The rest of the cast was almost uniformly great. Garrett Sorenson sounded appropriately plaintive as Narraboth. Greer Grimsley was imposing as Jochanaan, especially when singing off-stage. His disdain came through brilliantly. Kim Begley was a slimy Herodes, yet his voice was bright and had a certain appeal. Irina Mishura (Herodias) was also impressive, sounding imperious and rich.

* Tattling * 
The audience was engaged with the performance, very little talking was observed. There were watch alarms at the hour, and someone's mobile phone rang right before Salome went on about touching Jochanaan's hair.

Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

The Met's 2008-2009 Season

September 22 2008: Gala
September 23- October 16 2008: Salome
September 24- October 9 2008: La Gioconda
September 27-December 19 2008: Don Giovanni
October 3-25 2008: Lucia di Lammermoor
October 13- November 13 2008: Doctor Atomic
October 20- November 20 2008: La Traviata
October 24- November 22 2008: Madama Butterfly
November 7- December 4 2008: La Damnation de Faust
November 21- December 13 2008: The Queen of Spades
November 28- December 20 2008: Tristan und Isolde
December 8 2008- January 8 2009: Thaïs
December 15 2008- January 10 2009: La Bohème
December 22 2008- January 1 2009: Die Zauberflöte
December 31 2008- February 26 2009: La Rondine
January 9-31 2009: Orfeo ed Euridice
January 24- February 12 2009: Rigoletto
January 26- February 7 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
January 30- February 21 2009: Eugene Onegin
February 6-28 2009: Adriana Lecouvreur
February 16- May 8 2009: Il Trovatore
February 27- March 7 2009: Madama Butterfly
March 2- April 3 2009: La Sonnambula
March 9-21 2009: Rusalka
March 19- April 10 2009: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci
March 25- May 4 2009: Das Rheingold
March 31- April 22 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
April 1-17 2009: Rigoletto
April 6- May 5 2009: Die Walküre
April 13-24 2009: Don Giovanni
April 18- May 7 2009: Siegfried
April 25- May 9 2009: Götterdämmerung
May 1-9 2009: La Cenerentola

The Met's 125th season includes 6 new productions and 22 revivals. Susan Graham is singing Marguerite and Don Elvira. Karita Mattila sings Tatiana and Salomé. Juha Uusitalo has his Met debut as Jokanaan in Salomé. Deborah Voigt stars in the title role of La Gioconda with Ewa Podleś as La Cieca, and Olga Borodina as Laura Badoero. Thomas Hampson is Athanaël in Thaïs, opposite of Renée Fleming, and Onegin, opposite of Mattila as aforementioned. Fleming also sings the title role in Rusalka. Anna Netrebko will sing Mimi and share the role of Lucia with Diana Damrau. Netrebko's Edgardo is, of course, Rolando Villazón. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (Giuseppe Filianoti in February performances) sing in La Rondine, the production is the same one that was seen in San Francisco last Fall and which will be broadcast this weekend. Gheorghiu stars in L'Elisir opposite of Rolando Villazón. Alagna also appears in Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. John Relyea is in two productions, La Damnation de Faust and La Cenerentola. René Pape sings Hunding and Fasolt in the Ring and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. Daniel Barenboim is making his Met debut conducting Tristan.

McVicar's Il Trovatore is a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera. The Met performances feature Salvatore Licitra, along with Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky for the first performances, and then Marco Berti, Hasmik Papian, Luciana D'Intino, and Željko Lučić.

I am most likely to see Orfeo ed Euridice, the Mark Morris production was my very first opera when it was performed in Berkeley several years ago. I am disappointed to not see Ruth Ann Swenson or Andreas Scholl in this lineup for the next season.

Press Release | Official Site

Laughter and Opera

MladakhudoleyDoubtless you have heard that the current Dallas Opera production of Salomé was laughed at last Friday. By coincidence, just after reading The Dallas Morning News article on Salomé, I heard Radiolab's latest show entirely devoted to laughter. Particularly interesting were the segments on Dr. Jaak Panksepp's research on tickling rats and Dr. Robert Provine's work on chimp laughter. Among the theories on why humans laugh presented were to signal safety or play.

I wonder exactly what the audience was laughing at in Salomé, if it was simply the absurdity of the staging or something else. Mlada Khudoley (pictured) certainly does not look inappropriate as the dancing seductress.

Listening to Radiolab reminded me that they aired an hour-long special about opera earlier this year. Entitled "The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania," the program discusses the Ring Cycle at the Met in 2004. The show starts with the statement "Opera people are all nuts," which seems quite apt indeed. Jad Abumrad interviews Alex Ross, Speight Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Jane Eaglen and others in this amusing piece about Wagner's epic work.

Dallas Opera's Salomé | The Dallas Morning News Review | Pegasus News Review | Laughter Episode on Radiolab | The Ring and I on Radiolab

Opera Pacific's 2008-2009 Season

October 22- November 1 2008: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
January 21-31 2009: The Grapes of Wrath
March 21-29 2009: Salomé

Opera Pacific's next season features a West Coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath, which had its first performances last year at the Minnesota Opera. Deborah Voigt will sing Salomé, for me, this might be something worth going home to hear.

Season Brochure [PDF] | Opera Pacific Site

Welsh National Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 19- October 11 2008: Otello
September 26- October 9 2008: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
February 7-28 2008: Le Nozze di Figaro
October 8-10 2008: Jenůfa
February 12-27 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 24-26 2009: Salomé
May 13- June 4 2009: The Queen of Spades
May 18- June 6 2009: La Bohème
June 2 2009: Mitridate, Re Di Ponte

Rebecca Evans is has her role debut as the Countess in Le Nozze, and is also singing Mimi in Bohème. Nuccia Focile sings the title role of Jenůfa and Dimitri Pittas sings Nemorino in L'Elisir.

Press Release | Official Site