San Diego Opera

San Diego Opera's Florencia en el Amazonas

Jkat_Amazonas_031418_202* Notes *
A vibrant production of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas opened at San Diego Opera last night. The sets and singing had much to recommend it, and it was easy to see why this piece has been revived multiple times in the almost 22 years since its premiere in Houston.

The music is lyrical and exuberant, and most of the singing was absolutely lovely. Only baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco (Riolobo) seemed underpowered, though he is a fine actor and boasts an impressive physique.

I liked the range of emotions portrayed by mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala as Paula, part of a bickering couple seeking to renew their love, she was frighteningly shrill at the outset and charmingly warm at the end. Her other half, baritone Levi Hernandez as Alvaro, was affable. Baritone Hector Vásquez (Capitán) sang with authority.

Tenor Daniel Montenegro and soprano María Fernanda Castillo sang beautifully together as they fall in love as Arcadio and Rosalba. Montenegro's voice is sweet, while Castillo's is brilliant. As opera singer Florencia Grimaldi, soprano Elaine Alvarez seemed perfectly suited, her rich, vivid voice was very convincing.

The set, from Mark F. Smith, is essentially a steamboat on a turntable, and this is effective, especially with the lighting. It definitely had a resemblance to Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, which is fun, since both works deal with the Amazon and opera. Much of the chorus wore unitards some festooned with elaborate accessories to represent the water of the Amazon and various jungle beasts. This was in keeping with the libretto, which takes inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (perhaps Love in the Time of Cholera is most obvious) and has a dreamy, surreal quality.


* Tattling * 
The audience fairly quiet, though two men behind me in the center of Row S did make some loud comments.

San Diego Opera's 2016 Season

GREAT_SCOTTFebruary 13-21 2016: Tosca
April 16-24 2016: Madama Butterfly
May 7-15 2016: Great Scott

The 2016 season at San Diego Opera was announced today and consists of two Puccini works and the West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's latest opera. Greer Grimsley, Latonia Moore, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Patricia Racette return to San Diego Opera. Important Company debuts include those by Teodor Ilincăi, Alexia Voulgaridou, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn, Frederica von Stade, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Joyce El-Khoury, and J'Nai Bridges. Returning conductors are Massimo Zanetti, Yves Abel and Joseph Mechavich.

2016 Season | Official Site

Don Quichotte at San Diego Opera

Don-quichotte-2014* Notes * 
The last performance of the 2014 season at San Diego Opera was the matinée of Don Quichotte on Sunday, April 13. This may well have been San Diego Opera's final offering, complete with a Save San Diego Opera demonstration outside and capacity attendance inside. The production is a revival of the one at San Diego Opera in 2009.

Maestra Karen Keltner held the orchestra together, and the music sounded lovely. The chorus was generally good, though the bandits in Act III were not exactly together at first. This improved by the end of the act. The small roles were all filled nicely, it was especially nice to hear Susannah Biller (Garcias) and Joel Sorensen (Rodriguez). Eduardo Chama was delightful as Sancho Pança, he is a fine basso buffo. Anke Vondung sparkled as Dulcinée, and her voice is both rich and smooth. Ferruccio Furlanetto was again entirely committed to the title role. His pathos and ridiculousness came through with great beauty.

* Tattling * 
San Diego Civic Theatre only has four wheelchair locations, and an usher put a person in a wheelchair next to me in Row B Seat 43. I had purposely selected this seat as I have a temporary medical condition that requires that prompt attention every few hours. The usher did not consider me at all in his deliberations, and even asked that I get out of his way at one point. However, the person in the wheelchair was exceedingly considerate of me, and was careful to let me get past him at intermission and the end of the show. It was unfortunate that about half the stage was not easily visible for him.

La fille du régiment at San Diego Opera

Jkw_regiment012313_390* Notes * 
San Diego Opera's 2013 season opened with La fille du régiment last night. The production, directed by Emilio Sagi, is set in France during the final days of World War II, rather than in 19th century Swiss Tyrol. This made the sung or spoken text go against the super-titles at times. Otherwise, Sagi seems rather detail oriented, it seemed that all the scenes were rife with activity. The audience appreciated the sight gags and various jokes interpolated in the dialogue.

The orchestra sounded buoyant under Yves Abel, but were not always with the singers. There were rough moments for the brass. The chorus was entertaining. Carol Vaness was a funny Duchess of Krakenthorp, and even sang a little. Kevin Burdette was a charming Suplice. Ewa Podleś was a perfectly haughty Marquise de Berkenfield and her acting is convincing. Her voice is still beautiful, though not as smooth as in former days. Stephen Costello sang with a great deal of power, his high C's were a bit raw in Act I. Costello's second act aria was plaintive without being cloying. L'úbica Vargicová was cute as Marie, and was impressively awkward in Act II, persuasive embodying the role. Her sound has a slight tendency to be shrill, and is pleasantly fluttery, but has a fullness to it.

* Tattling * 
The audience laughed a lot, and kept conversations to a minimum.

Don Pasquale at San Diego Opera


* Notes * 
At first glance, the revival of Don Pasquale (Act II, Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) at San Diego Opera simply looks like someone took a set and costumes for Fanciulla del West and used it for Donizetti's work. Thankfully, there is much more to director David Gately's elaborate production, which is quite funny. This Wild West version of Don Pasquale works because the essentials are still true to this opera buffa. The characters are all believable, and this rendering has a lot of charm. The gags just keep on coming, and perhaps at times this felt somewhat overwrought. The sets, from Tony Fanning, descriptive and painstakingly detailed, as are the costumes from Helen E. Rodgers.

Conductor Marco Guidarini made his San Diego debut with yesterday's performance. The orchestra played with the necessary fleetness, and were often rather loud. The trumpet made a brave effort at the beginning of Act II despite a few raw moments. The chorus moved well, and though not precisely together, sang nicely. The principal singers were cast evenly. Jeff Mattsey was an entertaining Dr. Malatesta, and his singing was fine aside from some of the patter in the duet "Cheti, cheti, immantinente." Charles Castronovo (Ernesto) had a pretty lightness and the right mournfulness for the role. His voice sounds slightly metallic when he pushes it too hard. Danielle de Niese's Norina was completely convincing, her gestures and expressions were faultless. Though her breathing is noticeable, her voice is deft and bright. John Del Carlo was hilarious in the title role. His sound is warm and his enunciation was excellent throughout, especially in the aforementioned Act III duet with Mattsey.

* Tattling * 
There was light talking throughout the opera, and a watch or phone alarm rang during Act III Scene 2.

Casting Change for San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick


Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the State Opera of South Australia's production of Moby-Dick) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in the San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Heppner is ill. Morris had been originally scheduled for the San Diego performances, but withdrew to sing Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's Götterdämmerung last month.

Moby-Dick at San Diego Opera | San Diego Opera's Press Releases

Moby-Dick at San Diego Opera


* Notes * 
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) was given by San Diego Opera last night. This production was first seen two years ago at Dallas Opera, and has also had runs at the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide and Calgary Opera. The opening performance in San Diego was impressive. Gene Scheer's libretto is paced well, skillfully arranged and rather more spare than Melville's novel. Heggie's music is also adroit, the ensembles and choruses sounded particularly lovely. Robert Brill's sets are cleverly enhanced by lighting designed by Donald Holder (revived here by Gavin Swift) and projections designed by Elaine J. McCarthy (revived here by Shawn Boyle). Only a couple of the visuals were awkward, specifically the flying harpoon ropes and splintering whale boats. However, director Leonard Foglia pulled together this opera as a coherent, vital work, without being mawkish.

The orchestra was lead by Joseph Mechavich, who also conducted this opera in Calgary. The 63 musicians crowded in the pit produced a lot of sound, occasionally overwhelming the singers. The chorus seemed at ease with the music, and the dancing in the second half of Act I was surprisingly good. The rest of the singing was likewise fine, Robert Orth (Stubb) had a hearty duet in Act I with Talise Trevigne (Pip). Trevigne's subsequent aria when lost at sea was splendid and as the highest voice in the opera, was both striking and haunting. Jonathan Boyd was the wide-eyed Greenhorn, he seemed momentarily strained in the beginning of Act I, but sang nicely for the rest of the evening. Jonathan Lemalu sang Queequeg with a certain dry quality, his duets with Boyd were balanced. Morgan Smith portrayed Starbuck beautifully, with sensitivity and humaneness. Ben Heppner made a grimly determined Captain Ahab, the effort in his voice seemed tangible, which was effective for this role.

* Tattling * 
A cellular phone rang on the right side of the orchestra level during Act I. There was a lot of talking between a child in Row P Seat 46 and her guardian in Seat 44, but they were silent after being hushed. The child must have switched seats with someone, as she did not return for the second half. There was also much talking during Pip's aria in Act I from the couple in Row N Seats 42 and 44, rather unfortunate given how beautiful it was, and how lightly orchestrated.