Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Brandon Jovanovich (Luigi) and Patricia Racette (Giorgetta) in Il Tabarro [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
30 Sep 2009

San Francisco Opera: Puccini's Il Trittico and Verdi's Il Trovatore

The complexity of staging Puccini's evening of three one-act operas, Il Trittico, has kept this masterpiece from appearing on opera stages as frequently as, say, Turandot or Tosca.

Giacomo Puccini: Il Trittico
Giuseppe Verdi: Il Trovatore

Click here for cast list of Il Trittico

Click here for cast list of Il Trovatore

Above: Brandon Jovanovich (Luigi) and Patricia Racette (Giorgetta) in Il Tabarro

All photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera except as otherwise indicated

 

Then there’s the length. Two years ago the Metropolitan Opera had a huge success with a new production in its first year of Live in HD telecasts to movie theaters. Last season Los Angeles Opera also got headlines for hiring Woody Allen to direct Gianni Schicchi, with another film director, William Friedkin, taking on the Suor Angelica and Il Tabarro.

Suor_Rac1.gifPatricia Racette (Sister Angelica) in Suor Angelica
San Francisco Opera, for the second production of its 2009-10 season, pulled together an admirable cast, while borrowing a New York City Opera production of intriguing, if stark, sets, designed by Allen Moyer. Perhaps the rusted metallic plates that served as wharf and barge for Il Tabarro were more utilitarian than evocative, and setting Suor Angelica in a sanatorium clinic of aquamarine tiles gave that emotionally rich piece a clinical feel. Still, the power of Puccini’s music and the efforts of a talented cast should make for a memorable evening.

Both the Tabarro and Suor Angelica felt flat, as seen on Friday, September 18th. The fault lay with the tepid conducting of Patrick Summers. Plum assignments go to this conductor, and his program essay revealed a keen intelligence aware of the qualities that make the music of Il Trittico so special. But the actual performance he produced with the estimable San Francisco Opera orchestra disappointed. Rhythms were flaccid, transitions awkward. The exquisite opening of Il Tabarro conveyed no sense of either water in motion or the tragedy to come. Suor Angelica had no pathos, and left the audience dry-eyed, despite the fine work of Patricia Racette. By comparison, a year ago James Conlon in Los Angeles and Sondra Radvanovsky in the lead role had their audience choking back sobs. The Schicchi went better, mostly because James Robinson’s direction, sharp and incisive all night, produced so much laughter that it rode over any flaws in the conducting.

Schi_LomRac.gifDavid Lomelí (Rinuccio) and Patricia Racette (Lauretta) in Gianni Schicchi
Racette took on all three lead soprano roles, and with Robinson’s help, each was a clearly defined characterization. Her Giorgetta played up the frustrated sexuality of the character, linking her to the Pagliacci Nedda. At times Racette seemed to be holding some power in reserve for the rest of the long evening, but then again Summers let the orchestra swamp other singers at times as well. Racette’s Angelica was a subtle, restrained performance, and in this production, the ending leant toward tragedy rather than miraculous redemption. The highlight of the entire evening was the confrontation between Angelica and the Princess of Ewa Podleś. Podleś’s voice now has two quite separate registers, but the awkward gear shifts between the two only served to make her character more imposing and ominous. Racette returned for the Schicchi Lauretta, where she played up the lovestruck, not to say dumbstruck, teenage sex kitten. Her “O mio babbino caro” worked its manipulative magic even with Paolo Gavanelli’s stubborn papa on the other side of a door.

Gavanelli also had moments of greatness as Michele in Tabarro, although the macho good looks of Brandon Jovanovich’s Luigi made Michele seem obtuse for not guessing that his wife had taken up with the hunky cargo handler. Jovanovich sang with thrust and yet sensitivity - a real tenor to watch. David Lomeli did some nice work later in the evening as Rinuccio in Schicchi. If Lomeli can strengthen his lower range, he too will be on his way to a fine career. Andrea Silvestrelli in both Tabarro and Schicchi grabbed the spotlight with his relaxed but convincing acting and most of all, a huge, dark bass sound. Under many an other conductor, the whole evening would have been a considerable success.

Schi_WomenGav.gifMeredith Arwady (Zita), Catherine Cook (La Ciesca), Paolo Gavanelli (Gianni Schicchi), and Rebekah Camm (Nella) in Gianni Schicchi

The next night saw the fourth of SFO’s telecasts from the War Memorial to the ATT ballpark, home of the Giants. Verdi’s Il Trovatore filled the bill on Saturday the 19th. Your reviewer was one of an estimated 25,000 who kept the concession stand management happy with visits for overpriced treats of doubtful nutritional value. The ballpark turned out to be a surprisingly wonderful way to enjoy an opera on a cool but bearable San Francisco evening. The crowd was mostly quiet, although in the last act the slamming of concession stand windows could be heard, and most unfortunately, during Leonora’s first aria a small girl escaped her guardian and ran around the roped-off infield for a couple of minutes, to the raucous laughter of the crowd.

HvoRad_CW.gifDmitri Hvorostovsky (Count di Luna) and Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora)
But Trovatore and this cast made for an exciting ball park entertainment. The audio boomed out, sometimes echoing off the stadium heights, but the occasional moments of distortion did not eclipse the pleasures of this visceral performance under the commanding leadership of new SFO Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Stephanie Blythe staked her claim to be the Azucena of her generation - fearless in her attack, emotionally open, and most importantly, strict in never letting the characterization sink into comical extremes. Dmitri Hvorostovsky has received criticism for pushing his lovely baritone in a heavier Verdi role such as Di Luna, and he did bark out some lines, but his gorgeous tone and seamless legato dominated his performance, pushing aside any grumbles.

BerBly_TMC.gifMarco Berti (Manrico) and Stephanie Blythe (Azucena) [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
Sondra Radvanovsky took the honors that evening, with her amazing breath control, agility, and the unique quality to her voice - smoky and yet utterly feminine. Arguably, the slower tempo of “D’amor sull’ali rosee” showed off more of Radvanovsky’s incredible technique than it did Leonora’s desperation, but Luisotti and Radvanovsky set up the challenge and she met it beautifully, earning a tumultuous response. For Marco Berti in the title role, it might be a back-handed compliment, but he does seem to be about the best the opera world can do right now in this role. The tone lacks color, and he brings no particular style to his efforts. But the voice is huge and undaunted by the role’s challenges. Other tenors can do more with “Ah si ben mio,” but for the rest of the role, Berti came through.

Bil_CW.gifBurak Bilgili (Ferrando) and chorus

As seen on the ATT ballpark giant screen, David McVicar’s production caught the hothouse atmosphere of the narrative well, and the revolving set facilitated much appreciated quick scene changes. Why the final scene found Manrico and Azucena imprisoned in a hole in giant rock confused your reviewer, but the darkness of the screen and the chilly lateness of the hour might be at fault there.

David Gockley, General Director of San Francisco Opera, has done very well in selecting Nicola Luisotti as Music Director. If only Luisotti had been at the helm of the Il Trittico performances as well as the Trovatore ones…

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):