Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 15 - Hammering Home the Message

Write up the SF Opera for Commuter Times -- here it is --


Tried and True with Trovatore

If Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony were slightly innovative in their opening gala on September 11, David Gockley (who during his 33-year tenure at Houston Opera, presented 35 world premieres and six American premieres) honed to the tried and true, two days later with San Francisco Opera's impressive presentation of Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore (the 17th most popular music drama, by some reckonings).

Indeed, aside from the fancy dress, fine food, and colorful curtain -- there was little to suggest opening night gala, a concept not evidently found in the program booklet. Instead, this seemed simply another evening of excellence, though a somewhat second-hand one, from a first-rate company in a co-production with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (which owns the sets, built in 2009) and the Metropolitan Opera (which mounted a production in the 2008-2009 season).

Coming out of a recession, perhaps a recycled opera and production are de rigueur, and certainly the some works, such as this, are worth re-hearing and re-seeing.

And reviewing. So here and hear goes. The scrims and sets, designed by Charles (or "Charlie" as billed in the Chicagoese of the original Lyric production) are stunning, with a nod towards Peter Jacksonesque Lord-of-the-Rings romanesque. Conductor Nicola Luisotti, in his SF Opera Gala debut, keeps everything at a brisk and surprising pace, almost to the point of "Look, ma, I'm the new Music Director!", but a good time was had by all.

Stephanie Blythe brings passion and power to the role of the gypsy mother Azucena, with a dominating presence that continues to place her at the forefront of mezzo-soprano world. She finds her near-equal in Marco Berti's portrayal of her son Manrico, and Berti proved alarmingly up to the position, with ringing high notes and appropriately melodramatic pathos.

His stage-paramour Sondra Radvanovsky, as Leonora, also touched hearts, with stratospheric delicacy and a rich-voiced tessitura ranging from the emotive to electrifying. Local-favorite Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Count di Luna, always doomed to having an off-night in this tragedy, had a bit of a performance one as well (mellifluous, though a bit under-powered), but the audience showed him the love nonetheless.

Costuming, by Brigitte Reiffensteul, was gorgeous, although skewed more baroque-neoclassical than medieval -- in a sense, almost contemporary enough to keep up with the sparkling patrons.

An evening of glittering gems on both side of the stage.


More later, out the door to teach (dictation and board harmony on first eight measures of Costanzo Festa's Quando Ritrovna, plus Chords in A Minor, D Major Scale, and fine studentt compositions)...

...back to pick up evening class's Quiz 4 and finish grading Quiz 3 (a new burn on the North Lagoon Mountains).

No! Out the door again towards Martinez and Mt. Diablo for Music Literature re late Medieval from the Ghana tribe's migration to present day Ghana (c. 1200, and rhythmic games) to Herman, Monk of Salzburg (b. 1365).

Hit Elephant Bar thereafter with Doug (Owen otherwise engaged) and meet up with Amy, then home (the iPhone iPod shuts off twice spontaneously, but it may have to do with cable popping out) to late night tube with Harriet and yet another orchestrated page of The Gospel According to St. Matthew: X. The Miracles.