Thursday, March 20, 2008

La Rondine at the Castro

The San Francisco Opera has also gotten into the HD arena, so I was at the Castro Theatre Monday night to see last season's production of La Rondine. As at most evenings at the Castro, someone was there to play the organ before the show. I questioned the appropriateness of doing this before an opera, but we did get a pleasant medley of operetta & opera tunes as well as the traditional "San Francisco".

The experience is pretty similar to the Met HD Broadcasts. It's full of close-ups that make you feel like you're sitting on the stage with the singers, who are all dramatically convincing. There were no hosted segments or backstage features, which was fine by me. The sound seemed to lag behind the image just a fraction, so I think there was a slight synchronization problem. The audio balance sometimes seemed out of whack. For example, during a number in Act II a glockenspiel rang out louder than anything every time it was played.

This was my 1st time encountering La Rondine. It's sort of a collision between La Boheme, La Traviata & Die Fledermaus. I thoroughly enjoyed the opera & this production. I wish I had seen it live. The production tells the story in a straight-forward way, free of directorial concept, except for updating it to the 1920s. The gorgeous art-deco sets & costumes turn out to be a good fit for Puccini's glittering orchestration.

This production was clearly a star vehicle for the attractive, long-limbed Angela Gheorghiu. She has a high, bright voice & an openly sensual stage presence. During a lull in Act I she takes off her shoes & messages her legs & reclines suggestively over the arm of a sofa. She is constantly in motion, & on the big screen this at times translated on the big screen into a distracting restlessness. Anna Christy gave a great character performance as the pert maid Lisette. Misha Didyk sounded forceful & acted well, though his sound is not very Italian. Phillip Skinner sounded solid in the thankless but necessary role of Rambaldo. Ion Marin's conducting was lush & romantic. He's also got great hair.

We were a very enthusiastic Castro audience, applauding at the curtain calls as if we were there in the opera house. Of all the operacasts I've seen so far, I had the most fun at this one.

No comments: