Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Idomeneo at SF Opera

Fri Oct 31 2008 8 pm
Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Director: John Copley

Idomeneo: Kurt Streit
Idamante: Daniela Mack
Ilia: Genia Kühmeier
Elettra: Iano Tamar
Arbace: Alek Shrader
The High Priest of Neptune: Robert MacNeil
The Voice of the Oracle: Kenneth Kellogg
Two Cretan Maidens: Mary Finch / Natasha Ramirez Leland
Two Trojan Men: Chester Pidduck / David Kekuewa

Instead of trick-or-treating on Halloween, I was at the Opera House for the last night of Idomeneo. Alice Coote did not make it back to the production, indisposed due to a back problem, according to a pre-curtain announcement.

Right from the start there was great playing from the orchestra under Runnicles. I continue to enjoy the big clear sound of the principal flutist. The string sections play with exemplary unanimity of phrasing. Some of the audience laughed during the overture, but I couldn't tell what the joke was.

The 1st aria belonged to Genia Kühmeier's Ilia, & I immediately liked her beautiful & smooth singing. By contrast, Daniela Mack had a warbling voice. Iano Tamar's Elettra had a hard-edge sound, appropriate to her angry character. One nice thing about the casting, actually, is that each of the principals has a completely different timbre to his or her voice. There was no chance of confusing them, even with your eyes closed!

Kurt Streit has a high, open voice that is maybe even a little raw. His singing was very even & therefore very Mozartian. Plus he looks pretty good in those heavy 18th century costumes, even though his robe got caught on the steps & delayed his exit after the Act III quartet.

The staging lacked ideas. Singers pace around during their arias, then walk off just before the orchestra stops playing. At the end of Act II, 4 giant horse heads rise into the sky. Then these warriors guys pull a big tarp over the steps, & Idomeneo pops up through a hole in it. It was nonsensical rather than dramatic.

Still, the evening was musically very satisfying. I enjoyed it most when I was just listening to the orchestra & the singing & focusing on Mozart's incredible music. Others apparently did not find it engaging. My section at the extreme side of the grand tier was sparsely populated, & by the last act I had a whole row to myself.

Before Act III, the orchestra honored Runnicles by remaining seated when he gestured for them to stand for the applause. I spotted several Halloween costumes, both in audience & in the orchestra pit. My favorites were the cat & the horned Dracula in the oboe section & Opera Tattler as a lovely Carmen.


m said...

The laughter you heard during the overture came from people watching the "Opera Vision" screens up in the balcony. At one point the camera zoomed in on the oboe player who was dressed as a cat. She had a very serious look of concentration on her face which made her costume all the more amusing.

I was really disappointed that Alice Coote did not sing. She was the best thing going in this production (in my opinion).

Axel Feldheim said...

Thank you, "mj", for clearing up the source of the laughter. So there are perks to being in the balcony!

A lot of people were disappointed that Alice Coote was a no-show. I've never heard her before. I enjoyed listening to Mozart's music, but the evening did lack dramatic interest. Perhaps Ms. Coote would have provided that extra spark.